Kids Using Tobacco: Why Kids Smoke and the Risk of Using Tobacco

There is a number of health risks associated with smoking, yet teenagers continue to smoke and/or use smokeless tobacco. Each day, there are approximately 3900 children between the ages 12-17 smoke their first cigarette. Over 950 of them will become regular smokers and about half of them will die from smoking in adulthood. For these reasons, it is essential that children understand the dangers associated with smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco.

Why Kids Begin Smoking

There are several reasons why children may start smoking. Some of the most common reasons children may be attracted to smoking and/or chewing tobacco include:

  • To act older
  • To lose weight
  • To look cool
  • To do something dangerous
  • To satisfy curiosity
  • To appear tough
  • To feel independent
  • To win tobacco related merchandise

Signs Your Child May Be Smoking

It is essential as a parent to establish good communication with children early to make tricky issues, like smoking, easier. Giving children information about the risks associated with smoking may help to protect them from this unhealthy habit. Ask your child’s dentist to talk with them about the risks to their oral health from smoking and if you suspect your child may be using tobacco products, make sure they see a kid’s dentist as soon as possible. Warning signs your child is smoking may include:

  • Odor of smoke on their clothing
  • Bad breath
  • Frequent complaints of throat irritation
  • Coughing
  • Decrease in their athletic performance
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stained and/or yellow teeth

The Oral and Physical Health Risks of Tobacco Use

Smoking and/or using smokeless tobacco kills hundreds of people each year. Tobacco contains nicotine and several other poisonous chemicals that cause a range of diseases, including heart problems and cancer. Tobacco use can have a significant impact on the overall oral health of a child. Some of the effects of smoking and using smokeless tobacco may include:

  • Throat cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Bone loss
  • Tooth loss
  • Gum disease
  • Stained teeth

To help prevent your children from using tobacco products, it is important to discuss the issue in a way that doesn’t make kids fear a punishment or feel as though they are being judged. It is also important to continue talking to children about the dangers of tobacco use throughout their childhood and into adulthood. Discuss ways your child can respond to smoking and peer pressure and encourage their self-confidence, which will help protect them against peer pressure. Visit a kids’ dentist with your child for more information on the dangers of smoking and oral health.

Care and Prevention of Toothaches in Children

A child’s toothache can be caused by many different things but common causes of toothaches include tooth decay, dental trauma, loose teeth or erupting teeth and food wedged between the teeth. 

When Should You Contact Your Children’s Dentist?

You should contact a kids’ dentist when your child shows signs of pain. A few indications your child may need to be seen by the dentist include:

  • Swollen face
  • Acts or looks under the weather
  • Severe pain that has not subsided within an hour or two
  • Red or yellow lump present in the area of the gum line
  • Visible brown cavity or hole in the tooth

Caring for Toothaches at Home

Until your child is able to see the dentist, try some of these at home remedies to help relieve the pain:

  • Floss between your kids teeth to remove any impacted food
  • Give your child over-the-counter pain reliever to help dull the pain
  • If toothache is caused by an injury or trauma, apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek.

Scheduling an Appointment

Your child’s toothache may require a dental visit to repair any damages and put preventive care into perspective. An appointment should be scheduled if the toothache does not go away within a 24-hour time frame. Most toothache causes can be treated in a timely manner and resolved permanently as long as the proper preventative measures are followed. After the appointment, make sure you help keep your child’s teeth in top-of-the-line condition by teaching them proper oral health habits. Depending upon your child’s oral health, your child may require more frequent visits to the dentist until all issues and concerns have been resolved.

Risk Assessment Tool

Your child’s teeth are important, but it may be difficult for parents to determine if their child needs the attention of a dentist or not. While annual cleanings are easy to remember and schedule even if there is not an issue, it may be difficult to determine if your child needs further attention or if they are doing well with their teeth and oral care.

That is where the pediatric risk assessment tool comes in handy. We here at Playtime Dental use this tool at each cleaning to determine if your child needs further care and also to identify any issues or risk factors that may lead to a need for more dental work. The tool first looks at a wide range of factors that may affect the overall health of your child’s teeth. Who takes care of the child’s teeth, has there been decay in the past 12 months, do they use a bottle or a sippy cup, do they snack often, do they have special needs, etc.? These factors will let the doctor know what type of potential issues they may be looking for so that they can more accurately address any issues that are present.

The tool also looks at what type of preventative efforts you and your child are taking as part of their oral health:

  • Does your child visit the dentist regularly?
  • Do they brush?
  • Do they floss?
  • Do they use a fluoride rinse?
  • Do they drink fluoridated water?
  • Do they snack frequently?
  • Do they sip on beverages or drink them quickly?

These factors will help the dentist determine how likely it is that there will be issues with your child’s teeth.
Your kids’ dentist will then mark any findings that were present with the checkup. Did they find decay, broken teeth, white spots lesions (start of cavities), or excessive plaque, etc.? This is the chance for the dentist and staff to talk with the parent about everything that they found during the cleaning, which makes diagnosing and choosing a treatment plan option much easier.

The last aspect of the assessment tool is to consider what options are available for treating any issues found. Determining if the patient is a high or low caries risk guides treatment decisions. Some issues will not need dental intervention and can be taken care of at home by improving or increasing the frequency of, or by adding, brushing, flossing or a fluoride rinse to the patient’s routine. If further dental intervention needed, your dentist will suggest the solution that is going to be least difficult or traumatizing for the child and will help parents put a treatment method in place so that your child can have the healthy teeth that they need.

Making Tooth-brushing a Priority in Your Child’s Bedtime Routine

The bedtime routine can be challenging when dealing with small children. It’s hard to get them to settle down and focus on the job at hand – especially when that job is brushing & flossing. 

So how can a parent make sure to make tooth-brushing a priority every single night?  

Develop a Regular Routine

Kids thrive on routine.  They like to know what’s coming next.  Make bedtime a relaxing time filled with quiet rituals.

First set a definite time for bed. Not 8 to 9 p.m., but 8 o’clock sharp (or whatever time you choose).  Don’t deviate from that time, unless it is necessary.  If your child must be in bed by 8 p.m., then you should begin nighttime rituals at 7.  Most experts agree that it takes a child about an hour to get in the mood for bed.
Be sure to do your set rituals in the same order every night. For instance, begin with a light snack, take a bath, get the pajamas on, brush the teeth and read a story together. Once a child knows that it’s time to brush their teeth every night after the PJ’s are put on, it will become an ingrained habit that happens automatically without even a reminder. 

Make Brushing Fun

Giving your child an electric toothbrush or a sparkly toothpaste is a good way to entice him or her to brush.  The most important thing is finding what gets your child to brush so the routine can be established and maintained.
Here are a few simple ways to make tooth brushing every night more memorable:

  • Have a brushing contest. Stand next to your child and see who can brush the longest.  The goal is to brush for two minutes.  This ensures thorough cleaning of the teeth and gives the fluoride enough time to help remineralize the enamel.
  • Use disclosing tablets or a disclosing mouth rinse. Kids love to see what a good job they’ve done. Disclosing mouth rinse or tablets color the plaque which shows areas where they may have missed while brushing.
  • Award good behavior.  Brushing is a behavior that deserves reward. A sticker system is a great idea to motivate the little ones to brush and floss. Every time the child brushes without a hassle or without being told when it’s time to brush, place a sticker on the chart. You decide how many stickers it takes to earn a small reward.
  •  Let them gargle.  If your children are old enough, purchase some children’s mouthwash and let them finish their evening brushing with a good rinse and gargle.

Offer Lots of Praise

If there is one thing every kid loves it is praise.  Be sure to give loads of praise for a job well done.
Bedtime brushing and flossing should never be an afterthought.  If you as the parent make it a priority, so will your children –and that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Is It Safe For My Child To Use Mouthwash?

Using mouthwash has numerous benefits: fresher breath, cleaner teeth, and to a small degree, plaque and tartar control.  But is it safe for children?

Small Children Should Steer Clear of Mouthwash and Oral Rinses

Most dental experts agree that mouthwash products should be avoided until the child reaches at least the age of six. This is about the time when they can control their swallowing reflex and spit out the wash after rinsing.  Even child-safe rinses aren’t really made to be ingested by young children.
Remember, the ingredients in these rinses can be harmful if swallowed.  

Elementary Aged Children Can Begin to Rinse

Around the age of 6, it is usually safe to begin introducing child-safe rinsing products.  Most are alcohol free and can help the child begin to establish a healthy oral care routine that will last a lifetime.  Here are some tips for helping your children use mouthwash safely:

  • Give younger children small amounts of rinse at the beginning until they are used to the process. That way if they accidentally swallow some, it will be okay.
  • Show children how to rinse and spit. Believe it or not, this isn’t always an easy concept.
  • Never use oral rinses as a substitute for brushing.  Mouthwash cannot get rid of food debris or remove plaque like brushing and flossing do.  It should be used to rinse the mouth at the end of the tooth cleaning regimen, unless it is a disclosing solution that the child is using at the beginning of the brushing routine, to see the plaque for thorough removal.

Kids with Braces Should Always Rinse

Children with braces should use mouthwash and high fluoride rinses to help keep the teeth healthy.  One of the biggest pitfalls of wearing braces is that food gets stuck in them which can lead to tooth decay. Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can help kill bacteria that produce the acid that causes cavities.  This can save your child from dental treatment and possibly needing the braces removed until better hygiene habits are formed.

Teens Love Mouthwash

Of course, teenagers are very aware of bad breath and often turn to mouthwash to help freshen the breath. This is perfectly fine, as long as they are still brushing and flossing regularly.  Bad breath is a sign of bacterial buildup in the mouth, which is often the result of poor brushing and flossing habits.  Stress this fact to your teen. While mouthwash can help to give anyone a fresher feeling mouth, it is no substitute for good oral hygiene practices. 

Which Mouthwash is Best?

One trip down the oral care aisle and you will notice quite a few oral rinses available for both children and adults.  When choosing the right one, consider these important factors:

  • How old is your child?  Younger children should only use child-approved, alcohol free rinses.
  • Do you need extra fluoride?  Fluoride based rinses can be especially helpful in fighting cavities, especially for children who live in areas that do not fluoridate the water supply.
  • Are you fighting bacteria?  If your child or teen is battling bad breath, it may be a sign that he or she has too much bacteria in his or her mouth. Using an antimicrobial rinse can help kill bacteria stuck between teeth, offering fresher breath and a healthier mouth.

Allowing children to use mouthwash rinses can be a big decision for parents.  Follow these simple suggestions to ensure that when you do make this important decision, it is the right one for your child. 

Help! My Child is Teething!

Baby’s first tooth is a momentous milestone. It is a sign that your baby is growing. Soon you will be able to begin introducing solid foods. But first you both have to survive the teething process!

When Teething Begins

The average child will begin teething around the age of six months.  However, some kids are born with teeth; some begin the process at 3 months; others don’t see the first tooth until the first birthday. Kids may experience a lot of discomfort, letting their parents know something is amiss.  Others are surprised to discover that the first tooth has erupted without warning.  Consider yourself and your child fortunate if he or she goes through the teething process with no discomfort!  The teething process usually is done around the age of 3.

How Many Teeth Can We Expect?

Considering how rough teething can be. It is no wonder that new parents want to know how many times they (and their child) are going to have to go through the process. On average, your child will have 20 primary teeth, about a dozen less than permanent ones.  But don’t panic!  Teeth erupt in pairs and not every tooth is going to cause discomfort. Usually just the first few and the molars are the most uncomfortable.

What Can We Expect?

Every parent has heard the horror stories of babies that scream all night or spike high fevers when teething.  You may notice your child drooling more than usual and chewing on toys, fingers, or things they normally would not.  Others can become irritable, develop rashes, pull on their ears, spike a fever, or even appear as if they have a cold.  Diarrhea and coughing have also been reported.  Although you should never dismiss these symptoms, if your child’s gums seem red and irritated even though they have been getting brushed routinely, the odds are good that your child is not sick; they’re simply working on getting a tooth.

What Should We Do?

Parents feel helpless when their child isn’t feeling well. Add loss of sleep to these feelings and teething can become a long process for all to endure.  Here are a few tips for getting through the experience:

  • Offer your child some soothing items.  A cool, damp wash cloth is usually comforting for a teething child to chew on.  Teething rings may also help to ease the discomfort of the teething process.  Make sure this is not too cold or frozen because this can further irritate the child’s gums.  Think about Ralphie’s tongue getting stuck to the flag pole in “A Christmas Story.”  Instead of freezing it, place the teething ring in the back of the refrigerator instead.
  • Use Children’s Tylenol or Ibuprofen as needed.  If your child is in pain, or develops a low grade fever, an over-the-counter pain reliever may help.
  • Offer cold drinks and food.  If your child is old enough to eat ice cream, cold yogurt, or cold applesauce, these foods can help. Cold foods and drinks can soothe irritated gums.
  • Offer counter pressure. Some babies respond quite well to parents firmly rubbing irritated gums. Others may be too uncomfortable. 

Helping a child deal with the pain and discomfort of teething isn’t always easy and is usually a trial and error experience.  Try several different methods of relief until you find what works best for your little teether.

Steps That Will Keep Your Kid’s Dentist Happy During the Winter Holidays

The winter holidays can be a great time to be a kid. Children go from dressing up and enjoying candy during Halloween, to visiting family and eating delicious desserts for Thanksgiving, to opening presents and candy stocking stuffers at Christmas time. Winter is when kids have frequent opportunities to eat more sweet foods than they usually do. What does a kid’s dentist advise to help a child who may not have a lot of impulse control to prevent cavities even at this sweetest time of the year?

One of the most important things a parent can do to assist their children is to ensure that the children brush their teeth twice a day and don’t eat sugary foods or carbohydrates or drink sugary or carbonated drinks after they brush in the evening. Parents should supervise the brushing of children’s teeth until they are at least 8 years old. Anytime a child has two teeth touching, the child should floss at least twice a day and should be supervised in this until they are 8 as well.

Parents should be active in monitoring what their children eat. Usually, it is best that children don’t snack more than three times a day. Although it is usually advisable to have children snack on foods other than just sweets, the winter holidays do bring out more opportunities to snack on less healthy foods. The most important thing is to not let children eat all through the day and to have them avoid sugary sweets after evening brushing and flossing.

Even milk has sugars that can get between the teeth and cause cavities if a child drinks it after the evening tooth-brushing. Also, sometimes parents will allow more carbonated drinks over the holidays. These can actually cause more damage than a normal sugary beverage, as the acidity of the carbonation can cause an erosion of the enamel as well as the sugar in it can increase the likelihood of a cavity. Often, juices have more sugar in them than parents realize, so reading labels is very important for a child’s tooth care.  Natural sugars are just as hard on our teeth as the refined sugars we use in cooking, baking, etc.

A healthy snack for a child’s teeth is cheese, such as aged cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, and Monterrey jack. Not only are these cheeses healthier for teeth than sugary snacks, but they also work to clear the mouth of hidden food while neutralizing acids that can harm teeth.

Just because sugary snacks are not healthy for teeth doesn’t mean kids should never eat them.  Just make sure if they are eating sugary or less healthy snacks that they brush when they are done to avoid cavities.  Parents need to be involved and help ensure that their children’s teeth are healthy and their habits are good.

Common Tooth Injuries

Sometimes it seems as though children’s heads are magnets – baseballs, a little brother’s foot – it’s no surprise so many activities require helmets. Unfortunately, tooth injuries can be a common part of growing up. According to, nearly 50% of kids will injure a tooth during childhood. Below are three common tooth injuries and how best to respond.

Where’s My Tooth?!
What should you do when a tooth is knocked out? The answer depends on whether the injury was to a baby tooth or a permanent tooth. If it was a baby tooth, the dentist will probably not want to “replant” the tooth, but contact your kid’s dentist as soon as possible to make sure the rest of your child’s mouth is uninjured. If it was a permanent tooth, act quickly to save the tooth and reduce the risk for future complications. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests you rinse the tooth in cool water (no soap, and no scrubbing) and replace it in the socket immediately, holding it in place with clean gauze or a washcloth. If you cannot put the tooth back, place it in a clean container with cold milk, saliva, or Hank’s balanced salt solution, and see your dentist as soon as possible.

Chipped / Fractured Tooth
If your child chips or fractures a tooth, rinse the mouth with water, and apply a cool compress to reduce swelling. If you have the tooth fragment, place it in cold milk or water. Contact your kid’s dentist, and remember to bring the saved fragment with you to the appointment.

Ouch, My Tooth!
We don’t like to see kids in pain, and most of us know how painful a toothache can be. If your child is complaining about mouth or tooth pain, promptly contact the dentist. Tooth pain can indicate a number of problems, all of which should be diagnosed and treated by the dentist. If you cannot see the dentist right away, relieve some of the pain using children’s aspirin, Children’s Tylenol, or Children’s Motrin and a cold compress – never apply heat, put aspirin directly on the tooth, or use Orajel.

Remember, regular checkups and protection during activities can help keep your kids healthy and pain-free. Visit for more information.

5 Ways to Make Brushing Teeth More Fun

Establishing good brushing habits and scheduling regular visits with a dentist are two important ways to help your kids achieve a lifetime of good dental health. Getting them excited for daily routines, however, can be a bit tricky. If you are having trouble convincing your kids that dentist visits and dental health are important, here are five ways to make brushing teeth more fun.

1. Get the Gear

The selection of electric toothbrushes for children is wide and it’s easy to find just the right brush for every child. Some have flashing lights while others play songs from pop artists. No matter which you choose, having the right equipment will always make the job more entertaining.

2. Sing a Song

Many children sing their ABCs while washing their hands to make sure they are scrubbing long enough and the same idea can be applied to brushing. Finding a song that is two minutes long, playing a two-minute portion of a favorite song, or choosing a four-minute song that can be started in the morning and completed in the evening are all fun ways to make sure your kids are brushing long enough.

3. Cavity Crusaders

Help younger kids get in the right mood for cavity fighting by turning them into superheroes. Even something as simple as a small towel that becomes a “cape” during brushing can help transform your toddler into a Cavity Crusader who must not stop until all the cavity bugs are defeated.

4. Rewards

One way to encourage daily brushing is to give rewards after brushing. Every child is different so pick a reward system and the frequency of rewards that suits your child best. Create a chart and let your kids place a sticker on each day that they’ve brushed. When they reach their goals, they get a special prize.

5. Play Copycat

Keep older kids engaged in dental health by having them demonstrate the proper way to brush, floss, and rinse so the little ones can copy what they are doing. As a bonus, big kids are usually extra careful with their techniques to make sure they are teaching the little ones correctly.

A Lifetime of Rewards

By making dental heath fun, kids will not try to avoid brushing and flossing like other chores they have to complete. Instead, they will begin to establish great habits that will last a lifetime.

Essential Foods for Healthy Teeth

Although there are the basics of good oral hygiene such as brushing and flossing daily and twice-a-year dentist visits, our diet is also an essential part of the process. Nutrition is important for our entire body, and that includes our teeth and gums. It’s critical to not only have a healthy diet, but also to understand which foods in particular promote a healthy mouth.
But people should not only consider which foods to avoid such as sugary and starchy foods that bring plaque-causing bacteria and attack the teeth for up to 20 minutes after eating. They should also consider which foods specifically help their teeth.
Teeth-Healthy Foods
Any food products that are rich in both vitamin D and calcium help create healthy bones and teeth. These include milk, calcium-fortified juices, and other dairy products such as powdered milk.
Fruits and vegetables, the same foods doctors talk to their patients about, will also help individuals with their dental health. Brewer’s yeast and green leafy vegetables, for example, support cell growth and promote a healthy mouth through the folic acid they provide. Also cranberries should be eaten as part of a healthy diet because they interrupt oral bacteria from bonding to the tooth and prevent damage from plaque.
Cell damage and bacterial infection can be reduced by eating vegetables and fruit that contain vitamin C, antioxidants, and other nutrients.  Also, the fibrous nature of celery, carrots, apples and other raw vegetables and crisp fruits help clean plaque away mechanically as well as freshens the breath while eating.
Fight Cavities with Cheese
One food that many individuals are unaware helps to promote overall health is cheese. In addition to having calcium, essential for bone strength, certain characteristics have proven to interrupt the progress of cavities in the mouth. Further, specific types of cheese act as buffers to counteract the acids that attack teeth and also help clear the mouth of food debris by stimulating the flow of saliva. These cheeses include Monterey jack, mozzarella, Swiss, and aged parmesan.
In addition to the calcium contained in cheese, cheese also contains another vital element, phosphorous. These two elements in cheese support the mineralization of tooth enamel. Moreover, cheese also reduces and in some cases prevents pH level decreases of saliva.

Consuming these various foods can help teeth remain strong and can prevent dental diseases from forming.