Backpack? Check. Booster shots? Check. Teeth cleaning? Check!
Regular dental visits are important year-round, but a back-to-school checkup is key in fighting the most common chronic disease found in school-age children: cavities. In fact, dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours each year.
Prevention and early detection can help avoid pain, trouble eating, difficulty speaking and school absences. “When people are beginning to do their pediatrician checks to make sure their kids are school-ready, make sure teeth are part of it,” says pediatric dentist and American Dental Association spokesperson Dr. Mary Hayes.
Between cookouts, camping trips and everything else on your family’s summer bucket list, it’s easy for school to sneak up on you. Unfortunately, many parents may not think about making that appointment until after school starts. Schedule your back to school appointment during the summer before everyone is busy with new schedules, homework and after school activities. Your dentist will have more open appointment times to plan around your family’s busy schedule. August and September are often of your pediatric dentist’s busiest months.
The best kind of checkup is a cavity-free checkup. Moms and dads can help make this happen by encouraging kids to brush twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day. Here is age-by-age advice:
Ages 6 and Under
At this age, your child might want to do all the brushing herself but doesn’t have the fine motor skills needed to do a thorough job. Let them start and jump in when needed. “During that age, the mouth is changing so much that children who are 5 or 6 are often brushing their teeth in the way they were when they were 2 or 3,” Dr. Hayes says. “They’re not accommodating the new molars, and they’re not accommodating the fact that the mouth is growing.”
By now, your child knows what to do, she just might not want to. Keep encouraging healthy brushing and flossing habits. “Be aware of the fact that sometimes you have to take over a little bit more,” she says. “By the time they’re teenagers, they’re starting to understand self-care, accountability for their actions and such.”
Dr. Hayes says this is a critical time for dental health. “When you look at research for when caries appear in kids, it tends to be in young kids. But another bump-up time is teenage years and early adulthood,” she says. “Part of this has to do with the fact that teenagers may have gone for many years and never had a cavity. They don’t necessarily take care of their teeth because they don’t see the consequence of not.”
Don’t let your teen’s habits become out of sight, out of mind. “The behaviors of the teenager are going to translate into the 20-year-old. We want to be able to support them and be respectful of them because they’re not kids anymore.”
Time of day can make or break your child’s appointment. “It’s important for a child of any age who’s used to a nap to not schedule during naptime,” she says. If your child is always cranky after waking up, factor that in too.
For older children, avoid cramming in a dentist appointment right after day camp or school. “Not all kids have the energy to do that,” she says. “I will have parents who want to do very elaborate operative work after school because that’s when the kids can come out. But if the child has already been exhausted or had a bad day or had tests, they just don’t have the stamina to make it through the appointment successfully.”
If you’ve scheduled back-to-back appointments for your children, there’s a simple way to decide who goes first: Choose the child who’s had the most positive experiences at the dentist. “Every child is going to be a little bit different in their temperament about how they approach a visit,” she says. “You generally want the ones first who are more successful because the others get to see how it goes.”
Feed your child a light meal before the appointment. “Hungry people are grouchy people. You want them to be comfortable,” she says. “It’s also generally a good idea not to feed them in the waiting room before you see the dentist because there’s all that food in [their mouth].”
Eating light is also better for a child with a healthy gag reflex. “Some children gag a lot just because they gag with everything,” she says. “As they age and they get more control over swallowing, kids tend to gag less.”
Bonus points if your child brushes before an appointment. “It’s polite,” Dr. Hayes says.
If your heart races at the very thought of the dentist, your child can probably tell. “Kids pick up on parents’ anxiety,” Dr. Hayes says. “It’s important with kids, especially at 4, 5 and 6, because I believe the phobic adults are the ones who had bad experiences when they were that age.”
The younger your kids are, the more you need to be aware of how you’re communicating with them. For example, if your child asks about getting a cavity filled, don’t say, “It will only hurt for a little bit.” Instead, encourage your child to ask the dentist. “With any child, you want them to be able to feel successful at accomplishing a good visit and link that positive feeling with the idea that their teeth are strong and healthy so they have that message going forward for the rest of their lives.”
If your child gets upset during her visit, the worst thing you can do is swoop them out of the chair and leave. “The next visit is going to be harder,” Dr. Hayes says. “You still have to help them get through part of the visit.”
First, assess why your child is acting out. Are they truly afraid, or are they trying to test the situation? “One of the reasons I think a 4, 5 or 6-year-old gets upset is because they think they’re going to be asked to do something they can’t be successful at,” she says. “They’re in an environment they feel they can’t control and that makes them upset, so we try to break it down into small steps.”
Then, work as a team with your dentist to keep the visit going. Let the dentist lead the conversation. Jump in where you think it helps most, while still allowing the dentist and your child to build a good relationship. “Give the dentist every opportunity to turn the visit around,” she says.
Accidents can happen whether your child is in sports camp, gym class or just walking down the street. In case of emergency, make sure your child’s teachers and coaches have all the medical contact information they need – including your dentist’s number. Grab business cards for your wallet, your child’s backpack and your school’s files. “Parents should be very aware of accidents and make sure that wherever they go that they bring the number of their dentist so that if a child has an accident, they can certainly call the office,” Dr. Hayes says.
This article was original published by the American Dental Association, at http://bit.ly/1Ei7pCc
Here at World of Smiles we understand the importance of our children’s overall health. A healthy smiles comes from a healthy body and mind. In the spirit of promoting a healthy, active, community focused lifestyle we have relaunched our Pinterest page, https://www.pinterest.com/pdxkidsdentist/. Here you will find boards pinned with ideas, inspiration, fun, crafts, and more:
Hungry for healthy seasonal/holiday snacks, check-out our Food-for-Thought board.
Looking for family fun events around the Portland-Vancouver area, we’ve got you covered, This is happening PDX!
Too soggy to head outside, stay indoors and be creative with our Activities and Crafts board.
The world is an amazing place, go explore its beauty on our World of Wonder board.
We hope you enjoy our Pinterest boards. Happy inspiration, exploring, learning.
Need to schedule or reschedule your child’s next dental appointment? We have 2 locations, West (West Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard) and North (East Portland, Vancouver, Milwaukie, Gresham).
Happy New Year! You’ve probably thought about New Year’s resolutions in the wellness category, like eating healthier, going “green”, and increasing exercise. And that’s great! But have you considered your family’s dental health in the New Year? Don’t forget- dental health is an integral part of your overall wellness. Now is a great time to improve your mouth-healthy habits.
We want to help your family start the New Year off right. Review this checklist with your kids to ensure everyone has a healthier 2017!
Did every member of your family receive a perfect score on the checklist? If so, way to go! If not, there’s room for improvement in 2017. Read our past blog entries and continue to follow our blog for healthy tips and ideas.
We have two Portland area locations to help you get started, www.visitworldofsmiles.com
We wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year!
Many parents don’t realize how early oral care needs to start.
By Melinda Wenner Moyer
If you hear blood-curdling screams coming from my house at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., don’t fret: I’m just brushing my 2-year-old’s teeth. It’s a traumatic endeavor for us both, and I admit that I’ve sometimes wondered: Is this really worth it? Baby teeth are just, like, temporary teeth, right?
Then I saw some statistics on cavities in young kids and spoke with a couple of pediatric dentists, and was surprised to discover that caring for your wee one’s teeth isn’t optional—it’s essential. So is taking kids to the dentist at a very young age. Don’t worry; you can learn from my mistakes, because I’ve been doing pretty much everything wrong.
Let’s start with the stats: Numbers of cavities among kids have been going down in general, but cavities in baby teeth have become more common over the past 20 years. Today, a whopping 60 percent of 5-year-olds have had at least one cavity; many have had five or even 10. Dental decay in kids isn’t just a nuisance—it can cause a lot of pain, and decayed teeth often have to be repaired or pulled using general anesthesia, which, as I’ve previously reported, isn’t risk-free. And when baby teeth are pulled, they can no longer do the important job of holding space for the budding permanent teeth—some of which don’t come in until age 12—so the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that dentists fit “space maintainers” in their stead when baby teeth are lost early. Cavities in baby teeth can also harm the permanent teeth directly, if the tissue in the central portion of the baby tooth gets infected.
There is good news, though: “Dental decay is preventable,” says AAPD president Jade Miller. When dentists see a cavity forming, they can actually reverse the process—which is in part why the organization recommends that parents bring their children to the dentist when they get their first tooth or by the time they turn 1, at the latest. (If these recommendations don’t mesh with what you’ve heard, that’s probably because the American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend the first dental visit by age 3. But since 2003, the AAP and the AAPD have both recommended this timeline.)
To understand how dentists work their magic, you first need to know how cavities are formed. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar and carbohydrates your kids eat, releasing acid in response. This acid breaks down tooth enamel and leads to tooth decay, explaining why dentists aren’t fond of kids consuming candy and juice; sugary foods provide feasts for mouth bacteria and lead to a buildup of cavity-causing acid. (Whole fruit, though, is fine: Chewing it stimulates saliva production, which helps to keep teeth clean, and its fibrous texture stimulates the gums.)
One way pediatric dentists can reverse burgeoning cavities is by applying a fluoride varnish to kids’ teeth, which causes fluoride to be released when the pH of the tooth drops as a result of the acid. The fluoride then helps rebuild the tooth enamel. When I finally brought my daughter to a pediatric dentist last week—those statistics on cavities really rattled me!—he didn’t even try to clean her teeth, because (surprise!) she was so uncooperative. But he did apply a quick fluoride varnish. Fluoride from drinking water and toothpaste can also get incorporated into the tooth enamel itself as it grows, thereby protecting it from future decay.
Of course, pediatric dentists do more than just deal with cavities in young toddlers; they can determine whether kids are doing things that might put them at risk for future cavities. For instance, if you’re letting little Jaden take a bottle of milk or juice into the crib with him at night, that’s a red flag for future cavities, and a dentist would likely tell you to stop. (This is so common it has its own name: baby bottle tooth decay.) The dentist can also check kids for signs of bigger dental or jaw problems. I got a talking-to about my daughter’s pacifier use, which is causing her to develop a gap between her upper and lower teeth. He advised me to nip her pacifier and periodically trim it more, to make it less damaging and appealing and hopefully prompt her to stop reaching for it.
Infant visits also give dentists the chance to educate parents on what to expect during teething and how best to care for kids’ teeth. If I had taken my daughter in when she got her first tooth, I might not be suffering through daily tooth-brushing battles, because I would have been told to wipe her teeth with a washcloth each day as an infant (which I didn’t do) and to start brushing with a toothbrush at age 1 (didn’t do that either). These are habits that establish oral care as a routine early on, making kids more compliant when they hit the terrible twos. Other important advice you might not have heard: brush your kid’s teeth for them at least once a day until they turn 8 or 9—oops, my 5-year-old son has been brushing solo for at least a year!—because the fine motor skills that make for good brushing “don’t really develop until about the age when a child can begin to tie shoes or write in cursive,” Miller explains; and start flossing when your child’s teeth no longer have space between them, because then the toothbrush isn’t able to reach plaque and debris between the teeth. (Yup, cavities can form between teeth, too.)
OK, but what if you, like me, have a kid who just won’t let you near her pearly whites? Jessica Lee, a pediatric dentist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, suggests experimenting with different types of toothbrushes—maybe little Anna would prefer an electronic toothbrush to a manual one, or vice versa. IPad apps like Brusheez, a brushing timer with characters and music, may also make the task more fun. Or, try letting your kid brush your teeth while you’re brushing hers. If you still can’t get in there for more than a few seconds, Lee suggests that you put a rice grain–size amount of fluoride toothpaste on the brush or your finger and at least just get a little bit of fluoride on her teeth. (Generally, a child shouldn’t use fluoride toothpaste until she knows not to swallow it, but it’s OK, Lee says, to use a tiny amount in this way.)
This article originally appeared on 7/29/16, http://slate.me/2av9Yc9
To schedule an appointment or for more information, please visit, www.visitworldofsmiles.com. We have two Portland area locations to serve you.
Many dentists are agreeing that flossing is equally as important (arguably more important) than brushing! Flossing removes plaque, bacteria, and food between the teeth and along the gums where a toothbrush can’t reach. In fact some sources indicate that brushing alone only reaches 35% of your tooth surfaces. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked practices in caring for our teeth and one of the most common places we find cavities in young children. You should floss your child’s teeth daily until he or she can do it alone, usually at least until children can tie their own shoes or write in cursive.
Getting children in the habit of daily flossing can yield a lifetime of benefits.
Here are five flossing tips to encourage your child (and you!) to start a regular flossing routine:
Ask us to show you a flossing demonstration at your next visit!!
Dr. Staci Whitman and Dr. Michelle Stafford worked for nearly two years to bring World Of Smiles to North Portland. They seek to partner with families to provide education and motivation for healthy dental habits. The practice strives for excellent patient care with a holistic, integrative approach while offering innovative treatment options. Both Docs enjoy teaching families and other healthcare professionals the importance of prevention and laying a foundation of healthy dental practices from a young age. They advocate for infant and child oral health, have had extensive experience with patients of special needs, and are Board Certified Pediatric Dentists. Learn more about who your family will partner with at your next visit!