Oral Health Uncategorized

Is Your Kid’s Tooth Pain a Dental Emergency?

What to Do If Your Child Has a Tooth Pain

If your child is currently experiencing a dental emergency in Rochester, NY, contact our office for prompt assistance. If you are calling after-hours, our answering service is available to take your call and relay your message to Dr. Shea, who will contact you as soon as possible.

Pain is a complex experience. While some pain directly results from tissue damage (like a scraped knee), pain can also be triggered indirectly (the way chocolate may trigger a migraine in certain individuals). So what does it mean if your child is experiencing tooth pain?

When teeth are healthy and structurally sound, they’re generally without feeling, thanks to the non-living tooth enamel that coats them. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, making it the perfect substance to withstand the forces of chewing and protect the sensitive living tissue (known as pulp) that’s at the center of each tooth. If tooth enamel is compromised by injury or decay, pulp can become irritated and inflamed, sending strong signals to the pain centers in your child’s brain that something is not okay.

When to See the Pediatric Dentist

While some conditions can cause referred tooth pain (like a sinus infection), most toothaches are the result of tooth damage, injury, or decay. So does your child’s toothache warrant an emergency trip to the pediatric dentist?

In most cases, the answer is yes, as healthy teeth don’t cause toothaches and tooth pain is a distressing experience for your child. While not all dental emergencies will require an after-hours visit, your child will experience less pain and stress if dental issues are handled with urgency.

Here’s how you can respond to the most common kids’ dental issues and injuries and help your child enjoy a smile that’s beautiful, healthy, and pain-free.

1. Toothache

Toothaches can cause a dull throb or sharp pain, which is unpleasant at best and severe at worst. Most toothaches are caused by tooth decay, gum disease, or infection, though they can also originate from other dental issues, such as teeth grinding or clenching (known as bruxism).

No matter the cause and even if you can’t see signs of damage, tooth pain is a sign that your child needs to see their pediatric dentist ASAP. In the meantime, you can help your child find temporary relief by swishing their mouth with salt water, applying a few drops of clove oil with a cotton swab, or administering over-the-counter pain medications per their instructions.

2. Pain or Swelling

If your child is experiencing facial swelling, red gums, or tooth pain or sensitivity while chewing, they may have an abscessed tooth. Caused by a bacterial infection, an abscessed tooth has a pocket of pus that’s trapped within the gums or at the tip of a tooth’s root. An abscessed tooth can cause pain in the tooth itself, in addition to radiating pain in the ear, neck, or jaw.

As an abscessed tooth can cause excruciating pain and serious health risks, it’s vital to seek prompt emergency care from your child’s pediatric dentist. If your child has intense or throbbing tooth pain that’s accompanied by fever, facial swelling, a rapid heart rate, confusion, or difficulty breathing or swallowing, take your child to the nearest emergency room. These symptoms may mean that the infection has spread into your child’s jaw or surrounding tissues, which requires swift medical treatment to prevent a life-threatening condition known as sepsis.

3. Chips or Breaks

Though they may or may not cause pain, chips and breaks should be evaluated and treated as soon as possible to avoid unpleasant complications, such as pain, further damage, a tooth abscess, or tooth loss.

Contact your pediatric dentist ASAP if your child has a chipped, cracked, or broken tooth. While you wait to be seen, you can help your child temporarily ease pain with a warm, salt-water gargle or by applying a wrapped ice pack to your child’s check for up to 20 minutes once an hour. If you recovered any tooth fragments, you can preserve the pieces in cold milk or an emergency tooth preservation product approved by the ADA.

4. Knocked Out Tooth

Apart from when our baby teeth fall out naturally, our teeth aren’t meant to move—let alone get knocked out or loose. That said, having a tooth knocked in any way out of place is a traumatic dental injury that requires immediate emergency care from your child’s pediatric dentist to try to save the tooth and prevent future complications.

If your child has traumatically lost or loosened a tooth, use sterile gauze pads to control any bleeding and then work to quickly locate the tooth. Avoid touching the tooth roots when you pick up the tooth, then gently rinse it under slow-running water. Next, place the tooth in a small container of cold milk or an ADA-approved emergency tooth preservation product. Alternately, if your child is old enough and able, have your child hold the tooth between their cheek and gums to prevent the tooth from drying out on the way to the pediatric dentist office.

5. Cuts on Inner Cheeks, Lips, or Tongue

As your child engages in the world around them through sports, climbing, and play, they may get minor cuts every now and again inside their mouths. Many of these superficial oral injuries can be safely and effectively treated with first aid at home. For instance, you can rinse the area with cold water for several minutes or give your child an ice cube to suck on to reduce bleeding and swelling if they’re old enough to do so safely. If needed, you can also apply direct pressure to the injury with a clean cloth or bandage to stop the bleeding.

If your child has an injury to the tissue inside of their mouth that won’t stop bleeding or otherwise seems severe, seek immediate treatment at your nearest emergency room. If your child also damaged or knocked out a tooth, priority will be given to stopping the bleeding, and can be followed by an emergency dentist visit to help save or restore a knocked out or damaged tooth.

6. Bleeding Gums

If your child’s gums are red, swollen, or bleed easily, they may have gingivitis. The earliest form of periodontal (gum) disease, gingivitis is often caused by excessive plaque buildup along the gumline. Unless plaque is disrupted by daily oral hygiene habits and routine dental visits, plaque will irritate your child’s gum tissue and cause the gums to bleed easily and become red and swollen.

Gingivitis is not an urgent dental emergency, though your child should see their pediatric dentist right away to prevent more serious dental issues with a deep cleaning. Along with getting your child’s oral health back on track, seeing your child’s pediatric dentist ASAP can spare your child from undesirable and uncomfortable oral health complications, including tooth loss and tissue damage.

From preventative dental visits to emergency care, Dr. Shea is here to support your child’s oral health and comfort at every age. Increase your peace of mind by adding our office number to your contact list in case of a dental emergency and by scheduling your child’s next preventative dental appointment.

Oral Health Pediatric Dentistry

Ways to Prevent Serious Dental Issues Commonly Seen in Children

Protect baby teeth for optimal oral health.

While children are susceptible to the same serious dental issues as adults, there are simple steps parents can take to prevent problems and support better oral health. First and foremost, it is important to understand that baby teeth play a vital role in a child’s development. Just because baby teeth will eventually fall out, doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be cared for properly. Protecting baby teeth will ensure that your children can enjoy optimal oral health that will set them up for a lifetime of smiles. Keep reading to learn more about the most common dental issues in children and how you can prevent them.

1. Tooth Decay

The most common dental issue that affects children is dental decay. As bacteria collects in the mouth, it turns into plaque, which begins to cover the teeth and eat away at the enamel. While small cavities and minor tooth decay may not cause any noticeable symptoms, advanced decay can result in tooth sensitivity, pain, swelling, and visible signs of decay such as black, brown, or white spots. 

Causes of Tooth Decay and Preventative Steps You Can Take

Perhaps the biggest cause of tooth decay is poor oral hygiene habits. Regular brushing and flossing are essential to controlling bacteria and removing plaque. Children should brush at least twice a day and see the dentist twice a year for a professional evaluation and cleaning. A dentist will be able to detect any early signs of decay and help take preventative measures to avoid more serious problems. It is also important for you to encourage proper dental hygiene and monitor your child’s habits to make sure they are thoroughly cleaning their teeth.

Poor nutrition can also contribute to tooth decay. Diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates feed bacteria and create more acid in the mouth. This will break down the enamel over time and cause serious problems.

Treating Tooth Decay

For children who are in the more advanced stages of tooth decay a filling, crown and even an implant may be necessary. If the cavity is superficial and hasn’t attacked the center of the tooth or caused an infection in the root, a filling will be able to address the problem. However, more severe decay will require a kid’s dental crown. 

While baby teeth will naturally fall out on their own, this transition to adult teeth follows an important developmental pattern. If decayed baby teeth fall out too early, it can affect how permanent teeth come in and lead to further problems. In addition, you don’t want your child to suffer from the pain and discomfort of decaying and infected teeth. That is why children’s dental crowns are a common and effective treatment for advanced decay.

2. Gum Disease

Gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease, is an infection that attacks the gums and structures that support teeth, including the jaw bone. You have probably heard of and been warned about gingivitis. This is considered the first sign of gum disease. If gingivitis is allowed to progress, the gums will pull away from the teeth, which forms pockets where bacteria will accumulate, grow, and cause infections. Children with full-fledged gum disease will experience damaged tissue and tooth loss. 

Causes of Gum Disease

While genetics, illnesses, and certain medications can cause or contribute to gum disease, most cases can be attributed to poor oral hygiene habits. This is especially true when it comes to young patients.

Preventing Gum Disease in Children

It all comes down to regular brushing and flossing and bi-annual visits to the dentist. Children may still be developing the motor skills they need to brush thoroughly. They also may be resistant to making oral hygiene a part of their daily routine. That is why it is important for parents to help with brushing when necessary and try to make it a fun activity that kids don’t dread. This can help establish healthy patterns that carry on into adulthood. 

3. Crooked Teeth

Having crooked teeth is more than just an aesthetic concern. Misaligned teeth can cause jaw pain, an irregular bite, speech difficulties, periodontal disease, and overcrowding in the mouth. While crooked teeth can be corrected using traditional orthodontic methods and more modern clear aligners, these treatments can be expensive. It is better to take steps early in childhood in order to support proper development and prevent crooked teeth than have to fix them later in life. 

Causes of Crooked Teeth

Kids may be genetically prone to crooked teeth, but poor nutrition and dental care can also add to the problem. If children aren’t seeing a family dentist for regular evaluations, then some of the issues that can lead to crooked teeth will go untreated. In addition, a dentist can monitor tooth movement to make sure other major problems don’t arise.

Preventing Crooked Teeth in Children

The best way to prevent children from growing crooked adult teeth is to make sure that their baby teeth are healthy and don’t fall out prematurely. From there, you will also want to work with your family dentist to make sure that adult teeth are coming in properly. Taking corrective measures at the first sign of a problem can help your kids avoid having to undergo more extensive orthodontic treatments. 

Ultimately, the same rules apply to both children and adults. Good oral hygiene is at the heart of preventing serious dental issues, including tooth decay, gum disease, and crooked teeth. Whether you want to get your child off on the right track or you need help addressing oral health problems that have already emerged, Dr. Judith Shea and her team can help. They are experts in pediatric dentistry and understand the challenges both parents and children face. Patients enjoy the best in compassionate care and the latest tools and techniques. Contact us today to make an appointment.