Posts for category: Oral Health
Dentists go to great lengths to save an adult permanent tooth. Even though restoration technology is incredibly advanced, none can completely replace the biological function of natural teeth. Treating a diseased tooth to preserve it is a high priority in dentistry.
It would seem, though, that a child’s primary (baby) tooth might not warrant the same treatment. Since the tooth eventually detaches from the jaw to make way for a permanent tooth, why save it?
It is worth the effort, because primary teeth provide more than a chewing function: they also serve as guides for their permanent successors. When they’re lost prematurely, the permanent teeth may not come in correctly, leading to a malocclusion (poor bite). Other areas of development, like speech and dental bone growth, may suffer as well from the longer time gap between the premature loss and the permanent tooth eruption.
Saving an infected primary tooth should be considered, especially if significant time remains in its lifespan. Due to differences between primary and permanent teeth, though, the treatment approach isn’t the same. For example, the body gradually absorbs the roots of a primary tooth (a process called resorption) as the permanent tooth beneath erupts applying pressure to the primary roots (this is what enables its eventual detachment). Dentists must factor this process into their diagnosis and treatment plan for a primary tooth.
The level of treatment may vary depending on how deep the infection has advanced. If the decay is limited to the tooth’s outer layers and only partially affects the pulp, the innermost layer of the tooth, a dentist may remove as much soft decay as possible, apply an antibacterial agent for any remaining hardened infection, and then restore the tooth with filling materials.
For deeper infection, the dentist may remove some or all of the pulp, disinfect and clean the area, and then fill and seal the empty space with a filling. A filling material like zinc oxide/eugenol paste should be used that’s capable of resorption by the body to coincide with the natural root resorption. After treatment, the tooth should continue to be monitored for changes in appearance or gum swelling, just in case the infection returns or advances.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, treating a primary tooth as you would its successor is worth the effort. Your child will reap the health benefits, both now and long after the primary tooth is gone.
If you would like more information on endodontic treatment for children, 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 “Root Canal Treatment for Children’s Teeth.”
Young children are like sponges, soaking up patterns of behavior they will later apply in many circumstances throughout life. In this learning process, they often look to family members for guidance. Some good habits, like saying “please” and “thank you,” can be taught verbally. Others are best learned by example.
Developing good habits early will benefit your children for a lifetime — especially where their health is concerned. Fortunately, it isn't hard to instill good oral hygiene behavior in a young child; for example, most all children are successfully taught to brush their teeth at an early age. What follows are some tips that might not be as obvious, but will help your children build healthy routines for maintaining optimum oral hygiene.
1) Teach your children how to check the cleanliness of their own teeth.
How? By running their tongue over the tooth surfaces! If the teeth feel nice and smooth, they're likely to be clean, too. Remember to give kids a soft brush, and tell them to use gentle strokes in brushing.
2) Avoid transferring your own oral bacteria to your children.
Children aren't born with decay-producing bacteria — they get them from others! That's why sharing baby's spoon or licking a pacifier clean aren't really good ideas. (Neither is pre-chewing a baby's food, despite what some birds and celebrities do. Trust us on this.)
3) Set an example of healthy eating habits for your children.
Follow common-sense guidelines (like those in www.choosemyplate.gov) for maintaining a balanced diet, eating plenty of vegetables and whole grains, drinking lots of water and getting moderate exercise.
4) Limit sugary treats to mealtimes, not snack times — if you allow them at all.
Oral bacteria utilize sugar for energy and when they metabolize it, they produce harmful acids. These acids attack the teeth and cause decay. The more sugar, the higher potential for stronger acids. Saliva helps neutralize these acids — but not if sugar is constantly present in the mouth. Try to limit sugary treats to mealtimes, and serve a healthier snack between meals.
5) Encourage your children to stop sucking thumbs and pacifiers by age 3.
Thumb sucking is a normal, comforting habit that may begin in the womb. Most kids stop on their own between ages 2 and 4. But long-term sucking on fingers or a pacifier can lead to tooth and jaw-development problems. We can help you find ways to gently encourage children to stop when it's time.
If you would like more information about instilling good oral hygiene habits in children, 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 “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
It can be daunting for parents to know just what to do when their child complains of an ache or pain. What if your child tells you their tooth hurts — is that cause for alarm? That's actually not so easy to determine, but there are some things you should do when your child has a toothache.
First, try to determine from your child exactly where the pain is coming from and how long it's been hurting. Look for an apparent cause for the pain: the most common is tooth decay, considered a type of infection caused by bacteria, and normally indicated by brown spots or tiny holes (cavities) on the biting surfaces or between teeth. Look for swelling or tenderness in the gum tissues, a sign of a possible abscess. Debris caught between teeth may also cause pain.
The pain might stem from an injury. Though the lips and outer tissues may appear fine, a blow to the face or other traumatic incident may have damaged the teeth. Without treatment, pulp tissue within a traumatized tooth may die and lead to an infection and potential tooth loss.
If you see any of these signs or symptoms, or the pain keeps your child up at night or continues into the next day, you should contact our office as soon as possible so that we can do a full evaluation of the tooth. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help lessen the pain. First, clean the teeth to remove any debris. Administer ibuprofen or acetaminophen (in the proper dosage for a child) for pain relief. An ice pack against the jaw may also help, but alternate on and off in five-minute intervals to prevent burning the skin with the ice.
If these steps stop the pain within an hour, you can wait until the next day to make an appointment. If not, this may be indicative of an abscess forming and you should not delay contacting our office. The quicker we can properly diagnose and begin treatment, the less chance your child will suffer from any long-term damage to their teeth.
If you would like more information on caring for a child's toothache, 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 “A Child's Toothache.”
It can happen in an instant — your child takes a hard hit to the mouth while playing football, basketball or some other contact sport. Suddenly, he or she faces the severest of dental injuries: a knocked out tooth.
There's both good and bad news about this situation. First, the good news: the knocked out tooth can be reinserted into its socket and take root again. The bad news, though, is that the tooth has only the slimmest of chances for long-term survival — and those chances diminish drastically if the reinsertion doesn't take place within the first five minutes of the injury.
Outside of the five-minute window, it's almost inevitable that the tooth root won't reattach properly with the tiny fibers of the periodontal ligament, the sling-like tissue that normally holds the tooth in place to the jawbone. Instead, the root may fuse directly with the bone rather than via the ligament, forming what is called ankylosis. This will ultimately cause the root to melt away, a process known as resorption, and result in loss of the tooth.
Of course, the resorption process will vary with each individual — for some, tooth loss may occur in just a few years, while for others the process could linger for decades. The best estimate would be four to seven years, but only if the tooth receives a root canal treatment to remove any dead tissue from the tooth pulp and seal it from possible infection. Over time the tooth may darken significantly and require whitening treatment. Because the tooth may be fused directly to the jawbone it can't grow normally as its neighbor teeth will and thus may appear uneven in the smile line. From a cosmetic point of view, it may be best at that time to remove the tooth and replace it with an implant or other cosmetic solution.
In many ways the longevity of the tooth post-injury really depends on time — the time it takes to reinsert the knocked out tooth into its socket. The quicker you take action, the better the chances the tooth will survive.
If you would like more information on treating a knocked out tooth, 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 “Knocked Out Tooth: How Long Will a Tooth Last After Replantation?”
Whether you are a serious or “weekend” athlete, you know the importance of protecting yourself against injury. While looking after your joints, ligaments and bones may garner most of your attention, you shouldn't neglect looking after your teeth and mouth as well. In fact, there are more than 600,000 emergency room visits each year for sports-related dental injuries. A knocked out tooth could eventually cost you $10,000 to $20,000 in dental treatment during your lifetime.
The best protection is really quite simple — wear a properly-fitted athletic mouthguard. Researchers estimate that mouthguards may prevent more than 200,000 dental injuries annually. Be aware, though — not all mouthguards are alike or provide the same level of protection.
Mouthguards generally fall into three types. Stock mouthguards are the least expensive of the three, and also the least effective at protection. They come in limited sizes and can't be customized to the wearer. “Bite and Boil” mouthguards are made of thermoplastic that becomes pliable when heated (as when boiled in water). In this state the mouthguard can be pressed into the wearer's teeth, which hardens to that fit once the thermoplastic cools. However, the fit isn't exact and they don't always cover the back teeth. Also during the heat of competition, the mouthguard softens and loses some of its stability and protection.
While more expensive than the other two types, a custom-fitted mouthguard made by a dentist provides the best level of protection. Made of a tear-resistant material, they are more comfortable to wear than the other types and cover more of the interior of the wearer's mouth.
A properly fitted and worn mouthguard protects the mouth and jaw area in a number of ways. It cushions the soft tissue of the lips and gums from cuts and abrasions caused by contact with sharp teeth surfaces after an impact. It absorbs and distributes forces generated in an impact that can cause tooth loss or even jaw fracture, and also cushions the jaw joint (TMJ) to reduce the likelihood of dislocation or other trauma.
A custom-fitted mouthguard can cost hundreds of dollars, but that price is relatively small compared with the physical, emotional and financial price you'll pay for an injury. This investment in your oral health is well worth it.
If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”