Posts for: May, 2014
Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children have their first dental visit by the age of one? You might be surprised by this recommendation, since most children do not have many teeth at this age. However, it is important to start your child early on the path of good oral health!
Here are a few things you can expect from this first dental visit:
- Developing a Rapport. Much of this visit will be dedicated to helping your child to feel at ease in our office. We'll spend time talking to your child, so that he or she is comfortable sitting in the dental chair and being examined.
- Looking for Signs of Decay. During the comprehensive examination, we'll be looking for any signs of tooth decay and conducting a risk assessment for potential future cavities. Keep in mind that baby teeth serve as guides for your child's permanent teeth, so it is vital that you take proper care of them. You may not know it, but your child's permanent teeth are already forming beneath the gums, and if teeth are lost early, there is a higher risk for orthodontic problems later in life.
- Reviewing Oral Hygiene Techniques. We would like this visit to be instructional and informative for you. Feel free to ask any questions that you have about caring for your child's teeth. In addition, we'll take some time during this visit to review with you the correct way to brush your child's teeth.
- Talking about Oral Health Habits. We'll also spend a portion of this appointment doing a bit of fact gathering to ensure that you're not inadvertently doing anything that promotes decay, such as leaving a baby bottle with a sugary substance in your child's crib at night.
If you would like more information about the age one dental visit, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Age One Dental Visit.”
There’s more to orthodontics than simply moving teeth. Especially with children and adolescents, we also want to guide the development of the entire facial structure to solve certain types of malocclusions (poor bites).
One such concern involves the upper jaw and palate (roof of the mouth), known collectively as the maxilla. In some individuals, the maxilla is narrower than normal. This causes the upper teeth to fit abnormally inside the lower teeth when occluding or “biting down” and is known as a cross-bite. A cross-bite may restrict the amount of space for your teeth to erupt (appear in the mouth) in proper alignment. It can be so severe the individual may have to shift the jaw to one side to completely bite down.
If a cross-bite is caught early, there’s a non-surgical treatment to widen the maxilla and help prevent upper teeth misalignment. But there’s a limited time window of opportunity: this is because the maxilla is actually formed by two bones with a seam that runs down the middle of the palate. The two bones will eventually fuse, usually at the beginning of puberty; until then there’s a slight separation.
Before the bones fuse, we can use a palatal expander to widen this seam and encourage permanent bone growth in the resulting gap. The expander is made of two metal halves joined in the middle by a small screw device that fits between the teeth. You or your child turns the screw a very small amount once or twice a day with a special key and the action pushes the maxilla outward on either side: the slight tension created stimulates bone growth. Over time, the new bone will have added width to the maxilla and eliminated the cross-bite.
While it’s possible to correct this after the maxilla fuses, it will require surgery to separate the bones. The palatal expander helps us correct the problem in the most non-invasive way possible, but it must be done before puberty. Discovering this type of malocclusion early is one of many reasons why regular dental visits should be an important part of your child’s healthcare.
If you would like more information on palatal extenders, 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 “Palatal Expanders.”
Your upper canine teeth are pretty easy to identify — they’re usually longer and more pointed than other front teeth, and are normally positioned just under the eyes (hence their other name, eyeteeth). Besides helping us chew and bite our food, upper canines are part of a normal smile — when they don’t appear in the mouth (erupt) properly, the person’s smile may appear unnatural or “off.”
Unfortunately, upper canines can become impacted, meaning the teeth have grown and developed in positions that prevent them from erupting. Because impacted teeth can develop abscesses and cysts, or damage the roots of neighboring teeth, it’s necessary to treat them.
The first step is a thorough orthodontic evaluation to assess not only the teeth in question, but also how they could affect the position of other teeth in the future. Next, we must locate the exact position of the impacted canines through some form of radiographic examination, either x-rays or 3-D imaging using a cone beam CT scanner (CBCT). This evaluation will determine our treatment options for these teeth.
If the teeth are in a reasonable position, the best option is to expose the impacted tooth and prepare it for movement into proper position. To expose the tooth, a surgeon creates a small, surgical opening or flap in the gum tissue closest to the crown of the tooth. Once gaining access, the surgeon then bonds a small bracket to the crown and attaches a small gold chain to it. The chain can then be looped over orthodontic hardware attached to adjacent teeth, which will pull the impacted tooth over time into the proper position. Although this may sound complicated, coaxing the impacted canine in this manner into a proper eruption is actually quite routine and predictable.
If at all possible, saving impacted upper canine teeth should be the primary treatment goal — extracting them could have an adverse effect on biting and chewing, as well as disrupting your appearance. If they must be removed, however, tooth replacement such as dental implants can help restore any lost form or function.
If you would like more information on impacted teeth, 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 “Exposing Impacted Canines.”
While our children are small, we want to make sure they receive the best (and safest) care — that’s why a parent’s job can include finding the most comfortable stroller, picking out the best-rated car seat… and making sure kids get top-quality health care. When it comes to dental care, some parents are surprised to learn that a child’s first visit to the dentist should take place before his or her first birthday. If that seems too soon, keep in mind that recent evidence-based studies show that starting dental visits prior to age one not only reduces oral health costs, but also ensures that kids will have more pleasant dental experiences in the future.
What are the top five ways to help ease young kids through their earliest trips to the dental office? We’re glad you asked.
- Stay calm — even if dental visits make you a little nervous yourself. Kids pick up almost instantly on non-verbal cues, positive or negative. A few soothing words and a gentle touch can go a long way toward calming any worries they may have.
- Explain — but not too much. Let them know what to expect in the most basic terms, but leave talking about the nuts-and-bolts of it to us. We pediatric dentists go to great lengths to make children feel safe and comfortable in our care, and we can tell kids all they need to know in age-appropriate terms they can easily understand.
- Model healthy behavior — both in and out of the home. In the early years (and later, too), parents are the primary role models for their kids. Don’t just tell your kids — show them how you brush and floss your teeth regularly, and let them know why you avoid soda and “energy” drinks, and limit sugary snacks to after mealtimes.
- Learn how to maintain good oral hygiene — Did you know that tooth decay is the second most common disease in humans, after the common cold? Babies aren’t born with decay-causing bacteria — but one in four picks up oral bacteria from their caregivers! You can help prevent cavities by developing healthy habits. Where can you learn more? From us, of course! Next time you come in, ask us how to keep teeth sparkling clean and decay-free. And, of course, look for more tips in our blog posts.
- Get it done in Year One — We can’t say it enough: Starting children out right, with appropriate early dental care, can help set them up for a lifetime of good checkups and healthy teeth. And isn’t that something we all want for our kids?
If you would like more information about children’s dental visits, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids” and “Age One Dental Visit.”