timberlake dental

Are Baby Teeth Really That Important?

Yes!

We hear this question a lot.  Some parents tend to be less concerned about a child’s baby teeth because they know these teeth will eventually fall out.  This blog will explore all of the reasons baby teeth DO matter and need to be healthy for the years they are in your child’s mouth.

What are Baby Teeth?

Also called primary teeth, baby teeth are the first set of teeth a child gets in his or her mouth.  Other names for baby teeth include deciduous teeth and milk teeth.  There are 20 baby teeth in all, and they enter the mouth from age 6 months through 2 years.

Baby teeth are fully developed teeth, with the same physical makeup as permanent teeth.  They have nerves and blood vessels on the inside, and they are covered in enamel.

Baby teeth can feel pain, they can get cavities, and they show damage from teeth grinding.

Why Do Humans Have Baby Teeth?

It is all about growth.  A baby’s jaws are too small to hold the full set of permanent teeth.  This initial set of teeth allows a baby to begin chewing and speaking as the jaw continues to grow.

Without baby teeth, a child would not be able to obtain the nutrition necessary for his or her overall growth.  Baby teeth also help in guiding the growth of the jaws.

What are the Purposes of Baby Teeth?

Baby teeth are important for all of the following reasons. Even just one of these functions is reason enough to take great care of your child’s baby teeth.

  • Chewing – A child can only live on milk, formula, and baby food for so long. In order to receive the proper nutrition, he or she has to begin eating solid foods.  This is only possible with healthy teeth to chew those foods.
  • Speaking – Many of the letter sounds required for speaking involve interactions between the tongue, lips and teeth. Without teeth, a child cannot learn to make these sounds.  Often, the speech habits formed in early childhood persist for many years and require speech therapy to correct.
  • Jaw Growth – A proper bite relationship between the upper and lower teeth is vital to normal, healthy growth of the upper and lower jaws. When teeth are lost and shift into inappropriate positions, it can negatively influence how the jaws grow.
  • Formation of Permanent Teeth – Permanent form from the cells in baby teeth. If a baby tooth is missing, the permanent tooth will not develop.  If a baby tooth is infected or injured, the developing permanent tooth is often damaged.  This damage may result in an abnormal shape or weakened enamel on the growing permanent tooth, which would cause an unsightly appearance and a higher risk for cavities.
  • Holding Space for Permanent Teeth – Healthy baby teeth maintain the health of the jawbone and keep space available for permanent teeth to come in. If a baby tooth is lost from infection or injury, the teeth around it begin to shift into that space.  This results in a lack of space for the underlying permanent tooth to come into its correct position in the jaw.  It leads to crooked, crowded teeth, which will require years of braces to fix.

How are Baby Teeth Different from Permanent Teeth?

Baby teeth are not meant to last forever.  Their purposes are temporary, lasting only until the permanent teeth replace them in the arch.  Because they are only temporary, they are slightly different from permanent teeth.

Baby teeth have thinner enamel.  The layer of enamel covering a baby tooth is about half the thickness of that covering a permanent tooth.  Thin enamel makes it easier for bacteria to penetrate through and cause cavities to spread very quickly.

Baby teeth roots dissolve under pressure.  The baby teeth fall out at just the right time by this mechanism.  The underlying permanent tooth begins to push toward the oral cavity and put pressure on the roots of the baby tooth.  As the roots dissolve, there is nothing holding the baby tooth in the jawbone, and it becomes loose.

Other Reasons to Keep Baby Teeth Healthy

Big cavities on baby teeth cause toothaches.  Babies and young children may experience or communicate that they are experiencing pain differently than an adult does.  You should never assume that a decayed baby tooth is not painful.

Infections on baby teeth can spread to the brain or bloodstream!  These can be extremely dangerous situations.  If there is visible swelling in or near your child’s mouth, seek emergency care immediately!

Baby teeth with dental problems require dental treatment.  By keeping them healthy, you can prevent the need for expensive and traumatic dental visits for your child.

Do You Have More Questions about Baby Teeth?

Call us today at 940-382-1750 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning or an evaluation of your child’s baby teeth.  He will discuss with you all you should know about caring for your child and his or her teeth.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sugar and Its Effects on Teeth

It is commonly known and well supported by scientific research that sugar is bad for teeth.  When dentists say “sugar”, most people think of soft drinks and candy.  There are many other sources of sugar that are damaging to teeth, which often get overlooked.  This blog will address why sugar is bad for teeth, which specific sugars are especially dangerous, and how you can fight sugar’s effects on your child’s teeth.

Why is Sugar Bad for Teeth?

Our mouths are full of bacteria.  Some bacteria are good, and some are bad.  The bad bacteria are those which feed on sugar to produce dangerous acids. (Some people have higher levels of bad bacteria, which gives them a higher risk for cavities!)

Bad Bacteria + Sugar = Acid —> Enamel Damage –> Cavities

Which Specific Sugars are Bad for Teeth?

If you have taken part in any low-carb or no-carb diets, you probably know the important differences between simple and complex carbohydrates.  Nutrition experts emphasize the way these carbs are digested and how they affect your metabolism.

The distinction between simple and complex carbohydrates is also important for your teeth.

Simple carbohydrates are short-chain sugars that bad bacteria in the mouth quickly and easily break down.  Complex carbohydrates are long, complex chains of sugar molecules that are more difficult for bacteria to break down.

Simple carbohydrates make it easy for bacteria to cause cavities.  Complex carbs are also a sugar source for bacteria, but they take longer to digest, slowing the cavity process down enough for you to intervene and stop them.

Examples of simple carbs include the sugar in soft drinks, candy, cookies and other baked sweets, cereal, fruit juices and milk.  Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, starchy vegetables (like potatoes), green vegetables, and beans/peas.

Complex carbs are better for your teeth than simple carbs, but there is still a risk for cavities.  Often, complex carbs are sticky and become stuck in or between the teeth.  If they are not quickly cleaned from the teeth, the bacteria have more time to break them down into simple sugars and cause cavities.

How You Can Fight Sugar’s Effects on Teeth

Limit intake of simple carbohydrates – Cutting simple sugars from your or your child’s diet is a sure way to lower cavity risk.  Sodas have zero nutritional value, so eliminate them completely.  Instead of sticky candies, switch to chocolate.  Chocolate’s fat content gives it a lower risk of causing cavities.

Stimulate saliva – Saliva is our body’s best defense against cavities!  Saliva has a slightly basic pH, which neutralizes the acid produced by bad bacteria.  There are two great ways to stimulate saliva to fight sugar:

  1. Limit simple sugars to mealtime only! When you eat a meal, saliva production increases.  A soda with lunch is less likely to cause a cavity than a soda sipped throughout the afternoon.
  2. Chew sugar-free gum. By chewing gum after eating or drinking sugar, you stimulate saliva.  Ice Cubes is our favorite cavity-fighting gum.  Give a piece to your child after any sugary snack to lower cavity risk.

Practice great oral hygiene.  Do not let any sugars stay on the teeth.  You can greatly reduce cavity risk by removing any sugary food debris from your tooth surfaces.

  1. Brush after sticky and/or sugary snacks.
  2. Floss, if possible, after snacking. If not, floss every night before bed.
  3. Use a fluoride containing mouthrinse after brushing and flossing.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Teaching Your Children to Take Care of Their Teeth

One of the most important aspects of parenting is teaching your children how to take care of themselves. You teach them to make good choices so that they can be healthy.  In the beginning, you do a task for them until they can do it themselves.  Then you supervise their efforts until you trust that they are competent and consistent in accomplishing the task.  At that point, you can give them the independence to take care of themselves without your intervention.

As with all issues in child development, every child grows and matures at his or her own unique pace.  Rather than looking for your child to perform certain tasks at a certain age, use milestones to tell you when it is time to move from demonstration to supervision and from supervision to delegation of independence.

In dentistry, our most common example of using a milestone is this: your child should not brush his teeth alone until he can easily tie his own shoes.

Start Early

In order to set the right expectations for your child and oral hygiene, start early.

How early?  As soon as the first tooth appears in your baby’s mouth!

Begin brushing each tooth with an infant toothbrush or a soft washcloth.  Cleaning your child’s teeth is something he or she should expect as part of your daily routine.  The earlier you start, the easier it is for the child to accept.  The earlier you begin brushing and flossing your child’s teeth, the less likely they are to fight you and resist the process.

Easy Oral Hygiene Techniques:

One of the easiest ways to brush and floss a child’s teeth is to sit cross-legged on the floor and have the child lay down with his head in your lap.  You should be able to look straight down into the child’s open mouth.  Using a very small amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste and NO water, gently brush every exposed surface of his teeth.

An alternative technique is to have your child stand on a small stool so that their head is just above your waist.  With both of you facing the bathroom mirror, stand behind the child and have her look up and rest her head against your stomach.  Again, you should be able to look straight down into the child’s mouth and visualize all of the teeth.

Use either of these positions to floss any of your child’s teeth that touch each other.  Teeth with small gaps do not have to be flossed.

Make It Fun

While you are brushing or flossing, it helps to count or sing a song to entertain and/or distract the child.  The American Dental Association has several fun toothbrushing songs here.

If you have multiple children, you can make the oral hygiene routine your special one-on-one time with each child.

With multiple children, games or competitions can make it fun.  Use plaque disclosing tablets to have a contest of who does the best job brushing.

Set a Good Example

Brush and floss your own teeth in front of your children as often as possible.  Show them that it is a normal part of your bedtime routine.  Kids are much better at following examples than strictly doing as they are told.

It is important to teach your children to have an overall attitude toward oral hygiene that is positive and healthy.  One of the best and easiest ways to train this attitude is to model it in your actions and attitudes toward your own oral hygiene.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.  If your children see that you do not value your own oral hygiene, they will not believe that it is important for them either.

Don’t Make It Optional

Make every effort to never miss brushing and flossing your child’s teeth.  It is not optional.  Don’t ever give your child the impression that they have a choice on whether or not to brush before bedtime.

The problems that occur from improper oral hygiene in a child can be serious. They can also be prevented with good oral hygiene and good food and drink choices.

Need Help?

Call us today at 940-382-1750 to schedule a consultation with one of our fabulous dental hygienists.  She will show you tips and techniques on brushing and flossing your child’s teeth as easily as possible.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Also known as bottle rot or early childhood caries, baby bottle tooth decay is a condition in which very young children experience moderate to severe cavities in their baby teeth.  As the name implies, this condition is caused by an improper use of baby bottles.

How Does a Baby Get Cavities?

Cavities are caused by bacteria.  Most children acquire cavity-causing bacteria from their parents.  Bacteria are transmitted from the parents’ mouths to the child’s by sharing a spoon and kissing.

The real danger occurs when these bacteria are exposed to sugar.  Baby bottle tooth decay arises when the baby drinks a bottle of any liquid which contains sugar.  The most common culprits are fruit juices and milk.  Even milk contains sugar.

As the teeth are exposed to sugar-containing liquids, the bacteria ingest the sugar and create a by-product that is very acidic.  The acid by-product weakens and softens baby teeth enamel.  The enamel on baby teeth is much thinner than that on permanent teeth.  This allows cavities to spread much more quickly on a baby tooth than on a permanent tooth.

There are two important factors in the cavity process: 1) the amount of sugar the teeth are exposed to, and 2) the amount of time the teeth are exposed to sugar.

  1. Amount of Sugar – Fruit juice contains the highest quantity of sugar (besides sodas) and is very damaging to baby teeth. Soft drinks and sodas should NEVER be given to a child.  Milk contains small amounts of sugar, too.  If left in contact with the teeth long enough, even plain milk will cause tooth decay.
  2. Amount of Time – Even a small amount of sugar can cause a cavity if it stays in contact with the teeth for a prolonged period of time. Any sugar-containing drink to which the child has continuous access (such as an overnight bottle) creates a higher risk for cavities.

Upper front teeth are at the highest risk for baby bottle tooth decay because they are continually bathed in the liquid as the child drinks.  Other teeth may be affected as well.  The cavities initially appear as dark spots, small holes, or chips in the teeth.

How Do I Prevent Cavities for My Baby?

  • Limit bottle time – A bottle’s purpose is to provide nutrition for your baby. It is not a pacifier or soothing device.  It should never be used to put a baby to sleep.  If a baby falls asleep while drinking from a bottle, remove the bottle and replace it with a pacifier.
  • Limit bottle contents – Baby bottles should contain only baby formula, breast milk, or water. A baby bottle should NEVER be filled with fruit juice, soda, sugar water, or milk.  Not only do they all contain sugar; they do not provide the baby with any proper nutrition.
  • Water only overnight – If a bottle is given to the child overnight, water is the only liquid that will not increase the risk for cavities. Water is the only thing that contains zero sugar and zero acid.  This rule goes for sippy cups, too.  Toddlers should never go to bed with anything except water!
  • Oral hygiene – Even babies need oral hygiene. As soon as a tooth is visible, you should clean it with an extra-soft baby toothbrush or a washcloth.  Brush your baby’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.  The brushing routine teaches your child good oral hygiene practices as they learn and grow.  The fluoride strengthens their baby teeth to resist cavities.

What if My Baby Already Has Cavities?

Baby teeth have many important functions.  If they get cavities, they need to be treated so that your child can chew and speak properly.  Cavities in baby teeth, if not treated, will progress to abscesses, which are serious dental infections that can spread.  These infections can put your baby’s life in danger!

If you see cavities in your baby’s teeth, the first step is to schedule a dental appointment.  Your dentist will evaluate the teeth and prescribe the appropriate treatment.  Most small children with extensive decay are treated by pediatric dentists with the use of sedation.

The most important part of this dental visit is the tips and instructions you, as the parent, will receive to help prevent any future cavities from developing.

More Questions about Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Call our office today at 940-382-1750 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer all of your questions about cavities in young children and advise you on how to proceed.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your Child’s First Dental Visit

At Timberlake Dental, our goal is for every dental visit to be a good one.  We understand that setting the right expectations can help us meet that goal.

When it comes to kids, not knowing what to expect can generate fear, anxiety and/or misbehavior.  Here is what to expect from your child’s first dental visit.

When to Make the Appointment

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have a dental evaluation by their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth, whichever comes first.  The purpose of a dental visit this early in life is not to perform dental treatment.  Education is the main purpose.

If your child is already past this recommended age, do not worry!  Simply make an appointment as soon as possible.  The visit will vary a little based on the child’s age.  The purpose remains the same.

Educating the Child

If your child is an infant or toddler, the education comes in the form of the experience.  The child learns from the senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.  He will see the smiling face of the dentist and his staff and learn what the dental tools look like.  He will hear the normal sounds of a dental office.  He will taste and smell the toothpaste or dental cleaning paste used by the dental hygienist.  And he will feel the gentle touch of the dentist evaluating his mouth.

It is important for parents to know that it is normal and acceptable for a small child to cry.  The dentist or hygienist may use that as an opportunity to look inside the child’s mouth and see as many teeth as possible.

Educating the Parent

Even more important than the child’s education is the parents’.  The cause of most preventable problems that arise with children’s teeth is a simple lack of information and education.

A Child’s Oral Hygiene

At this dental visit, every parent receives instruction on proper oral hygiene of the child’s teeth and tips on various ways to accomplish this.  Keep in mind that not every technique or trick works on every child.  You may have to try several different approaches before you find the one that works best for you and your child.

An example of a unique approach to flossing a toddler’s teeth is this:  Sit on the floor cross-legged.  Have your child lay down with his head in your lap and look straight up at you.  When the child opens his mouth, you will be able to easily see and access the teeth for flossing.

This technique also works well with brushing.  If you use this technique for brushing, use only a pea-sized dot of toothpaste and no water.

Oral hygiene for baby teeth is just as important as it is for permanent teeth.  Do not make it an optional part of the bedtime routine.  This link has some great songs to sing while brushing and flossing your child’s teeth.  We know it can be a chore; do your best to make it a fun one.

A Child’s Nutrition

At the first dental visit, parents are taught how to help prevent cavities with good nutritional choices.  Your dentist will ask questions about current nutritional habits and eating patterns.  The most common error parents make is sending their child to bed with a sippy cup full of juice or milk.  The only thing a child should have access to overnight is water.

A Child’s Habits

Your dentist will assess risk for damage to the teeth and developing jaws by any habits like thumb-sucking or pacifier use.  For more information on these habits, please read our previous blog.

A Child’s Growth and Development

At this visit, the dentist evaluates the teeth and jaws for proper growth and development.  There is a pretty wide range of “normal” when it comes to teeth coming into the mouth.  The dentist’s objective is to detect any abnormalities in a child’s development as early as possible so that you can plan for the future.

For example, your dentist would inform you if there appears to be a deficiency in the growth of the jaws that would require early orthodontic treatment.  We want you to be as prepared as possible for any future dental work.

Dental X-rays

Dental x-rays are only taken on children under the age of 5 if there is evidence of a problem.  An x-ray is necessary if a large cavity is present with the risk of spreading infection into the jawbone.  Any injury to the teeth also requires an x-ray.

Around age 5-6 years, we take dental x-rays to evaluate the proper development of permanent teeth underneath the baby tooth roots.

Fluoride

Professional fluoride treatments are proven to reduce a child’s risk for developing cavities.  We recommend fluoride as a preventive treatment for most children because we strongly believe in prevention.

If you have questions about professional fluoride treatments, please ask Dr. Chowning or your dental hygienist at your next visit.  We are more than happy to discuss the benefits of fluoride and the reasons we strongly recommend it for children.

Is it Time for Your Child’s First Dental Visit?

Call our office at 940-382-1750 today to set up a happy visit for your child with Dr. Chowning and our fabulous dental hygienists.

Silver Diamine Fluoride – A Cavity-Fighting Liquid

What is SDF?

In June 2016, the New York Times published an article on a new dental material called Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) that excited all of its readers and everyone who saw it shared on Facebook.  (New York Times article) Correction: it is not new.  SDF has been used in Japan for decades (approved by their ministry of health in the 1960’s), but it is new to the United States.

This material, which is a clear liquid that looks like water, can stop tooth decay in its tracks.  That is an exciting material!

The Food & Drug Administration has classified SDF as a fluoride treatment and has only cleared it for use as a desensitizing agent.  This means that when dentists use it to stop cavities, it is being used “off-label”.  The evidence is compelling enough that Dr. Chowning has begun offering this “caries arrest” treatment to its applicable patients.

Caries arrest, simply put, means stopping a cavity.  Caries is the scientific word for tooth decay or cavities.

Who is a candidate for SDF?

The most common application of SDF is in young children because it prevents them from having a dental appointment involving local anesthetic, drilling and filling.  It takes about 5 minutes to isolate the affected tooth and apply the colorless liquid SDF to the site.  It is also a great option for treating cavities on elderly patients with a very high risk for decay, patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and patients with special needs.  It can be used to stop the progression of decay for a patient who has need of extensive dental treatment and is unable to proceed for financial or medical reasons.

Basically, SDF can be used to buy some time when it comes to “fixing” your teeth.

What are the pros?

  • No local anesthetic = no injections
  • No drilling
  • No filling
  • Much shorter treatment (about 5 minutes compared to 30+ minutes)
  • Decreased cost (about 10% of the cost of a filling)

What are the cons?

17

  • The biggest con is that the silver particles in SDF stain the tooth black in areas of decay. The amount of staining depends on the amount of decay in the affected tooth.  There will be some temporary staining of the gums near the treatment area, which will resolve over a few days. The gum staining is similar to a henna tattoo, reddish brown in color and lasting for several days.
  • It tastes awful. We do our best to keep it away from your tongue, but we cannot guarantee you won’t taste it.
  • SDF is not 100% effective. There are some cavities SDF will not stop.  So it requires follow-up x-rays to confirm that the SDF did its job and that the cavities have not grown since being treated with SDF.
  • It must be reapplied at your next cleaning appointment for maximum efficacy.
  • It does not fill in any holes created by the cavity, so you still get food impaction in the treated area, which can lead to gum disease or decay on other teeth. This means it is not a good option for normal permanent teeth on a healthy adult.

Is SDF Right for You or Your Loved One?

Call our office at 940-382-1750 to set up a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can discuss the treatment options for each tooth, including which ones could benefit from SDF.

When Should Your Child Stop Using a Pacifier?

Thumb sucking and Pacifiers

Parents of our littlest patients frequently ask us about oral habits such as thumb sucking and pacifiers.  These perfectly normal behaviors in an infant can become damaging to an older child’s facial growth and development.  There are many different opinions and treatment options, and this blog will give you a general overview as to the most widely accepted philosophies and treatments for prolonged habits.

Non-Nutritive Sucking Behaviors

Both thumb sucking and pacifier use are classified as “Non-Nutritive Sucking Behaviors” or NNSB.  All infants exhibit sucking behaviors because it is necessary for their nutrition, through either breastfeeding or a bottle.  Non-nutritive sucking behavior is performed with the same sucking motion, but no nutrition is received.  Its purpose is solely comforting or soothing.

What is “normal”?

Any non-nutritive sucking behavior in infancy is considered normal.  There are ultrasounds showing babies sucking thumbs or fingers in the womb.  Over 90% of children exhibit NNSB at some point during the first 2 years of life.  Researchers differ on what age at which NNSB is considered “prolonged”.  Most agree that by age 4 years, any NNSB should have naturally stopped.  On average, most children will discontinue thumb-sucking or pacifier use on their own at some point from ages 2 to 4 years.  Prolonged thumb-sucking or pacifier use is anything past 4 years of age.

Why is prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use bad?

Short explanation: It causes improper development of the jaws and positioning of the teeth that can only be corrected with orthodontics.

Long explanation: During growth, the jaws are very susceptible to outside influences.  The suction forces can distort the shape of the upper jaw and the position of the teeth causing an incorrect bite (malocclusion).  The pressure of a thumb or pacifier on the roof of the mouth can increase the height or vault and narrow the dental arch, which reverses the proper bite relationship between the upper and lower teeth (a posterior crossbite).  The constant presence of a thumb or pacifier in between the upper and lower teeth pushes them into a position that accommodates the habit and leaves an opening (called an anterior open bite) rather than allowing the upper and lower front teeth to contact in the appropriate way.  This open bite can lead to tongue thrusting and lisping, as well as not being able to bite into foods with the front teeth.

What should a parent do about prolonged NNSB?

The first step to take in aiding your child to discontinue sucking thumbs or using pacifiers is talking to him or her about the negative effects of the habit.  Your child thinks the habit is a good thing because it makes him feel good, and he may not be able to understand the cause and effect relationship between the habit and the consequences to their teeth, jaws and face.  Children who verbalize that they are ready to stop the habit will have the quickest success.

  • Gently discourage the habit and use positive reinforcement when he or she is successful.
  • Start small with goals that are easier for him to meet, such as watching a movie without sucking his thumb.
  • Do not punish the child for continuing the habit. Negative reinforcement is not recommended as a technique because the habit is something that comforts or soothes him.  Shaming or scaring him will only cause him to feel a greater need to suck his thumb or use his pacifier.
  • Because stress or anxiety can increase the child’s need to self-soothe by thumb sucking or pacifier use, try to identify situations that make him feel anxious and address them as needed.
  • If possible, gently and quietly remove the thumb or pacifier from his mouth after he has fallen asleep.

Pacifiers have one benefit over thumbs: they can be taken away or made dysfunctional (cutting the tip off a pacifier renders it useless).  If the child claims he is ready to stop, simply remove any pacifiers from his possession and go “cold turkey”.

Thumb sucking is a bit more difficult because the thumb is always available.  Because of this, thumb sucking typically persists longer than pacifier use.  Some try applying bitter-tasting nail polish or wrapping the thumb in a Band-Aid or covering the entire hand with a sock.

Ask your dentist and pediatrician for their input on the habit.  There are many different techniques used to help in stopping the habit before it causes long-term damage.

As a last resort, a dentist, pediatric dentist or orthodontist can fabricate a dental appliance that prevents the habit by removing the ability to create a suction and impeding the insertion of the thumb or pacifier.  The appliance does not contain sharp spikes or anything that would harm the child’s tongue or fingers; it simply prevents them from being able to enjoy the sensation of the habit.

Concerned about your child’s thumb-sucking or pacifier habit?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He will assess your child’s dental development and give you tips on when and how to stop a bad habit.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

FAQs for New Moms

Having a baby often takes people into uncharted territory.  There are many questions that arise as you embark on the journey.  These are the most commonly asked questions we hear from new moms.

When do the teeth break through the gums (erupt)? 

Normal eruption of the first tooth is generally around 6-7 months of age +/- 6 months.  This means that it is normal for a baby to be born with teeth (6 months old minus 6 months = birth) or to have no teeth until they are 1 yr old (6 months old plus 6 months = 1 yr old).  You can see that “normal” encompasses a pretty wide range.  If your baby’s first tooth is later than the average, you can expect them to also lose teeth later than most of their peers.  This is still considered normal.

Teething: What can be done, and when will it end?

Teething causes intermittent discomfort, irritability and excessive salivation as new teeth are erupting in your baby’s mouth.  You can manage teething with over-the-counter analgesics, such as Tylenol Infants’ Drops, or allowing the baby to chew on a soft, chilled teething ring.  Use of teething gels containing topical anesthetics such as benzocaine is NOT recommended due to potential toxicity of these products in infants.  Teething happens intermittently as teeth are erupting, so you may notice that it is off-and-on until the child is around 2 years of age or until all the teeth have erupted.

When should I start cleaning my baby’s teeth?

As soon as a tooth appears!  The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste on a soft, infant-sized toothbrush twice a day.

Wait a minute! I thought I wasn’t supposed to use fluoride until the child is old enough to not swallow it? 

Yes, that used to be the case.  However, the recommendations have been changed.  This change is due to scientific research showing that the benefits of fluoride, preventing devastating dental disease, far outweigh the risks.  Fluoride is deemed safe and effective by both the American Dental Association and the American Association of Pediatric Dentists.  It should always be stored out of the reach of young children and only used under adult supervision for children under age 5.

What kind of toothbrush should I use? 

There are many products available to clean your baby’s teeth.  You may have to try out a few different types to see which you like the best.  As the teeth first erupt, a soft wet washcloth is adequate to remove the soft buildup that accumulates on the teeth and gums.  There is a type of “toothbrush” for infants that includes a sleeve that fits over the parent’s finger with small rubbery bristles to clean the teeth.  An infant toothbrush is simply much smaller in size with very soft bristles.  Do not ever use a medium or hard toothbrush on your baby!

What about baby bottles or sippy cups?

Baby bottles are a great way to nourish your child.  Once your child has moved on to a sippy cup and is no longer receiving all of his or her nutrition via bottle, the sippy cup should contain only water.  Anything else that your child sips throughout the day and/or night can greatly increase his risk for tooth decay.  A common cause of cavities in very young children is having a bottle or sippy cup in bed with milk or juice.

What about pacifiers and thumb-sucking? 

These habits constitute a behavior known as non-nutritive sucking because it stems from the sucking reflex babies have and does not provide any nutrition.  Pacifiers and thumb-sucking are a common method very young children use to self-soothe.  Please stay tuned for next week’s blog on pacifiers and thumb-sucking to learn more about these habits.

When should my baby visit a dentist?

The American Association of Pediatric Dentists recommends that every child should see a dentist by his or her first birthday or when the first tooth comes into the mouth.  This will enable the dentist to give you, the parent, valuable information and education regarding how to care for your child’s teeth.  It will also familiarize your child with the dental office.  You will be shown how to clean your child’s teeth properly and given tips on how to best accomplish this as your child grows and becomes more mobile.

Do you have other questions about your baby’s teeth?

Call our office at 940-382-1750 to set up a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any questions you have about your baby and give you advice on helping keep baby teeth healthy.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sensitive Teeth

Many people experience sensitive teeth, and not everyone has the same symptoms. You can have one sensitive tooth, or a mouth where every single tooth feels sensitive. You can have sensitivity to cold and/or hot temperatures and sweet and/or sour flavors. However you experience it, it is no fun! Teeth are not supposed to be sensitive, and if they are, it is a symptom you should share with your dentist. She will discuss your specific issues and try to isolate the cause of your sensitivity so that you can remedy the situation.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

There are three main causes of tooth sensitivity. In order to understand these, let’s cover a little dental anatomy first. Teeth are hollow, and the hollow space inside teeth contains a nerve that sends signals to your brain telling you when something is not quite right. The part of the tooth you can see is called the crown. The crown is covered in enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body, even harder than bone. Enamel is made to be a solid coating over the crown of the tooth, protecting it from the sensations we expose our teeth to when we eat and drink. The part of the tooth you cannot see because it is hidden in the jawbone and gums is the root. The root of the tooth is not covered in enamel because it is meant to be encased in bone and gums.

  1. The first possible cause of tooth sensitivity is when there is a problem with the enamel coating of the tooth. This includes cavities and cracks which disrupt the solidarity of the enamel and provide an opening for those sensations to reach the nerve inside the tooth.
  2. The second most common cause of tooth sensitivity is exposure of the root caused by gum recession. When gums and bone recede, it exposes the root to the mouth and all the subsequent sensations associated with eating and drinking. Because the root does not have enamel, it does not have the same protection as the crown of the tooth. This means the nerve inside the tooth can feel temperatures and flavors more than it is supposed to. (Gum recession does not always cause tooth sensitivity. Dr. Chowning will evaluate the area where you feel sensitivity to determine if this is the cause.)
  3. The third most common cause of tooth sensitivity that we see in our office is bruxism (clenching or grinding your teeth). This can cause individual tooth sensitivity or an entire mouth full of sensitive teeth. The cause of bruxism-related tooth sensitivity is hypersensitivity of the nerve inside the tooth because it is being subjected to abnormally strong biting forces.
    These causes can become interrelated because bruxism often leads to tooth cracks and gum recession. But let’s say cavities, cracks and gum recession have all been ruled out, and your teeth are still sensitive. Now it is time to evaluate your whole mouth for signs of bruxism. The hypersensitivity of the nerve caused by the heavy forces of bruxism can affect different teeth at different times or all the teeth at once and often is inconsistent.

What Can I Do About Tooth Sensitivity?

The very first thing to do is have a dental evaluation to rule out cavities and cracks. Either of those conditions will require dental treatment to fix the problem. Once the cause of the sensitivity is treated, it should subside. It is not always an immediate cure; it can take a few weeks after treatment for the nerve to settle back to normal. If you experience sensitivity more than a few weeks after treatment, you should have the tooth evaluated again.

If cavities or cracks have been ruled out, then the cause of tooth sensitivity is likely a gum recession problem. There are many ways to treat hypersensitivity from gum recession including (but not limited to) fluoride treatments, over-the-counter sensitivity toothpastes and strips, fillings to cover the exposed root surface, or gum grafting to return the gums to their proper position.  One of the best new products for sensitive teeth is Crest SensiStop Strips.  Their active ingredient is different from other over-the-counter products and is effective for reducing or eliminating sensitivity for 1-3 months at a time.

If bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching) is determined to be the cause of your sensitivity, the simplest way to treat it is by wearing a mouthpiece (night guard) while you sleep that keeps the teeth separated and reduces the biting forces put on the teeth.

Tooth sensitivity can be treated relatively easily. The most important factor in treating it is accurately diagnosing the cause, which is your dentist’s job.

Need more information?

Call our office at 940-382-1750 to set up an evaluation with Dr. Chowning.  He will evaluate the areas of sensitivity and give you recommendations for alleviating the symptoms you experience.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Does the Dentist Take my Blood Pressure?

Why do they always take my blood pressure at the dental office?

If you have visited our practice, you know that the first thing we do when you sit down in the dental chair is take your blood pressure.  Sometimes we are questioned about this, and we always want to be able to adequately answer our patients’ questions.  There are three main reasons we regularly take your blood pressure, which are listed and elaborated on below.

  1. It’s the law!

    Rule 108.7 of the Texas Administrative Code outlines the Minimum Standard of Care for all dental patients, and it states that the limited physical evaluation of each dental patient must include a measurement of his or her blood pressure and heart rate.  At Timberlake Dental, we are not a “Minimum Standard of Care”-type office.  We like to go above and beyond the minimum requirements, which state that the blood pressure must be included in the patient’s record at the initial visit and at least once annually.  The following two reasons explain why we prefer to stay above the minimum.

  2. It protects you!

    The medications and procedures involved in dental visits can cause in increase in blood pressure and heart rate. We know that going to the dentist can be very stressful for some people.  Fear or anxiety may cause a patient’s blood pressure to be elevated before he or she even walks in our doors.  The sensations of something as straightforward as a dental cleaning can increase the stress on an already-anxious patient.  The ingredients in the local anesthetic used to numb your teeth and gums for dental work can cause the heart rate and blood pressure to go up even more.  All of these factors could be the perfect storm if we were not diligent in measuring and recording your blood pressure before, and sometimes even throughout, a dental procedure.

  3. We genuinely care about you!

    Our second reason implies that we don’t want you having a heart attack or stroke on our watch, and we don’t!  We don’t want you having a heart attack or stroke anywhere.  Emergencies are not always preventable, so we want to take advantage of every preventive opportunity we are given.  If your blood pressure is recorded as consistently high, we will likely recommend that you see your physician.  The American Heart Association outlines exactly which blood pressure measurements are considered dangerous.  Don’t wait until you have a crisis to do something about your high blood pressure!

White Coat Syndrome

Many patients exhibit white coat syndrome, which is a phenomenon in which patients exhibit a blood pressure level above the normal range, in a clinical setting, though they do not exhibit it in other settings.  The key to white coat syndrome is that the blood pressure is only high at the doctor or dentist and measures normal in another setting.  Unfortunately, we can’t just take your word for it because we are legally held to account by the measurements recorded in our dental records.  If you find yourself in this situation, please discuss your concerns with us and be open to working with your physician.  We have had great success in reducing white coat syndrome with a wide variety of therapies and medications, including meditation, breathing techniques, laughing gas, or anti-anxiety medications prescribed by your physician.

Our goal is always to take the best possible care of you in our office and alert you to anything that could be a concern when you are not in our office.

Tags: , , , ,