Parents- would you ever intentionally hurt your child? Do you willingly cause them pain? Would you ever try to give them a preventable disease?
Of course not!
We all love our children and want to do the best we can to keep them healthy and safe. Our lives are consumed by taking care of our children and providing them with everything they need to grow, thrive and live healthy and happy lives.
And yet, when it comes to brushing the teeth of infants, toddlers and preschoolers, we often allow the fear of making our child unhappy get in the way of doing what is best for them.
“It makes him mad.”
“He hates brushing his teeth.”
“She fights me the whole time.”
“I can’t brush his teeth. He won’t let me.”
“She doesn’t like it. It makes her cry.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? If they do, you are not alone. In fact, it’s pretty normal for most young children to resist having a parent brush their teeth, and very few are going to love it. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary.
Think of it this way: a couple minutes of crying or being angry with you each morning and evening is a LOT less stressful and painful than a mouthful of cavities or having to spend hours in the dentist office having dental work done.
Every tooth needs to be brushed, even when there is only one. But how can we do this in the least stressful way so that you don’t have to start and end every day with tears and frustration? Here are a few tips to help you get started. I promise that the more you do it, the easier it gets!
How to Get Your Young Child to Let You Brush His or Her Teeth:
- Start early and do it often.
It seems like the last thing you need or want to do when you have an infant. With so much on your busy plate and already exhausted from caring for a young baby, their non-existent teeth seem unimportant. But, by wiping their gums each night with a soft wash cloth and even brushing them lightly with a finger toothbrush, your infant will get accustomed to having your hands in their mouth and it will be a natural transition to brushing their teeth when they begin to arrive.
- Have a routine and stick to it.
Be consistent about wiping gums and/or brushing teeth each morning and night. By incorporating it into your child’s routine each day, they will come to accept it as something that has to get done before they can start their day or go to bed. It will become an expected part of their day. Children thrive on routines.
- Get silly.
Think of a song your child likes and change the words to be about brushing. My wife uses the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with the words below. It’s catchy and takes the kid’s attention off the brushing while she gets it done.
Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth.
Every Single One.
Up and Down and Round and Round
Brush Until You’re Done.
There are lots of songs on the Internet and Pinterest to choose from if you don’t have your own! You can also have a brushing dance or a funny brushing time voice - whatever makes your child look forward to these two minutes.
- Start small.
If your child truly hates brushing, gets really upset or even combative, start with small segments of time and work up to the recommended two minutes. Most six-month olds aren’t going to let you brush for too long, but as long as you can get each of their teeth and their gums, you are helping fight off bacteria. Build up the time as they get more cooperative, older and more teeth.
- Use technology.
There are several great brushing apps available that will entertain and encourage kids to brush for the whole two minutes. Our oldest daughter loved the Disney app and would use it every night to willingly brush the full two minutes.
- Make it fun.
Sometimes, a fun toothbrush is all it takes. Most retail stores now sell fairly inexpensive electric and Spin brushes with every character you can think of on them. Even a fun timer can encourage kids to brush longer.
- Use tough love.
None of us want to be the mean guy, but sometimes it’s the only and best choice. Brushing your child’s teeth isn’t optional, even when they are young. Sure, they may get mad and they may cry, but I can promise you that there will be more tears - from both your child and you, if their beautiful smile begins to get riddled with cavities and decay, and they are forced to spend time in the dental chair having cavities filled.
As always, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry is here to help you and your child become successful at taking care of their teeth. We welcome questions and would love to show you the best brushing and flossing techniques to keep your child’s smile bright and give you both Something to Smile About!
Your sweet, happy baby has suddenly become a gnawing, drooling bundle of irritation. Don't worry, though, no one has switched babies on you. Your child is teething.
For most children, their first teeth begin breaking through the gums around six to nine months. Usually by age three all twenty primary (“baby”) teeth have erupted. While the duration and intensity of teething differs among children, there are some common symptoms to expect.
Top of the list, of course, is irritability from pain, discomfort and disrupted sleep. You'll also notice increased gnawing, ear rubbing, decreased appetite, gum swelling or facial rash brought on by increased saliva (drooling). Teething symptoms seem to increase about four days before a tooth begins to break through the gums and taper off about three days after.
You may occasionally see bluish swellings along the gums known as eruption cysts. These typically aren't cause for concern: Â the cyst usually “pops” and disappears as the tooth breaks through it. On the other hand, diarrhea, body rashes or fever are causes for concern — if these occur you should call us or your pediatrician for an examination.
While teething must run its course, there are some things you can do to minimize your child's discomfort:
Provide them a clean, soft teething ring or pacifier to gnaw or chew — a wet washcloth (or a cold treat for older children) may also work. Chill it first to provide a pain-reducing effect, but don't freeze it — that could burn the gums.
Use a clean finger to massage swollen gums — gently rubbing the gums helps counteract the pressure caused by an erupting tooth.
Alleviate persistent pain with medication — With your doctor's recommendation, you can give them a child's dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen (not aspirin), to take the edge off teething pain.
There are also things you should not do, like applying rubbing alcohol to the gums or using products with Benzocaine®, a numbing agent, with children younger than two years of age. Be sure you consult us or a physician before administering any drugs.
While it isn't pleasant at the time, teething is part of your child's dental development. With your help, you can ease their discomfort for the relatively short time it lasts.
If you would like more information on relieving discomfort during teething, 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 “Teething Troubles.”
My daughter is six years old and has lost all of her front baby teeth. Now that most of her adult teeth are growing in, we are really stressing the importance of flossing every day. This past weekend, while looking in the mirror, she asked me, “Why are my big kid teeth so yellow?”
Don’t get me wrong. Her smile is beautiful. However, compared to her shiny white baby teeth, her permanent teeth do appear darker and a bit more yellow. She’s noticed this, and I bet some more kids around her age have noticed this about their teeth, too.
We get this question all the time from concerned parents. Believe it or not, it is perfectly normal. Adult teeth, because of their composition, do have a different tone than baby teeth and often appear yellow, especially when they erupt right next to brilliant white baby teeth.
Young adult teeth, when they first come in, have a larger proportion of nerve in them, compared to when the child is 17 or 18. The large amount of nerve, and the fact that the tooth is hollower and less dense, gives it a yellow appearance. As the healthy teeth age, the nerve shrinks and the tooth thickens from the inside, giving it a whiter appearance.
Adult teeth also have more dentin in them, which has a dark yellow to brownish hue. When the tooth’s enamel is thin, the yellow color from the dentin shows through more.
So what can you do to whiten your kid’s teeth and should you?
Good oral hygiene is the key. Regular brushing and flossing and good dental habits will usually resolve these issues in time. As the child’s tooth grows and thickens, it will lose some of the yellow hue caused by the nerve and dentin showing through the enamel. However, regular brushing and flossing will keep the plaque at bay and the tooth and gums healthy.
Use a spinbrush at home. Sometimes these brushes can be more efficient for children than simply brushing, as they are able to get into the crevices better. Often, it just makes brushing more appealing to young children and will encourage them to brush more, helping to remove surface stains. You can find inexpensive options in nearly every store.
Encourage a Tooth-Friendly Diet. Avoiding sugary and carbonated drinks, as well as sodas, coffees and teas will help avoid staining. Also, highly acidic foods and sour candies can erode the enamel on teeth. The enamel acts as a protective barrier and helps keep teeth white. Thin or eroded enamel will lead to discolored teeth, as the dentin and nerves will be more visible.
Remember, slightly yellow-appearing permanent teeth are different from very stained or discolored teeth, or those with white or brown spots on them. Dark staining and/or spots can be a sign of a medical problem and needs to be evaluated by your dentist.
At this age, we typically do not recommend whitening treatments or products for most children, as time typically resolves the issue. However, if your child’s teeth are stained, have spots on them, or cause your child stress or embarrassment, please come in to see us, as we can evaluate his or her teeth to rule out any medical reasons for the discoloration and also discuss safe and effective whitening methods.
As always, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry is always available to discuss your questions and concerns regarding your child’s dental health. We want all children to have a smile they can be proud of and to give all our parents and kids Something to Smile About!
Are bleeding gums something you should be concerned about? Dear Doctor magazine recently posed that question to Dr. Travis Stork, an emergency room physician and host of the syndicated TV show The Doctors. He answered with two questions of his own: “If you started bleeding from your eyeball, would you seek medical attention?” Needless to say, most everyone would. “So,” he asked, “why is it that when we bleed all the time when we floss that we think it’s no big deal?” As it turns out, that’s an excellent question — and one that’s often misunderstood.
First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by “bleeding all the time.” As many as 90 percent of people occasionally experience bleeding gums when they clean their teeth — particularly if they don’t do it often, or are just starting a flossing routine. But if your gums bleed regularly when you brush or floss, it almost certainly means there’s a problem. Many think bleeding gums is a sign they are brushing too hard; this is possible, but unlikely. It’s much more probable that irritated and bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
How common is this malady? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of allÂ Americans over age 30 have mild, moderate or severe gum disease — and that number increases to 70.1 percent for those over 65! Periodontal disease can occur when a bacteria-rich biofilm in the mouth (also called plaque) is allowed to build up on tooth and gum surfaces. Plaque causes the gums to become inflamed, as the immune system responds to the bacteria. Eventually, this can cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming bacteria-filled “pockets” under the gum surface. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious infection, and even tooth loss.
What should you do if your gums bleed regularly when brushing or flossing? The first step is to come in for a thorough examination. In combination with a regular oral exam (and possibly x-rays or other diagnostic tests), a simple (and painless) instrument called a periodontal probe can be used to determine how far any periodontal disease may have progressed. Armed with this information, we can determine the most effective way to fight the battle against gum disease.
Above all, don’t wait too long to come in for an exam! As Dr. Stork notes, bleeding gums are “a sign that things aren’t quite right.” Â If you would like more information about bleeding gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.” You can read the entire interview with Dr. Travis Stork in Dear Doctor magazine.
Tips and Ideas to Stop Thumb Sucking
Thumb sucking develops in young children as a coping mechanism. Like a pacifier, children often suck on their thumbs as a way to self-soothe. While this natural habit can be useful during infancy and in the early toddler years, if it goes on too long, it can cause serious problems in your child’s dental development.
If thumb sucking continues long enough, it can even cause social problems if other kids begin to make fun of the child, anxiety if the child hasn’t developed other ways to self-soothe, and even sickness - just imagine all the germs on your child’s hand being placed directly in their mouth! Yuck.
Anderson Pediatric Dentistry wants to help you and your child break the habit of thumb sucking. We hope the information and tips below are useful for you and your family.
Why did my child start sucking his/her thumb?
Children find their thumb in the early months of infancy as they explore their body and surroundings. Many babies will experiment with sucking on their fingers and thumbs. Some even prefer their thumb over a pacifier. Like a pacifier, the thumb provides something to suck on, which is how babies naturally self-soothe. Often this soothing habit is used during stressful times, when tired, or during periods of separation from parents or caregivers.
Should I give my baby a pacifier to prevent thumb sucking?
While we know that people have strong feelings about pacifiers and many breast-feeding mothers will need to wait to introduce the pacifier until their nursing routine and milk supply is secure, we do advocate a pacifier over a thumb. Pacifiers do not put as much pressure on the roof the other child’s mouth and will not push the teeth out as easily. But the main reason for choosing pacifier over thumb is that it tends to be an easier habit to break. A pacifier can be “lost” or removed from the child’s daily environment. A thumb will always be available and there to tempt the child.
What age does my child need to stop thumb sucking?
While earlier is better, we recommend all children stop sucking their thumbs by the age of three, as this is when their teeth are in and the damage to their growth can really start to occur. Some children are very aggressive suckers, bruising the roof of their mouth or blistering their thumbs. For these children, a plan to eliminate the habit needs to be put in place much earlier.
How can I prevent my child from starting to thumb suck?
While exploring their hands, fingers and thumbs will be a natural part of infant growth and development; there are ways to prevent them from ever becoming full-blown thumb suckers.
1) Provide the baby with lots of opportunities to suck:
Babies use sucking as a means of attachment and a way to self-soothe. If an alternative means is not provided, they will find something to suck on - like their own thumb. If nursing, you can allow for non-nutritive nursing when baby needs to be comforted, or provide alternative ways for the baby to suck, such as your (clean) finger, a pacifier or collapsed bottle nipple.
Keep your child’s thumbs busy or occupied. If you see your child’s hand heading towards his or her mouth, distract them with something that keeps their hands busy.
3) Talk to Your Child
If your child has reached the age where thumb sucking can harm their teeth (three years), than he/she is old enough to understand. Put your child in front of a mirror and explain how sucking on their thumb can harm their teeth, show pictures of the damage that thumb sucking can cause, and have your pediatric dentist also discuss the possible problems with your child. Sometimes hearing it from someone else will be more effective.
4) Always Be Positive
Do not berate your child for sucking his or her thumb, or resort to calling them a baby or other demeaning terms. Encourage your child and use positive reinforcement. Be sure to find opportunities to praise your child, such as when they handle a new or stressful situation without sucking their thumb.
5) Time Your Discussions and Offer Reminders
Do not allow thumb sucking to become a power struggle. You don’t want to create more stress for the child, which will make him/her want to soothe by thumb sucking even more. You also do not want it to hurt their self-esteem, cause shame or become a habit they try to do in secrecy. Speak to your child about it when he or she is calm and receptive to hearing what you have to say, not after an upsetting event.
6) Offer Physical Reminders
A tongue depressor taped over the thumb to act as a splint, a sock worn over the hand at night or even the bitter tasting liquid that can be painted on the thumb (popular brand name is Mavala), can all serve as physical reminders when the child tries to place thumb in his or her mouth. A thumb guard (T-guard is a popular brand) is also available online and is very effective if used appropriately. We recommend purchasing the thumb guard with the locking straps so the child cannot take the device off on their own.
7) Suggest a Competing Habit
For older children, encourage another activity that keeps their hand busy, such as fidget spinner or cube. If you have a nighttime thumb sucker, suggest the child sleep with his/her hand under the blanket or pillow. For younger children, offer a soothing blanket or animal for the child to pet or stroke to help soothe.
8) Provide a Prize
Whether you call it a bribe or a prize, they work. Offer your child some sort of prize to give him or her incentive to stop thumb sucking. Make it something to get excited about and remind them along the way.
9) Talk to Your Pediatric Dentist
If breaking the habit of thumb sucking seems impossible, we are always here to help. We can speak to your child and show them pictures and visuals. Sometimes, hearing it from their dentist seems a bit more serious to them. We can also discuss the option of using a thumb guard device if your child is having a hard time giving it up.
As always, Anderson pediatric Dentistry is always available to answer your questions and help your child achieve his/her best smile.
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