Proactive dental care is an essential part of childhood growth. But that care can be much harder for children with chronic health issues than for healthier children.
“Chronic condition” is an umbrella term for any permanent and ongoing health issue. Asthma, Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart defects and many others fall under this umbrella, with varying symptoms and degrees of intensity. But they all have one common characteristic — a long-term effect on all aspects of a child’s health.
That includes the health of a child’s teeth and gums. Here, then, are a few areas where a chronic health condition could impact dental care and treatment.
Ineffective oral hygiene. Some chronic conditions like autism or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that affect behavior or cognitive skills can decrease a child’s ability or willingness to brush or floss; some conditions may also limit their physical ability to perform these tasks. Parents and caregivers may need to seek out tailored training for their child’s needs, or assist them on a regular basis.
Developmental defects. Children with chronic conditions are also more likely to have other developmental problems. For example, a child with Down, Treacher-Collins or Turner syndromes mayÂ be more likely to develop a birth defect called enamel hypoplasia in which not enough tooth enamel develops. Children with this defect must be monitored more closely and frequently for tooth decay.
Special diets and medications. A child with a chronic condition may need to eat different foods at different times as part of their treatment. But different dietary patterns like nutritional shakes or more frequent feedings to boost caloric intake can increase risk for tooth decay. Likewise, children on certain medications may develop lower saliva flow, leading to higher chance of disease. You’ll need to be more alert to the signs of tooth decay if your child is on such a diet or on certain medications, and they may need to see the dentist more often.
While many chronic conditions raise the risk of dental disease, that outcome isn’t inevitable. Working with your dentist and remaining vigilant with good hygiene practices, your special needs child can develop and maintain healthy teeth and gums.
If you would like more information on dental care for children with chronic health conditions, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Managing Tooth Decay in Children with Chronic Diseases.”
Summer is upon us. That means ice cream, popsicles and cold drinks. For some, even the thought of ice cream touching their teeth is enough to send them over the edge. That’s because they are experiencing the symptoms of sensitive teeth.
Sensitive teeth are usually a sign of an underlying dental issue, such as tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, gum disease, worn tooth enamel or an exposed tooth root.
Our teeth are protected by enamel, which forms a barrier and defense against hot, cold, sour and acidic foods. Under the gum line, the tooth root is protected by a thin layer called cementum. Under both the enamel and cementum is a layer called dentin. The dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains small hollow canals.
When the enamel or cementum of a tooth is worn down, the dentin loses its protective covering. The hollow canals in the dentin allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. The result can be hypersensitivity.
Enamel can become weaker with age, a diet high in sugar or acidity and a history of acid reflux disease. Receding gums, which are typically a side-effect of gum disease or gingivitis, can also expose dentin and lead to sensitivity.
Tooth hypersensitivity is almost always a sign of a broader dental health concern. The good news, however, is that you don’t have to live with sensitive teeth forever. Sensitive teeth can be treated. Depending on what is causing your sensitivity, your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments:
- Desensitizing toothpaste
Toothpaste made for sensitive teeth contains potassium nitrate, an ingredient that, according to the ADA, helps to "depolarize" nerve endings in the teeth.
- Fluoride gel
Applied in-office, fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
May be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity.
- Root canal
If sensitivity is severe and persistent and does not respond to other treatment options, your dentist may recommend this treatment to eliminate the problem.
As with all dental issues, proper oral hygiene and a healthy diet are key. If your child is experiencing dental pain from sensitive teeth, or you have questions or concerns, we would love to help. Contact Anderson Pediatric Dentistry today at 864-760-1440.
Although naturally resilient, your teeth still face some significant dangers. Tooth decay and gum disease, “enemies” within the mouth, can severely damage your teeth and eventually lead to their loss.
But there are also external dangers just as devastating — traumatic injuries that can happen in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, we can treat even the most serious of these injuries and increase the chances of an injured tooth’s survival.
Here are some of those common dental injuries:
Chipped or Fractured Teeth. This is a case where a part of the tooth has been broken but it’s still firmly rooted in the mouth. If small portions of the enamel or dentin (the next underlying layer of the tooth) have been chipped, we may be able to reattach them or fill the affected tooth area with a natural-colored filling (larger broken portions may require a complete crown). If the damage has injured or exposed the inner pulp, a root canal treatment might be in order to prevent infection and reduce pain.
Dislocated (Luxated) Teeth. A dislocation occurs when the impact moves the tooth in an abnormal way in the socket. We must first reposition the tooth and, if need be, stabilize it by splinting it to neighboring teeth. This type of injury may also require a root canal treatment.
Knocked out (Avulsed) Teeth. It’s quite possible to replant a knocked out tooth — if you act quickly. Without touching the root, the tooth should be rinsed with cold, clean water and then placed into the empty socket within five minutes of the injury. If placement isn’t possible, the tooth should be placed in a container with milk or with some of the injured person’s collected saliva (to keep the root from drying out), and sent with the injured person to treatment. We need to see the injured person as soon as possible to make sure the tooth is repositioned properly and take other measures to protect it. We’ll also need to monitor it for proper healing for awhile.
Although some injuries may be too severe to save a traumatized tooth, seeking immediate treatment certainly increases the chances for survival. If you or a family member experiences such an injury, keep calm and contact us immediately.
If you would like more information on treating dental injuries, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Trauma & Nerve Damage to Teeth.”
We’ve all done it. You know you have. You put that new shirt on and see a tag. Instead of going to get the scissors, you just bite the plastic with your teeth. Or, you are sitting down to eat lunch and need to open a bag of chips. What better way to do it than with your teeth? There’s even the old party trick where someone shows everyone how they can pop the top off their bottle with their teeth. It’s true. Our teeth are amazing tools and they can accomplish lots of tasks. But, just because we can use them, does that mean that we should?
The truth is, while your teeth may be the easiest and most convenient tool for getting the job done, they are definitely not the best choice. In fact, doing anything other than chewing food with your teeth, can actually cause permanent damage and lead to long–term problems and costly dental treatments and repairs.
Chewing, chomping and tearing foreign objects with your teeth can chip or crack them. Aside from the aesthetic effects, a cracked tooth can be very painful and may need a root canal or crown. Ultimately, using your teeth as a shortcut can lead to a painful, timely and expensive dental experience.
So, while it may be tempting to use your teeth to tear or open something, reach for the scissors, bottle opener or appropriate tool instead. It’s important to teach your children to do the same. And remember, even chewing on hard food items, such as popcorn kernels, ice and hard candy can crack and damage your teeth.
Save your smile and use your teeth for chewing and smiling, not as tools.
As always, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry wants to give everyone Something to Smile About! If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s teeth, or if they are experiencing pain from a chipped or cracked tooth, we encourage you to seek dental help immediately. Contact our office at 864-760-1440.
It's no secret that many of Hollywood's brightest stars didn't start out with perfectly aligned, pearly-white teeth. And these days, plenty of celebs are willing to share their stories, showing how dentists help those megawatt smiles shine. In a recent interview with W magazine, Emma Stone, the stunning 28-year-old star of critically-acclaimed films like La La Land and Birdman, explained how orthodontic appliances helped her overcome problems caused by a harmful habit: persistent thumb sucking in childhood.
“I sucked my thumb until I was 11 years old,” she admitted, mischievously adding “It's still so soothing to do it.” Although it may have been comforting, the habit spelled trouble for her bite. “The roof of my mouth is so high-pitched that I had this huge overbite,” she said. “I got this gate when I was in second grade… I had braces, and then they put a gate.”
While her technical terminology isn't quite accurate, Stone is referring to a type of appliance worn in the mouth which dentists call a “tongue crib” or “thumb/finger appliance.” The purpose of these devices is to stop children from engaging in “parafunctional habits” — that is, behaviors like thumb sucking or tongue thrusting, which are unrelated to the normal function of the mouth and can cause serious bite problems. (Other parafunctional habits include nail biting, pencil chewing and teeth grinding.)
When kids develop the habit of regularly pushing the tongue against the front teeth (tongue thrusting) or sucking on an object placed inside the mouth (thumb sucking), the behavior can cause the front teeth to be pushed out of alignment. When the top teeth move forward, the condition is commonly referred to as an overbite. In some cases a more serious situation called an “open bite” may develop, which can be difficult to correct. Here, the top and bottom front teeth do not meet or overlap when the mouth is closed; instead, a vertical gap is left in between.
Orthodontic appliances are often recommended to stop harmful oral habits from causing further misalignment. Most appliances are designed with a block (or gate) that prevents the tongue or finger from pushing on the teeth; this is what the actress mentioned. Normally, when the appliance is worn for a period of months it can be expected to modify the child's behavior. Once the habit has been broken, other appliances like traditional braces or clear aligners can be used to bring the teeth into better alignment.
But in Stone's case, things didn't go so smoothly. “I'd take the gate down and suck my thumb underneath the mouth appliance,” she admitted, “because I was totally ignoring the rule to not suck your thumb while you're trying to straighten out your teeth.” That rule-breaking ended up costing the aspiring star lots of time: she spent a total of 7 years wearing braces.
Fortunately, things worked out for the best for Emma Stone: She now has a brilliant smile and a stellar career — plus a shiny new Golden Globe award! Does your child have a thumb sucking problem or another harmful oral habit? For more information about how to correct it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”
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