Keep Halloween Candy from Trashing Your Kids’ Teeth

Now that fall is in the air, your little ones are likely getting excited for Halloween. Eating mountains of candy all night is every child’s dream, but it can be a nightmare for their pearly whites. Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay, which makes Halloween particularly dangerous for your children’s oral health. This year, take steps to keep your kids’ sugar intake in check and protect their teeth from icky cavities. Here are some ideas to help you manage the candy bucket.
Use a Smaller Treat Bag

Every child’s plan for the night is to fill their goodie bag with as much candy as it will hold. So if you send your goblins and witches out with a giant pillowcase for trick-or-treating, they’re going to come back with a ton of candy. Instead, opt for a smaller bag that will fill up much faster. Your kids might be a little disappointed with their haul, but their teeth will thank you.
Save Candy for After Meals

Your kids are going to want to start snacking on their candies right away. Go ahead and let them have a few pieces that night to let them celebrate, but save the rest of the candy for a post-dinner dessert. Saliva production increases during meals, helping to wash away any bacteria and food particles that got left behind. Having candy after dinner ensures that your children’s teeth have a little more protection because of that extra saliva.
Swap Candy for Sugar-Free Rewards

Candy is great, but if your child has had his eye on a new video game or has been itching to go bowling, you might be able to make a trade. Consider offering to swap candy in exchange for a toy or activity. This maintains the fun of Halloween but limits the amount of candy your kids are indulging in.
Maintain Good Brushing Habits

The first thing your children should do after treating themselves to a sugary piece of candy is brush their teeth. Brushing is the best way to remove any candy or sugar residue from the teeth. Remind the kids how to brush properly — by holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and moving it back and forth as well as circular motions and also short, soft strokes — and supervise them if they need a little extra help.

If your worried that this year’s Halloween candy might have taken a toll on your children’s teeth, schedule an appointment at Playtime dental for a cleaning and exam. Dr. Jackson Cockley, DDS, will take a closer look and make sure there aren’t any cavities hiding out in your little one’s teeth. Give us a calltoday to make an appointment.

Why Your Child’s Baby Teeth Matter

Most people assume that baby teeth aren’t as important as adult teeth since we lose them early in life. But the truth is that baby teeth really do matter for a variety of different reasons. 

Background on Baby Teeth

An infant’s 20 primary teeth are already in place within the jaws at birth. They start to appear between 6 months and 1 year of age. The emergence of baby teeth often results in sore gums that can be alleviated with gentle rubbing. The average child will have all 20 primary teeth in place by the age of 3.

The Importance of Baby Teeth

Primary teeth are critically important as they help our little ones chew food and form words. Baby teeth also hold space for permanent teeth that will soon emerge from beneath the gums. If a baby tooth is lost prematurely, the adjacent teeth might drift into the empty space, making it challenging for adult teeth to find space when they finally come in. This is one of many reasons why taking your kid to a child’s dentist early in life is so important.

Don’t Delay That First Dental Visit

According to the American Dental Association, the first dental appointment should be scheduled within six months after the child’s first tooth comes in. Do not wait until beyond your child’s first birthday to have him or her seen by a dentist. This visit will give your dentist a chance to check your kiddo’s teeth for decay and other issues.

How You can Care for Your Little One’s Teeth

It is imperative that you take care of your child’s baby teeth from the get-go. The first step is to wipe your baby’s mouth in the first couple of days after birth. Use a washcloth or a moist gauze pad for this quick rub. 

If your child is under the age of 3, brush his or her teeth three times per day and floss where teeth touch, as soon as the teeth have entered the mouth. Use fluoride toothpaste the size of a lentil. If your child is between 3 and 6 years old, use a little bit more toothpaste, roughly the size of a small pea and brush three times per day and floss where the teeth touch. Continue brushing your child’s teeth until you are confident that he or she can brush them on his or her own.  

Kids start to get sufficient hand-eye coordination around the age of 8.  If your child wants to brush and floss on his or her own, that’s great!  Let he or she brush and floss, then an adult should follow up behind.  An adult can brush and floss first, whichever method works best to get the job done. 

Once your child has two teeth that touch, you can teach him or her how to floss! Encourage your child to floss each time he or she brushes to maintain oral health into adulthood. And don’t forget to schedule regular dental appointments at Playtime Dental. 

Is Dental Sedation Safe for Children?

When it comes to dental sedation and your child, safety should be everyone’s first concern. Something as important as sedating a child for a dental procedure should only be done by an expert in children’s health, such as a children’s dentist. 

Not only does a kid’s dentist have the expertise and knowledge of safe sedation methods for children, they are trained how to help a nervous child feel safe and comfortable during a dental procedure. This is vital in order to protect the child’s personal sense of well-being.

Laughing Gas for Nervous Children 

If a child feels overly stressed or frightened, dental sedation may be necessary to help the patient relax and feel calm. The most popular choice for this is nitrous oxide, or laughing gas as it is commonly called. Oxygen mixed with laughing gas is administered with a mask over the child’s nose. 

This type of dental sedation will start to take effect within minutes and the child will begin to feel happy and relaxed.  Immediately following the procedure, only oxygen will be given via the mask to make sure all laughing gas is removed from the child’s system.

Putting Safety First 

Before your children’s dentist performs a procedure, they will ask questions about your child. Any medical concerns, such as allergies, previous illness or a pre-existing health condition will be noted and taken into consideration. 

When speaking with your child’s dentist, be sure to answer all questions as thoroughly as possible. Also, provide the child’s general physician’s name and phone number for the dentist to contact for more information if necessary, especially if your child has a medical condition. 

You should also inform the dentist if your child receives any sort of medication, vitamin supplements, or over-the-counter health products. All of this information is important for the dentist to know in order to determine what type of dental sedation is suitable for your child.

Depending on the type of sedation a child may need, a kid-friendly dentist will give instructions to parents about eating and drinking prior to the procedure.  When using laughing gas for sedation, a light meal is recommended prior to the procedure.  A heavy meal or no meal can cause nausea when using laughing gas for sedation.  For IV sedation, an empty stomach is vital in order to prevent your child from vomiting and inhaling the stomach’s contents into their lungs.  

If you have any questions about dental sedation, do not hesitate to contact our office. We can discuss options for your child’s dental procedures and talk further with you about the safety precautions we use. 

Is Your Child A Good Candidate for Dental Sealants?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that 70 percent of children will experience cavities in their teeth by the age of 19. If left untreated, these cavities can lead to tooth loss and a lifetime of dental problems. Dental sealants are an option that protects the chewing grooves of the teeth from getting cavities.

Understanding Dental Sealants

A dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that is applied to chewing surfaces to prevent the tiny grooves and fissures in young teeth from developing cavities. These sealants bond into the small depressions, protecting teeth from bacteria that cause dental caries (cavities). The sealant is applied on teeth after cleaning any food or plaque from it. 

The teeth are first roughened (etched) with an acid wash, and then, the sealant is painted onto them. It is then allowed to cure using a curing light. These sealants can last as long as 10 years and will protect the chewing, cheek or tongue surface of the teeth as children grow into young adulthood. 

Dental sealants are an underused resource that can help children who have difficulty cleaning back teeth or who are vulnerable to cavities.  The surfaces in between the teeth cannot be sealed so flossing is still the best way to protect the teeth from interproximal cavities.

Sealants Go Where Dental Caries Happens

Newly erupted teeth may have many very small grooves and indentations that catch food and may be difficult to clean properly. The teeth at the back of the mouth, in particular, can hold food debris that allows bacteria to thrive. 

Sealing the chewing, cheek or tongue surfaces of back teeth ensures that bacteria will not be trapped in these mini crevices. Sealants can be particularly important for children who have thin tooth enamel or a tendency toward developing cavities easily.

Ongoing Preventative Care for Children

Dental sealants should be applied on newly erupted permanent molars and pre-molars. This generally occurs between the ages of 6 and 14.  Sealants applied at this time can protect children’s teeth during these cavity-prone mid- childhood years. Dental sealants can be a useful part of preventative care for children’s oral health. They can provide that additional measure of protection against tooth decay that can lead to tooth loss.

Your child can enjoy oral health throughout his or her life if you form good habits early and visit your dentist regularly. Dental sealants can be part of the ongoing care your child needs to maintain an attractive and healthy smile. Call Playtime Dental today to schedule an appointment for your kiddo or if you have any questions!

How Can Space Maintainers Help My Child’s Teeth?

If your child has had a tooth removed or lost a tooth earlier than the average, you should know of an oral appliance called a space maintainer. Space maintainers serve the purpose of holding space for a child’s permanent teeth to erupt if your child has had a tooth removed or lost a tooth too early. Their use in the early years can prevent costly problems down the road.

Candidates for Space Maintainers

If your child loses a baby tooth too early (before the permanent tooth is ready to emerge) then a space maintainer might be an option to help. It will hold the space left open by the missing tooth so that there is enough room for the adult tooth to enter the mouth. Children might also require space maintainers if they have primary teeth pulled as a result of dental decay. Regardless of which scenario has unfolded for your child, you should understand that a space maintainer will support your little one’s dental health.

Space Maintainer Details

Space maintainers are made by dentists and orthodontists with either a metal or acrylic material. It can be fabricated so it is a removable or a fixed appliance that will be placed in your child’s mouth. The fixed variety comes in different kinds: unilateral band and loop, unilateral band and loop with a distal shoe if the tooth lost does not have a tooth behind it, or a bilateral space maintainer for the upper or lower arch which holds space for teeth on both sides of the mouth if teeth are lost on both sides.

The space maintainer will minimize crowding issues as baby teeth are lost. This way, future orthodontic treatment may not be required as your little one’s teeth will have enough open space to shift into. It is worth noting that space maintainers are not necessary for every single child who prematurely loses a tooth. Be sure to discuss this option with your child’s dentist to determine if it is appropriate for your child.

Getting Accustomed to the Space Maintainer

It might take your child a few days to get used to wearing the new space maintainer. Both the fixed and removable varieties are foreign objects that the mouth will take some time to get used to. Be sure to clean the space maintainer to prevent negative impacts on the teeth and gum tissue health. 

You will need to bring your child back to your dentist’s office regularly so that he can gauge the progress of treatment with the use of the new space maintainer. If you have any questions, feel free to give our office a call!

How to Make Sure Teens are Practicing Good Oral Hygiene

Your teen’s smile enhances their confidence and self-esteem. It’s one of the first things that will attract people to them. That’s why it’s so important to take good care of the teeth starting as soon as possible. Teens lead very busy and active lifestyles, which unfortunately can translate into less time spent on dental hygiene. Following these recommendations will help your teen maintain and sustain quality oral health.

Set a Routine

It is recommended that a person brush at least two to three times per day with a fluoride toothpaste in addition to flossing at least once per day.  Over time they’ll get used to the routine.  Doing so will help prevent tooth decay, plaque build-up and gum disease. 


Dental plaque loves sugar and carbohydrates.  Healthy snacks like fruits and veggies can actually help clean teeth, so encourage your teens to eat smart when it comes to snacking.  A diet that’s rich in nutrients is also going to benefit dental health over many years.

Regular Dental Visits

We’re aware that teens maintain an active lifestyle, but routinely seeing a general dentist during the teen years is important for the general development of their teeth and mouth.  Just because they saw a kid’s dentist routinely and all of their permanent teeth have come in doesn’t mean that the health of their teeth, gums and bone are optimal.  Ignored or untreated dental conditions are going to detract from their overall health and smile, so make sure they get a cleaning every six months. 


Oral piercings might be popular with kids, but they can chip or break teeth.  If your teen is set on it, some piercings are safer than others.   We can make our recommendations if needed. 

Mouth Guards

Dental injuries occur every year in sports. If your teen is involved in sports, they can prevent dental injuries by wearing a mouth guard.  They’re highly recommended and are custom fitted.

Learn How to Protect Your Teeth this Winter

Learn How to Protect Your Teeth this Winter

As the temperature drops throughout the fall, it reminds us that winter is on the way.  Along with fall and winter comes the holidays that bring lots of tasty treats that everybody loves to graze upon.  Not only do we eat more treats during the winter holidays, but there are more events and activities during the winter that can be dangerous for your oral health.  Along with avoiding the cold toes and achy bones of winter, it is also important to visit your general dentist for a winter check-up.  Here are a few tips to help you prevent some common oral health problems during the cold season.

Winter Sports

Winter sports, such as ice hockey, skiing, sledding and ice skating can be just as dangerous for your teeth as summer sports. You or the kids can easily chip or knock out a tooth (or two) from slipping on the ice or getting hit in the mouth with a hockey puck. One of the best ways to prevent damage to the teeth is to wear a mouth guard when playing winter sports. 

Tooth Sensitivity

The cold air may cause your teeth to become extra sensitive. Sensitivity in teeth usually causes a throbbing feeling and/or pain inside your mouth and the areas of your face around your mouth.  When you are cold, your teeth may chatter, which may weaken the enamel on your teeth.  Keeping warm is essential for your body to function properly and to help teeth feel less sensitivity from chattering. Wear the appropriate winter clothing for winter activities and sip a cup of warm sugar-free tea to help you stay warm.

Colds and Flu

It is almost impossible to avoid getting a cold or the flu during the winter. Unfortunately, getting sick not only makes you feel miserable, but it also affects your eating habits and your oral health habits. When you’re sick and tired, nothing may sound good at meal times.  This can cause you to avoid eating healthy meals and forgetting to brush afterwards.  Some cold medications may contain sugar and can cause your mouth to become dry, which increases the bacteria that causes tooth decay.  On the days when you don’t feel like eating, avoid snacking and instead try to eat a bowl of vegetable soup, drink plenty of water and get your rest.

Whether you are experiencing tooth sensitivity or need an appointment with the kid’s dentist to have them fitted for a mouth guard, contact us, so we can help keep your smile safe and beautiful this winter.

Learn How Xylitol Can Help Children’s Teeth

There’s a new “sugar” on the market, and it’s one you won’t have to worry about your kids getting their hands on. It’s called xylitol, a naturally occurring carbohydrate that looks and tastes like regular sugar. But since it’s not actually sugar, it won’t cause cavities in your children’s teeth. In fact, Xylitol has been approved by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) for reducing the risk of cavities in younger children.

What is Xylitol?

So we’ve already said xylitol is a naturally occurring carbohydrate, but where does it come from? Xylitol can be found in most of the fruits and vegetables that we eat on a daily basis, just in small amounts. In fact, it even occurs naturally in our bodies, with the average size adult manufacturing up to 15 grams of xylitol per day. For commercial purposes, however, manufacturers extract xylitol from corncobs or trees. In its pure form, xylitol takes the form of a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar.

How is it used?

There are several ways you can use xylitol. You can use its pure crystalline form as a sweetener, whether you’re pouring it over your child’s cereal or sprinkling it on some fresh strawberries. Xylitol can also be found in several oral care products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash. There are even xylitol gums and mints. Dental experts recommend children use a 100 percent xylitol product 6-7 times per day whether it is a mint or chewing gum containing xylitol.  The frequency of use is more important than the amount used and products containing less than 100 percent are not effective enough to help the dentition.

Benefits of Xylitol

There are many benefits of Xylitol that have been proven to help the oral health of kids when their teeth are still developing. Tooth decay occurs due to bacteria in the mouth multiplying and then releasing an acid that causes the tooth to weaken (demineralize) and decay. Unfortunately brushing and flossing only temporarily remove bacteria from the teeth.
Xylitol acts like a deterrent for these bacteria and keeps the acid levels down. In addition to reducing the risk of tooth decay, it also reduces plaque formation and increases the flow of saliva to aid in the repair of damaged tooth enamel.
If there are early signs of tooth decay in children less than five, it is a good idea to seek the help of a kids’ dentist. Those who cater to the young and growing will be able to focus better on the dental needs of a child than someone who only treats adults. Overall, keeping good dental hygiene and brushing twice a day will reduce the risk of cavities and Xylitol can supplement that to prevent the acid formation. Simple ways like this are better paths to take than dental work in the future.

Ideas on How to Make Oral Hygiene Fun For Kids

For some kids, brushing and flossing is like a chore that they do once in the morning and once at night. However, it doesn’t have to be this way! Making oral hygiene fun can have lasting effects and can even make kids take an interest in keeping their mouths clean and healthy.

There’s an App For That

It’s recommended that a child brushes his or her teeth for two minutes. A fun way to make sure they get the full two minutes in is to use a brushing app that plays a song for two minutes and have your child brush as long as the music is playing. Pick something they like and will make them want to stay there the entire time. A smile on their face while brushing will make the time pass faster. Also, if the song is something they really enjoy they might even look forward to the next time they get to brush.

Visits from the Tooth Fairy 

Every child is different when it comes to losing teeth.  Some kids love the idea of losing teeth because that means they are growing up!  Others don’t like losing teeth because eating can become uncomfortable until the tooth falls out.  A good way to make this fun is by using the story of the tooth fairy. Tell your child a new tooth will grow back soon but the tooth fairy will come and give some money in exchange for the tooth that has come out.  This is a great opportunity to talk about brushing and flossing.  Explain that the tooth fairy loves to see teeth in good shape so she knows that the child is doing a good job brushing and flossing.   I have had some parents say the tooth fairy does not bring money for teeth with cavities that come out!

Prize Winning Teeth 

A kids’ dentist can show children what can happen to their teeth if they don’t brush.  Some dentists even give prizes for good oral hygiene or a good visit.  If your child’s dentist doesn’t give out toys, perhaps you could find a small way to reward them for their good oral report.  A reward system, such as a brushing and flossing chart with stickers, is a great way for children to get motivated.  Then on the chart, have a spot for the six month check-ups that has a special sticker or reward to be given for a good visit.  Oral hygiene doesn’t have to be a difficult task every day.  Just by making brushing and flossing into something fun, you could see an improvement in the oral health.

Facts About Thumb and Pacifier Sucking

To continue from last week’s blog post regarding dental care for babies, we felt it is necessary to talk about other baby habits that can affect oral hygiene such as using a pacifier or the baby sucking on their thumb.

According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, here is a list of quick facts regarding pacifier/thumb sucking:
  • Babies suck on their thumb or pacifier for pleasure, comfort and security. This habit can start before they are even born.
  • The AAPD recommends pacifiers over thumbs to comfort new babies. The pacifier habit is typically easier to break and could decrease the chance of orthodontic problems.
  • Thumb or pacifier sucking is normal for infants and children. Usually children will stop on their own, however if the child doesn’t, the habit should be discouraged by the age of 3.
  • Thumb or pacifier sucking can affect the teeth the same way. After a long period of time, there may be affects with the upper front teeth sticking outward. Other potential effects include problems with jaw alignment, tooth positioning or the bite.

It is very important that you visit a pediatric dentist or a dentist who devotes most of his or her time to children, by the age of one year.  As time goes on, support from your pediatric dentist, as well as family, can help children quit the pacifier or thumb sucking habit!