Our Blog

Preventing Toddler Tooth Decay

March 20th, 2019

You do everything you can to protect your toddler with safeguards large and small. Installing that complicated car seat. Figuring out which sunscreen is best for delicate skin. Spending weeks childproofing your home. But all the work protecting your child is more than worth it because the rewards are so great. And one more everyday precaution that brings great rewards is protecting your toddler from tooth decay.

  • Start Early

The time to start your baby’s dental care is even before that first tooth arrives. Carefully wiping the gums with a clean, damp cloth after feeding gets your child used to the idea of brushing and removes bacteria that might irritate the gums as the teeth begin to erupt. As soon as those teeth arrive, gentle brushing with soft bristles will keep bacteria and plaque from causing tooth decay and gingivitis. We can recommend toothpastes formulated especially for toddlers and suggest the best ways to brush.

  • Mind The Menu

We know that sugary foods aren’t healthy for your toddler’s teeth. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar, and a sugar-heavy diet results in more of the bacteria and plaque which cause cavities. But sugar is not the only food that is not tooth-friendly. For example, foods like citrus fruits and juices can also be a problem. Acidic foods can actually weaken enamel after eating and leave teeth more vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria and plaque. We have suggestions for tooth-healthy snacks and the best times to brush after eating if you and your child indulge in a treat.

  • Don’t Misuse Bottles & Sippy Cups

Your toddler might still use a bottle at night or a sippy cup throughout the day. Juices and even milk contain sugar that increases the risk of cavities, and if your child goes to sleep with a bottle or cup, these liquids pool in the mouth overnight allowing bacteria to flourish.  If your toddler wants a drink at night or between meals, water is a much better option.

Those tiny teeth are important for so many reasons. They enable children to bite and chew efficiently, to pronounce sounds properly for speech development, and to save space for adult teeth so they erupt in the right place. Dr. Rachel Maher and our team recommend that your child visit our Wilmington, DE office after the first tooth comes in, and always by the first birthday. We will make sure your toddler’s teeth are developing as they should be and suggest ways to keep them cavity-free. Your toddler’s healthy, beautiful smile is a reward worth protecting!

Why Are My Child’s Baby Teeth So White?

March 13th, 2019

One of the most charming aspects of your baby’s beautiful smile is his brilliantly white teeth. But now that his adult teeth are coming in, the difference in color is very noticeable. Is this something to be concerned about? Happily, probably not.

Both baby teeth and adult teeth have the same basic structure. The inside of the tooth, the pulp, contains blood vessels and nerves. The pulp is covered by a layer of dentin, a hard, yellowish substance composed of living tissue that helps protect the pulp and transmits signals for pain, pressure, and temperature. Enamel is the outer protective covering of the tooth, and its natural color can vary from greyish-white to light yellow.

If primary and permanent teeth are so alike, how can they look so different? As with so many things, the difference lies in the details. In adult teeth, enamel is semi-translucent, so it will allow the color of what is beneath it to show through. And the color of the thick dentin beneath is naturally yellow. Baby teeth have a thinner layer of the yellowish dentin. And while their enamel is also thinner, the enamel in baby teeth is generally whiter and more opaque, so less of the underlying yellow from the dentin is visible.

The result of these small differences is that adult teeth are normally darker than baby teeth to begin with. And when a permanent tooth that is just a bit darker erupts next to a bright white baby tooth, it is going to look even more yellow than it actually is. Once all of the baby teeth in front have been replaced with adult teeth, you will have a much better idea of their real color without unflattering comparisons!

There are times when concerns about tooth color should be looked at by Dr. Rachel Maher more closely.

  • Unusual discoloration in teeth should be examined. Some discoloration is caused by medical conditions such as hypomineralization, some by environmental factors such as excess fluoride, some by trauma, some by medication. If you notice a discolored section of your child’s tooth, or the tooth has turned a different shade from the teeth around it, give us a call.
  • Your child might have naturally whiter or yellower teeth simply as a matter of genetics. If your child is self-conscious about the color of his teeth, we can talk about whitening solutions when he is old enough to use them safely. Home whitening products should never be used on young children.

Give yourself time to adjust to your child’s new, adult smile. You will probably notice no difference at all once all of his permanent teeth come in. And keep those new teeth their brightest with consistent brushing and flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings at our Wilmington, DE office. This is the simplest prescription for a charming, white, and healthy smile at any age.

Thumb Sucking

March 6th, 2019

Learning to suck their thumbs is one of the first physical skills babies acquire. In fact, ultrasound images have revealed babies sucking their thumbs in the womb! Babies have a natural sucking reflex, and this activity is a normal way for your baby to soothe herself.

If your toddler still turns to her thumb for comfort, no need to worry. Most children give up this habit as they grow, and generally stop completely between the ages of two and four. But what of the child who doesn’t? Should you encourage your child to stop? And when?

When Thumb Sucking Becomes a Problem

After your child turns five, and certainly when her permanent teeth start to arrive, aggressive thumb sucking is something to watch for. This type of vigorous sucking, which puts pressure on the teeth and gums, can lead to a number of problems.

  • Open Bite

Our bites are considered normal when the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower where they touch in the front of the mouth. But with aggressive thumb sucking, teeth are pushed out of alignment. Sometimes this results in a condition called “open bite,” where the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact at all. An open bite almost always requires orthodontic treatment.

  • Jaw Problems

Your child’s palate and jaw are still growing. Aggressive thumb sucking can actually change the shape of the palate and jaw, and even affect facial structure. Again, orthodontic treatment can help, but prevention is always the better option!

  • Speech Difficulties

Prolonged thumb sucking has been suggested as a risk factor for speech disorders such as lisping, the inability to pronounce certain letters, or tongue thrusting.

The consequences from aggressive thumb sucking can be prevented with early intervention. What to do if you are worried?

Talk to Us

First, let us reassure you that most children stop thumb sucking on their own, and with no negative dental effects at all. But if your child is still aggressively sucking her thumb once her permanent teeth have started erupting, or if we see changes in her baby teeth, let’s talk about solutions during an appointment at our Wilmington, DE office. We can offer suggestions to help your child break the habit at home. There are also dental appliances available that can discourage thumb sucking if your child finds it especially hard to stop.

Work with your Child

  • Be Positive

Positive reinforcement is always best. Praise her when she remembers not to suck her thumb. Make a chart with stickers to reward every thumb-free day. Pick out a favorite book to read or activity you can share.

  • Identify Triggers

Children associate thumb sucking with comfort and security.  If your child turns to her thumb when she’s anxious, try to discover what is bothering her and how to reassure her. If she automatically sucks her thumb when she is bored, find an activity that will engage her. If she’s hungry, offer a healthy snack.

  • Talk about It!

Depending on her age, it might help your child to understand why stopping this habit is important. We are happy to explain, in a positive, age-appropriate way, just how breaking the thumb sucking habit will help her teeth and her smile.

Again, most children leave thumb sucking behind naturally and easily. But if what is a comfort for your child has become a concern for you, please give us a call. Dr. Rachel Maher will work with you and your child to prevent future orthodontic problems and begin her lifetime of beautiful smiles.

 

What is Nitrous Oxide?

February 27th, 2019

Many of our young patients experience anxiety during dental appointments. Dr. Rachel Maher and our team want to help your child overcome any fear he or she may feel when coming in for regular visits.

If you know your child suffers from anxiety during dental checkups, nitrous oxide sedation, popularly known as “laughing gas,” may be helpful. Nitrous oxide can be used during many types of dental procedures.

It has a sweet odor and taste, and gets mixed with oxygen when supplied through a mask. The effects typically kick in within a few minutes and leave your child feeling calm and relaxed.

Nitrous is helpful because your child will stay conscious and able to move and answer questions the doctor may ask. The drug is also convenient because the effects go away within a few minutes after the mask is removed.

Nitrous oxide is not dangerous when it’s combined with oxygen. It is non-addictive and non-allergenic. When used properly, nitrous oxide reduces anxiety, while allowing continued communication between the patient and dentist during a procedure. It can also help alleviate pain or discomfort during exams.

You should know that nitrous oxide may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. This drug is not recommended for people who suffer from certain medical conditions. We recommend discussing this method with Dr. Rachel Maher if your child's dental anxiety begins to interfere with his or her appointments.

We want all our patients to feel comfortable during their care. Talk with Dr. Rachel Maher at your child's next appointment to find out if nitrous oxide is an option. If you have questions regarding nitrous oxide, call our Wilmington, DE location and we’ll be happy to answer them.