Tooth decay, also referred to as dental caries, is still the most common chronic disease to affect both children and adults. Even though more and more people are beginning to understand how oral hygiene, proper diet, and routine checkups are important for reducing their risk, there is still so much that people don’t understand. Our Amherst, NH, pediatric dentists Dr. Andrew Cheifetz and Dr. James McAveeney want to make sure that you understand more about childhood tooth decay.
What is decay?
Throughout the day, our teeth develop this sticky colorless film known as plaque, which contain bacteria that feed off the sugar found in foods. Whenever you consume sugars or starches the bacteria converts them into acid, which slowly erodes the enamel of your teeth. If left untreated, the decay can spread further inside the tooth until it damages the nerves. If left untreated, cavities can lead to a severe toothache, infection or tooth loss.
Can my child’s diet increase their risk for decay?
As we mentioned above, the bacteria within plaque loves sugar (maybe as much as you do). Unfortunately, if your child consumes a diet that is high in sugar or processed foods this can significantly increase their risk for decay. This includes everything from eating cakes and cookies to even eating white bread and those packaged granola bars (many packaged “healthy” products often contain more sugar than you might imagine). Replace these foods with healthier snacks and make sure your child brushes their teeth twice a day.
Are there any symptoms?
Most of the time decay doesn’t cause any symptoms. Often the only time a cavity is detected is during a routine cleaning and exam performed by our Amherst, NH, children’s dentist. After all, we know what to look for when it comes to cavities. Of course, it’s also important to bring your child in if they are experiencing symptoms of decay including:
- A visible hole in their tooth
- A brown or dark spot on their tooth
- A toothache
- Increased or lingering tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods
- Persistent and unexplained bad breath
Again, during the early stages of decay these symptoms usually aren’t present. If you don’t know the last time your child came in for a dental cleaning, it’s time to schedule one.
How is decay treated?
While decay is preventable, if we find a cavity we will need to remove it before it spreads. This involves numbing the area around the tooth and drilling away the decayed enamel then filling it with a tooth-colored material to restore the tooth.
Is it time to schedule your child’s next dental cleaning in Amherst, NH? Have questions about caring for your child’s smile? If so, turn to the dental experts at Children's Dental Center of New Hampshire today.
X-ray imaging is such an intricate part of dentistry, we usually don't think twice about it. Without it, though, the fight against dental disease would be much harder.
At the same time, we can't forget that x-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation that can penetrate human tissue. It's that very quality and the difference in the absorption rate between denser bone and teeth and softer diseased tissue that makes disease diagnosis possible.
But this same penetrative power can potentially harm the tissues it passes through. For that reason when practicing any form of x-ray diagnostics, dentists follow a principle known as ALARA, an acronym for "As Low As Reasonably Achievable." In lay terms ALARA means getting the most benefit from x-rays that we can with the lowest dose and exposure time possible.
While practicing ALARA with x-rays is important for patients of any age, it's especially so for children who are more sensitive to radiological energy given their smaller size and anatomy. We can't use the same settings, dosages or exposure times with them as with an adult.
To protect children, dentists have developed techniques and protocols that lessen their exposure time and rate, while still providing usable images for diagnosing disease. The bitewing is a good example of safe and effective pediatric x-ray imaging.
A bitewing is a plastic device holding exposable film that patients bite down on and hold in their mouth while x-raying. The x-rays pass through the teeth and gums and expose the film behind them on the bitewing. Using a bitewing we can capture a set of two to four radiographs to give us a comprehensive view of the back teeth, while exposing the child less radiation than they normally receive daily from background environmental sources.
This and other advances in equipment and digital imaging greatly reduce the amount of radiation patients receive during x-rays. If, though, you're still concerned about your child's x-ray exposure, talk with your dentist who can explain in more detail the x-ray safety protocols they follow. Just like you, they want your child to be as safe as possible while still benefiting from the diagnostic power of x-rays.
If you would like more information on safety precautions using x-rays with 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 “X-Ray Safety for Children.”
A lot happens in your child’s mouth from infancy to early adulthood. Not surprisingly, it’s the most active period for development of teeth, gums and jaw structure. Our primary goal as care providers is to keep that development on track.
One of our main concerns, therefore, is to protect their teeth as much as possible from tooth decay. This includes their primary (“baby”) teeth: although your child will eventually lose them, a premature loss of a primary tooth to decay could cause the incoming permanent tooth to erupt out of proper position. And we of course want to protect permanent teeth from decay during these developmental years as well.
That’s why we may recommend applying topical fluoride to your child’s teeth. A naturally occurring chemical, fluoride helps strengthen the mineral content of enamel. While fluoride can help prevent tooth decay all through life, it’s especially important to enamel during this growth period.
Although your child may be receiving fluoride through toothpaste or drinking water, in that form it first passes through the digestive system into the bloodstream and then to the teeth. A topical application is more direct and allows greater absorption into the enamel.
We’ll typically apply fluoride in a gel, foam or varnish form right after a professional cleaning. The fluoride is a much higher dose than what your child may encounter in toothpaste and although not dangerous it can cause temporary vomiting, headache or stomach pain if accidentally swallowed. That’s why we take extra precautions such as a mouth tray (similar to a mouth guard) to catch excess solution.
The benefits, though, outweigh this risk of unpleasant side effects, especially for children six years or older. Several studies over the years with thousands of young patients have shown an average 28% reduction in decayed, missing or filled teeth in children who received a fluoride application.
Topical fluoride, along with a comprehensive dental care program, can make a big difference in your child’s dental care. Not only is it possible for them to enjoy healthier teeth and gums now, but it could also help ensure their future dental health.
If you would like more information on topical fluoride and other dental disease prevention measures, 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 “Fluoride Gels Reduce Decay.”
Multi-platinum recording artist Janet Jackson has long been known for her dazzling smile. And yet, Jackson admitted to InStyle Magazine that her trademark smile was once a major source of insecurity. The entertainer said, “To me, I looked like the Joker!” It was only after age 30 that the pop icon came to accept her unique look.
Jackson is not alone. A study commissioned by the American Association of Orthodontists found that more than one third of U.S. adults are dissatisfied with their smile. But there’s good news—modern dentistry can correct many flaws that can keep you from loving your smile, whether you’re unhappy with the color, size, or shape of your teeth. Here are some popular treatments:
Professional teeth whitening: Sometimes a professional teeth whitening will give you the boost you need. In-office whitening can dramatically brighten your smile in just one visit.
Tooth-colored fillings: If you have silver-colored fillings on teeth that show when you smile, consider replacing them with unnoticeable tooth-colored fillings.
Dental bonding: If you have chipped, cracked, or misshapen teeth, cosmetic bonding may be the fix you’re looking for. In this procedure, tooth colored material is applied to the tooth’s surface, sculpted into the desired shape, hardened with a special light, and polished for a smooth finish.
Porcelain veneers: Dental veneers provide a natural-looking, long-lasting solution to many dental problems. These very thin shells fit over your teeth, essentially replacing your tooth enamel to give you the smile you desire.
Replacement teeth: Is a missing tooth affecting your self-confidence? There are several options for replacing missing teeth, from a removable partial denture to a traditional fixed bridge to a state-of-the-art implant-supported replacement tooth. Removable partial dentures are an inexpensive way to replace one or more missing teeth, but they are less stable than non-removable options. Dental bridges, as the name implies, span the gap where a tooth is missing by attaching an artificial tooth to the teeth on either side of the space. In this procedure, the teeth on both sides of the gap must be filed down in order to support the bridgework. Dental implants, considered the gold standard in tooth replacement technology, anchor long-lasting, lifelike replacements that function like natural teeth.
After coming to embrace her smile, Jackson asserted, “Beautiful comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors." If you don’t feel that your smile expresses the beauty you have inside, call our office to schedule a consultation. It’s possible to love your smile. We can help.
For more information, read Dear Doctor magazine article “How Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger.”
Is your toddler hooked to his or her pacifier? While babies instinctively suck, toddlers and young children can, and should, give up their pacifiers to avoid dental problems. At Children's Dental Center of New Hampshire, Dr. James McAveeney and Dr. Andrew Cheifetz teach Amherst parents the benefits and the downsides of pacifiers so they foster good dental health and overall well-being in their kids.
Why do babies need to suck?
Ultrasound imaging of pre-born infants show them sucking their thumbs. Then, after birth, sucking provides for their nutritional and comfort needs. Little ones suck their thumbs or pacifiers when they are tired, feel stressed around strangers or just need soothing to calm themselves.
Can pacifiers in Amherst harm kids?
In relation to dental health, pacifiers seem preferable to thumb sucking, says the American Dental Association (ADA) because pacifiers are easier for children to give up. Both, however, can cause substantial problems when used beyond the age of two.
Potential problems include:
- Malformation of the oral cavity--specifically, the roof of the mouth
- Misalignment of baby teeth
- Bite issues such as open bite where the top and bottom front teeth do not close together
The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reports that any oral health issues easily correct themselves if a child is weaned off a pacifier by the age of two. The ADA adds that both pacifiers and thumb sucking should be eliminated when the baby teeth begin to erupt.
What's a parent to do?
Plan on weaning the child off pacifiers as early as possible. Limit the time used to bed time or times of extreme fussiness. Do not scold or punish when a toddler uses his or her pacifier, but rather, use praise as a motivation.
Also, ask your professional dental team for tips on how to help little ones kick the pacifier habit. Dr. McAveeney and Dr. Cheifetz can help you and your child through this transition.
If it's time for your youngster's routine check-up and cleaning, please call Children's Dental Center of New Hampshire for an appointment. We'll be happy to discuss pacifier use with you or any other concern you have regarding your child's oral health and development. Call us at (603) 673-1000.
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