Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Saving Face: Kids & Sports Mouth Guards

The spring sports season is almost upon us, are you ready? Hopefully you've begun sorting through last year's gear, helmets, bats, sticks, balls, pads, shin guards, tape, all the fun stuff moms and dads get to lug around in the name of playful competition. But you're probably missing one essential piece of equipment. An athletic mouth guard should be on your checklist.

The American Dental Association recommends the use of them for many collision and contact sports. A recent article found on their website says players of all ages, genders and skill levels are at risk of sustaining dental injuries in sporting activities, even if it's just a recreational league game. While collision and contact sports, such as boxing, have inherent injury risks, dental injuries are also prevalent in non-contact activities and exercises, such as gymnastics and skating.

On the radar for spring: Softball, baseball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and outdoor volleyball. If your child is signing up for one of these sports, consider a guard. Just don't confuse a face guard with a mouthguard. Custom mouth guards are the only way your perfect smile will be protected. It could save you (and your child) a lot of pain and frustration later! By the way, if you do lose a tooth while enjoying a game, check out my FAQ's for tips on what to do next!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

FDA Warning for parents!

Every parent knows the sound. Every parents feels the pain. The moment your baby starts teething you are thrown into a tizzy, searching for anything you can to relieve his cries. In the dark of the night, you reach for little bottle promising to help soothe the pain, fumble for a cotton swab and dab it on. But wait, new information tells us this solution has a serious flaw.

Last year, the  Food and Drug Administration released a warning and complete press release about the use of benzocaine, the main ingredient in over the counter gel and liquid pain relievers for gum and mouth pain. You can find benzocaine sold under the names Anbesol, Hurricane, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and more store brands. To summarize the FDA's findings, the benzocaine can cause a condition called methemoglobinemia that lessens the amount of oxygen in the blood and has in some cases, resulted in death. People who develop methemoglobinemia can have the following symptoms:
  1. Pale, blue or grey colored skin, lips or nail beds
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Fatigue
  4. Confusion
  5. Headache
  6. Lightheadedness
  7. Rapid heart rate
If you or your child has these symptoms, get medical help immediately.

So what's a parent to do when baby's first tooth makes a painful entrance? Think back and remember a few more traditional or "old fashioned" methods of pain relief. A teething ring kept ready in the refrigerator can do wonders (never freeze the teether as it need to remain pliable), as will your own finger rubbing gently on her gums.

Of course small children are not the only users of benzocaine. Adults who use the gel or liquids should always remember to follow the directions on the packaging. Dental pain can be dulled by the use of these over the counter medications, but treatment is most likely necessary. Call us, or drop in if you're experiencing dental pain severe enough you believe a topical pain killer is needed!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

     As the second installment in our special posts related to National Childrens Dental Health Month, we'll be taking a look at "baby bottle tooth decay." Many parents are confused by this term. Afterall, most children are fed by a bottle at some point in their infancy. How can your method of caring for your precious little one be causing big problems?
     Your child’s baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear-which is typically around age six months. This is when the American Dental Association recommends your child has her first visit to the dentist. Decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected. In some cases, infants and toddlers have experienced decay so severe that the teeth cannot be repaired and need to be removed. 
This example shows early decay of baby teeth. Notice the discoloration.
     Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. The sugary liquids pool around the teeth while the child sleeps. Bacteria in the mouth eat the sugars like food and grow. They then produce acids that attack the teeth. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack for 20 minutes or longer. After multiple attacks, the teeth can decay. Pacifiers dipped in sugar or honey can also lead to tooth decay since the sugar or honey can provide food for the bacteria’s acid attacks. 
     Most people are unaware that parents and caregivers play an unwitting role in passing decay causing bacteria to babies. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria are passed to the baby. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it's time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded. Starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.
    If you have questions about your child's oral health, don't be afraid to ask. You can schedule appointments for your children online on our website, or call 757-486-4880.

Source: American Dental Association

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

National Childrens Dental Health Month

    Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. This year's campaign is called "Rock Your Smile." The association has many resources for kids available online  for parents and teachers wanting to reinforce the program.

     Helping your child understand how to care for their overall health is the most important thing you can teach. Poor oral health care is linked to heart disease and that is the number one killer in the United States today! To help you get your child off to a good start, here are a few tips:

1. Start early!
     Begin brushing your child's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. You don't need to use tooth paste, just a little water and your finger a first, then a baby tooth brush that's soft and won't hurt her irritated gums. The four front teeth generally begin to appear around 6 months of age.

2. Brush with your child
     Children learn best by good example. Put tooth paste (a pea-sized amount) on your child's toothbrush and brush at the same time if you can. Help your child by brushing for them, using proper technique to ensure the teeth are clean, after they've done their best job. Most children should brush well by themselves by age 6 or 7. Remember to make sure they know to spit out toothpaste and not to swallow. Flossing cannot be overlooked, either! Floss for your child and ask us to help teach the basics, too.
     We have made several videos available for parents to help teach kids how to brush, and how to relax while in our offices. You can find them under the pediatric tab on our Dental Videos page.

3. Make an appointment
     The American Dental Association recommends taking your child to the dentist by their first birthday for a "well baby check up." Check with your dentist first to see when they would like to see your child.
     If your child is elementary aged, try to schedule their cleanings in the morning. Most children are on their best behavior in the morning and will hear what the dentist is saying best, then. Your child will likely be more cooperative for the dentist or hygienist at that time also!
     In the case of pre-adolescents, I may recommend sealants. Sealants are an excellent barrier against cavities and in many cases are covered by insurance!

4. Keep it up!
     You can make a big impact on your child's oral and overall health by keeping up some good behaviors everyday. Provide them will a well-balanced diet, with healthy snacks. Limit sugary snacks and always encourage brushing after every meal. Foods like raisins are healthy for you, but stick to the teeth like candy. Brushing well can counteract the snack!

Resources for kids:

Dental Health Crossword Puzzle
McGrinn and Smiley coloring sheet
Healthy Smile Certificate
Word Decoder Activity

Sources: American Dental Association

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lessons from a Groundhog

Today is February 2nd, or Groundhog Day here in America, the day we rely on a furry critter to tell us what the weather will be like for the next few weeks.

Stormy Woodchuck
Believe it or not, there is a big lesson we can learn from the common woodchuck! Turns out the animal's teeth grow an amazing 1/16" per day! To combat the growth, the groundhog must chew constantly.

Unlike humans with our full set of 32 adult permanent teeth, the groundhog is born with just four teeth and should keep them for life. His constant chewing is his insurance that they won't grow too long and actually prevent food from entering his mouth. Many other animals share a similar fate if they ignore the natural urge to chew.

The lesson is clear! Take care of your teeth, always!

We can help you understand the proper ways to  brush, floss and maintain your beautiful smile, just ask our staff.