Dental Sealants for Kids

Dental sealants are an easy, pain-free way to help prevent cavities and are especially useful for kids. Kids can be prone to cavities if they do not form healthy brushing and flossing habits early on in childhood. A dental sealant is applied to the teeth that have grooves, mainly in the chewing or cheek surfaces of the teeth, to prevent food from getting stuck and bacteria from entering the grooves and forming cavities. Here are questions parents often have for their kids’ dentist about sealants:

1. Why isn’t brushing and flossing enough?

Sometimes the chewing grooves on a tooth are too tight for toothbrush bristles to get in to the grooves and clean out food and bacteria.  Placing a sealant to seal the grooves then makes the surfaces of the teeth that have grooves more cleanable so cavities are not as easily formed.  This benefits children since they are learning how to brush their teeth and still developing the hand-eye coordination to do a good job.  Sometimes cleaning the back molars can be difficult since they are hard to see and reach for the undeveloped hand muscles.  Most children have sufficient hand-eye coordination to clean teeth between the ages of 8-10 years old.

2. What are dental sealants made of? Are dental sealants safe?

Dental sealants are made of plastic that starts off as a liquid and flows in to the grooves of the teeth which is then hardened with a curing light. Dental sealants are very safe. The plastic materials are not made with BPA and there is no health or medical concerns associated with dental sealants according to the American Dental Association.

4. Are they expensive?

Dental insurance typically covers dental sealants. For many patients, sealants are affordable. Dental sealants save many patients money because they prevent cavities and can eliminate the need for fillings if properly cared for.

5. How are dental sealants applied?

Dental sealants are very easy to apply. The sealant is applied directly to the tooth, where it bonds to the enamel. The liquid plastic flows in to every groove in the tooth and essentially makes the surface smooth and cleanable. This boosts the effectiveness of brushing and flossing. It’s quick and pain-free.

6. Do they last a long time?

A sealant can last for years. Depending on how children care for their teeth and what foods they eat, the sealants may stay in place for life.  Sticky, tacky foods can pull sealants off however. Your dentist may also apply touch-ups at every visit to ensure the sealant will last even longer.

7. Do they require special care?

A dental sealant does not require specific care or maintenance. Your child will be able to eat and drink normally and can eat his or her favorite foods with the exception of sticky foods like taffy or Tootsie rolls for example. Your child can brush and floss normally. There are no special mouth washes or rinses required. In fact, your child can eat the same day the sealant is applied.

Dental sealants are a great way to protect your children’s permanent teeth from decay and cavities. Ask us today to see if they are the right option for your child!

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.

What Are Space Maintainers?

One of the first questions most parents ask after being told their child may need a space maintainer is, “What is a space maintainer, and why it is necessary?”

Sometimes a baby tooth may be lost too early due to accident, decay or medical conditions. When a tooth is lost too early, in most cases it is important to maintain that space so the other teeth do not drift in to this space and block the new adult tooth from coming in later.  Your kids’ dentist will help you determine how early is too early and whether a lost baby tooth will require a space maintainer.  A space maintainer is a small metal band that goes around one of the teeth on either side of the space where the missing tooth is, which has loop wire that crosses over the space where a tooth is missing and touches the other tooth.  This holds the space open for the growing adult tooth.  It is important to note that baby teeth that are lost naturally usually do not require a space maintainer, as the permanent tooth is not far behind.  However, it is always best to check with your dentist to see if it is necessary.

Each tooth in your child’s mouth serves several purposes:

  • aids in digestion by biting or chewing food
  • aids in speech
  • holds the posture of the jaw
  • guides permanent teeth into the correct position.

Losing a baby tooth can affect numerous aspects of your child’s life, including comfort when eating, enunciation, health and comfort of the jaw, and the alignment of the permanent teeth. Misaligned permanent teeth can cause jaw pain and discomfort, decay where teeth are crowded, and poor self-esteem in a child.

Space maintainers have been developed to address the position in which permanent teeth come in. By maintaining the space that the lost baby tooth occupied, it allows room for the permanent tooth to come in naturally and correctly. Failing to maintain the space can cause more than misalignment; if teeth move forward into the position of the lost tooth and a permanent tooth starts to erupt, it can cause damage to the roots of other permanent teeth, resulting in significant expense, inconvenience, or even loss of healthy teeth.

Parents of children who have lost baby teeth due to accident, decay or medical conditions should seek the opinion of a qualified kids’ dentist to determine if their child needs space maintainers. Be sure to explain your child’s history thoroughly and honestly and ask any questions you may have during your time with the dentist. Playtime Dental would love to visit with you today to create a proactive treatment plan for your child.

Dental X-Rays Help Keep Kids’ Teeth Healthy

If you’re like many parents, you may wonder whether or how often your children need dental X-rays. Here at Playtime Dental, we believe that children’s dental X-rays are an important tool for finding hard-to-see cavities and diagnosing oral disease in its early stages, when it’s easiest to treat. So make sure your kids’ dentist gives your kids X-rays as needed.

What’s the Purpose of Dental X-rays?

Dental X-rays, like other types of X-rays, use beams of X-ray radiation to take black-and-white photos that show your child’s bones, teeth, and other oral structures including the roots of the teeth. There are several types of dental X-rays, including:
  • Bitewings: used to take X-rays of the back teeth to show cavities between the teeth and bone levels
  • Periapicals: used to take photos of the teeth & roots to look for cavities and/or other pathology (i.e. infection)
  • Panoramic X-rays: used to take photos of the entire jaw and all of the teeth. Used to monitor growth and development as well as look for pathology (i.e. infection). This x-ray is not good for diagnosing cavities
  • Cone beam CTs: used to take three-dimensional pictures of the jaw. Used for orthodontic, oral surgery and implant treatment planning

How Often Do Children Need Dental X-Rays?

It used to be the case that dentists recommended yearly dental X-rays for all children. But the LA Times reports that those guidelines have changed. Dental X-rays are no longer treated as a routine diagnostic procedure to be performed at every exam. They are administered based on each child’s needs. Your kids’ dentist may see no need to take dental X-rays if your children have no evidence of dental disease. Children with a higher risk of dental disease may need X-rays every six months, while low-risk kids may only need them every 12 to 18 months. These guidelines minimize kids’ exposure to X-ray radiation.

Why Do Children Need Dental X-Rays?

Dental X-rays can help your kids’ dentist find problems with the teeth and the jaw that aren’t immediately apparent from the oral exam. They can also help dentists spot any cavities that might be growing between the teeth. X-rays help dentists diagnose oral disease reliably and quickly. This is important because keeping your kids’ mouth healthy keeps their whole body healthy. Thanks to X-rays, kids today enjoy better oral and overall health than ever before.

The Cons of Oral Piercings for Teens

After months and months of begging, you finally gave in and let your teenager get an oral piercing. Now your kid may be the biggest hit at school, but in the meantime, your trepidations have returned. As a good parent, you’re right to feel some reservations about your teen’s tongue piercing. This can actually be a big source of trouble for the mouth and could even cause dental problems and diseases.

The biggest and most obvious risk, as with all piercings, is that of infection.  The mouth contains millions of bacteria and unlike a skin infection in the ear or nose caused from an earring, if your teen’s mouth gets an infection from a piercing, the area will swell up significantly and be very painful.  In the case of a large infection, your child’s airway could even be restricted, which could be deadly.

Even if your kid doesn’t have an infection from his or her piercing, other oral problems can and do occur more subtly over time. First of all, constantly exposing the teeth to the metal of the piercing can strip away enamel, whether it’s a ball-shaped barbell or a traditional ring. Once enamel is gone, it doesn’t return. The teeth may look unattractive and are at a higher risk of developing cavities.

Besides that, your teenager can also find himself saddled with localized periodontal disease that they most likely wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Periodontal disease occurs when the gums recede.  When the gums start to recede, the bone that holds the teeth in is typically lost as well and your kid’s teeth can possibly fall out in the advanced stages if they develop this disease.

Other little annoyances can occur with an oral piercing as well, such as an increase of drooling, increased chance of cracking or chipping the teeth or dental restorations, bad breath if the piercing is not cleaned multiple times daily, and the development of a speech impediment. More seriously, if a tongue piercing is not done carefully, nerve damage is also a possibility.  This can affect the person’s ability to taste, talk and move the tongue.

Parents that are having second thoughts about their teen’s oral piercing can come by and visit Playtime Dental to discuss the next steps, including removal. Appropriate for children of all ages, the atmosphere at this kids’ dentist is designed to make young patients feel at ease as they learn how to take better care of their teeth and mouths.

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.

Dental Care For Babies

Here at Playtime Dental we care about your child’s oral health!  We are here to share with the world, how to prevent cavities and keep the mouth healthy!

People wonder, why clean your baby’s mouth when they don’t have any teeth?  We want to clean the mouth even without teeth because plaque from food can accumulate and bacteria can still grow and cause problems for the gums!  Also by doing so, this will prevent the bacteria from sticking to your baby’s gums which can help avoid damage to the teeth as they erupt, as well as prevent bad breath. So it is important to gently wipe your baby’s gums at least twice a day or after each meal.  

It is recommended by American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, that a child have his or her first dental visit by the age of 1! Here is an equation to help: 1 + 1 = 0. Let me guess, in thinking back to your elementary math days, you learned that 1 + 1 =2 not zero. However, in this scenario 1 + 1 = 0 because ONE dental visit when there is ONE baby tooth can equal ZERO cavities!

After consulting with your dentist, you can graduate to using a toothbrush once the baby has a tooth or two. The toothbrush needs to have soft bristles and be small enough to fit comfortably in your baby’s mouth.  You can start using a smear of fluoridated toothpaste around age 1. Carefully supervise your children when using toothpaste so they are not swallowing it!

Babies can “catch” cavities from their caregivers. In 71 percent of the cases, the mother is the source.

Research indicates that the cavity-causing bacteria known as Streptococcus mutants can be transmitted from mothers to infants even before teeth erupt! The better the mother’s oral health, the less the chance the baby will have problems.

All in all, being a proactive parent will not only benefit your child’s oral hygiene but also help start making a routine dental visit a positive experience for your kiddos! 

Easing Children’s Dental Fear

When a child first learns that he is going to be going to the dentist, his first thought is typically formed around the vision of some cartoon mad scientist or evil doctor. This perception is due primarily to the number of children’s television shows that portray doctors or dentists in a scary yet comical fashion. Let’s face it—older siblings with a sense of humor don’t help, either. Fortunately when it comes to kids’ dentistry, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help your child look forward to visiting the dentist.
Easing a Child’s Fears of the Dentist Starts with the Parent
Avoid using a few key words before going to the dentist. Words such as “hurt,” “shot,” “painful,” or “scary” shouldn’t be used. Instead, use a few details to tell your child about why going to the dentist is important. If your child has a favorite superhero or fictional character that has a sparkling smile, then be sure to use that character as a prime example of why going to the dentist can be fun and healthy. Try saying something like, “I bet Superman goes to the dentist every six months to keep his smile healthy.”
One of the most important things that a parent can do to ease a child’s fear of the dentist is to understand the child’s fear. Sometimes, kids are afraid because they have heard horror stories from their older siblings or seen something scary on television. Other times, kids are simply afraid of the unknown. No matter the reason, try to understand your child’s fear so that you can help show him or her why the dentist’s office isn’t a scary place to be.
General Dentist Tips for Easing a Child’s Fear
The final person who can ease a child’s fear of the dentist’s office is a kids dentist with caring hands. Below are the top three tips for helping to eliminate a child’s fear.
  1. Speak in a calming and friendly voice. If children hear a friendly or happy tone, then they are less likely to be afraid.
  2. Tell stories or anecdotes to distract the child. Stories are a fantastic distraction that can help to take a child’s mind off of the scary dentist tools and instead help the child to think about something more pleasant.
  3. Use simple words to describe a procedure or action. Remember that kids are often afraid of the unknown. This includes big, scary words that are hard to understand. Keep things simple, and the child is sure to be a little less afraid.

When it comes to kids and the dentist’s office, remember that a healthy smile is well worth helping your child to overcome any fears. For more helpful dentist tips, visit us online.