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Oral Health

8 Ways To Make Brushing Teeth Fun For Kids

Make toothbrushing a habit for your child with the power of play.

According to the CDC, about 20% of children between the ages of five and 11 have untreated tooth decay. Regular dental appointments and opting for fluoride treatments go a long way in stopping tooth decay, but twice-daily toothbrushing is still one of the most important steps in cavity prevention. By taking advantage of the power of playing and having fun, you can turn toothbrushing into an event that your child can feel excited about. 

Here are 8 fun ways to turn your child’s daily toothbrushing habit into something they look forward to morning and night. 

1. Make daily toothbrushing an exciting, fun event as soon as your baby’s teeth start to come in.

Approach toothbrushing as something exciting as early as when your baby’s teeth first start to appear. Use a clean washcloth to gently wipe their gums twice a day, switching to an infant toothbrush once their teeth begin to erupt. You’ll also want to schedule your baby’s first dental appointment by their first birthday.

By getting your baby used to dental care so soon, not only will their baby teeth be healthier but they’ll also view toothbrushing in a positive way.

2. Let your child pick out a fun toothbrush and a new tube of toothpaste every three months.

An easy but effective way to help your child look forward to brushing their teeth is to let them pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste. You’ll want to limit their selection to ADA-approved options, but from there you can let them pick whichever toothbrush and toothpaste appeals to them.

Be sure to replace your child’s toothbrush every three to four months or as soon as you notice the bristles wearing down.

3. Turn tooth care into a family affair by getting everyone together for bedtime brushing.

When kids see their parents and older siblings get excited about brushing their teeth, they can’t help but feel the same way.

Gathering together in the bathroom to brush teeth and floss after dinner is a great way to make sure everyone in your family is getting in their bedtime brushing. This is also really helpful to keep kids accountable when it’s been a long day and the temptation to skip brushing is there.

4. Playing dentist is a great way to teach young kids about brushing their teeth and prepare them for future dental appointments.

Some very young kids might feel afraid of a toothbrush or having a dentist examine their mouths. This is completely normal and can actually make for a great opportunity to play with your child.

Role playing as a dentist and allowing your child to brush your teeth or look in your mouth shows them there’s nothing to fear. You can even purchase toy dental kits online to really make playtime feel more realistic. As your child grows more confident you can take turns being the dentist and the patient.

5. Print out a colorful toothbrush habit tracking chart and award fun stickers for morning and nightly brushing.

It goes without saying that kids love stickers and seeing their progress visually represented with them. Take an idea from teachers and print out a colorful toothbrush tracking chart. This chart could be for the week or the month. You can even repurpose a simple calendar and have your child decorate it to their heart’s content.

Every time your child brushes their teeth they can place a cool sticker on their chart for that day. At the end of the week or the month, you can reward them with a special toy or some other small prize.

6. Set up a stool or a mirror so your child can watch themselves brushing their teeth up close.

Young kids might find it difficult to see themselves in the bathroom mirror when they’re brushing their teeth. If this is the case, set up a stool or use a countertop mirror so your child can get close up to the mirror to watch themselves as they brush. This turns something fairly mundane like brushing their teeth or flossing into something interesting and new.

Being able to see clearly also encourages kids to brush their teeth more thoroughly and makes it easier to not accidentally skip a tooth while flossing.

7. Tell your child a funny story and read jokes in a silly voice while they brush their teeth.

Two minutes of brushing can go by really fast when you share a funny story or tell some jokes to your child. It also gives your child something to look forward to every time they brush their teeth.

Another idea is to let your child pick a goofy character for you to play out while they brush. Put on a silly voice and have fun. Once they’re done brushing, pick out a character for them to play out while you brush your teeth.

8. Change things up by letting your child pick out a song or a video to listen to while brushing their teeth.

The classic two-minute hourglass is a favorite method for helping kids time their brushing. This is effective, but seeing the same hourglass can be a little boring. Spice things up by letting your kid pick out a song to listen to while they brush their teeth.

Another great option is to play a two-minute video of their choice. Look on YouTube to find dental-related toothbrushing songs and videos, including some with characters from well-known shows like “Sesame Street.”

Complete your child’s tooth care routine with a visit to Dr. Shea, DDS.

When your kids need the best dentist in Rochester, NY, Dr. Shea’s office is the place to go. Dr. Shea is a dedicated kids’ dentist who provides preventive, restorative, orthodontic, and emergency care.

Unlike a family dentistry practice, Dr. Shea and the rest of the team are specially trained to work with kids of all ages, from infancy up to the teenage years. By taking your child to a pediatric dental group, you’re ensuring they have a wonderful experience with a team that’s adept at providing compassionate care with youngsters in mind.

When you’re ready to book your child’s next dental visit, you can either give our office a call, send us an email, or use our online appointment request form.

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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.

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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.

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Oral Health

10 Ways to Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy When You Don’t Have Access to Dental Care

Stay-at-home oral care.

With many dental offices around the country closed to accommodate social distancing, patients are looking for ways to keep their teeth healthy at home.

Thankfully, you can achieve optimal dental care using the tools and resources right at your fingertips! Today, we’re sharing 10 tips to help you keep your smile bright until we can meet in person again.

1. Amplify your dental hygiene.

Are you an intermittent flosser? Do you only brush at night?

If you’ve been slacking a little with your dental hygiene routine, now’s the time to kick it into high gear. Remember to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time, and floss at least once a day. Then, remind your family to do the same. 

These simple steps can go a long way toward preventing tooth decay and keeping cavities at bay!

2. Prioritize your immune system.

Did you know that oral health and your immune system go hand-in-hand? It makes sense when you break down the biology. Everything that enters your body has to pass through your mouth first.

If your teeth and gums are filled with germs and bacteria, those organisms are also allowed to enter into your system. This can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections. Conversely, when you prioritize your oral health, you give your immune system an immediate boost and improve your whole-body health.

3. Snack smart.

We get it! Quarantine snacks are a necessity during this trying time. That said, try to reach for whole foods, including fruits and veggies, and whole grains when possible.

In addition to fiber-rich produce, which stimulates your saliva flow and wards off cavities, you can also indulge in cheese and dairy products. These are filled with tooth-loving minerals, including calcium. As an added benefit, the calcium also sticks to your teeth and helps prevent acid erosion!

Wondering what not to eat?

Try to avoid starchy, refined carbohydrates, such as chips, bread, or pasta. After lingering in your mouth, those starches break down into simple sugars. When internal bacteria feed on these sugars, they can produce acid that causes tooth decay.

At the same time, try to avoid hard, sugary candy, along with sodas and fruit juices. The saliva in your mouth cannot wash away the sugar from these items, so it sticks to your teeth for longer than it should. If you do indulge, be sure to brush your teeth afterward!

4. Drink water.

To help rinse your mouth and keep it free of harmful bacteria, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Other habits that can help keep your mouth as clean as possible include flossing daily and using a fluoride-based toothpaste twice a day for two minutes. 

5. Don’t skip mouthwash.

There are many reasons to make mouthwash, or mouthrinse, one of the stars of your oral hygiene routine. Not only is it effective at getting your teeth whiter and cleaner, but it also takes your brushing regimen to the next level.

When you rinse with mouthwash after brushing, it removes any lingering tartar and plaque. It can also help prevent gingivitis, which is early-stage gum disease.

Some of the benefits of using mouthwash include preventing cavities, strengthening your teeth, killing the germs that cause bad breath, and freshening your breath. This list of ADA-approved products is a great place to start! 

6. Learn how to defend against cavities.

The tips above can keep your teeth healthy and clean. Yet, until they become second nature, someone in your family might still develop a cavity. If this happens, it can be disheartening to consider what will happen when you can’t visit your dentist.

On one hand, you don’t want it to get any worse. However, you can’t exactly go in for a routine checkup right now. To help mitigate the spread and severity of the cavity, stay away from sugar, and remember to brush your teeth at least twice a day. This way, you can slow the growth of decay until you can visit your dentist again.

7. Clean your toothbrush.

When’s the last time you replaced or even cleaned your toothbrush? The ADA recommends replacing yours every three to four months or even sooner if the bristles are frayed.

To clean your toothbrush, simply rinse it with tap water and store it upright. Keep it separate from any other toothbrushes in your bathroom and only cover it if you’re traveling. Closed containers can create a moist environment that harbors unwanted bacteria.

8. Learn proper brushing techniques.

Especially if your children are very young, there’s a chance they aren’t brushing correctly. They could be brushing too vigorously or using the wrong toothbrush.

Use your time at home wisely to teach your children the importance of oral health. The ADA created this quick video to demonstrate brushing basics and help answer any questions. They also published this illustrative guide on how to floss!

9. Remember your tongue.

Plaque can easily build up on your tongue. When this happens, it can introduce a host of issues ranging from bad breath to more serious oral health issues. The best way to remove it is to gently brush your tongue while you’re brushing your teeth.

Remember that young children might need help with this step. Watch them while they brush and floss, and offer guidance as necessary.

10. Set a good example.

Children are natural emulators. If they catch you doing something, it won’t be long before they’re trying to create their own, pint-sized version.

Use this trait to your advantage by practicing great oral hygiene in front of your family. Let your kids watch you brush your teeth in the morning and at night, and show them how you floss. They’ll be that much more willing to adopt the skill themselves this way.

Practice optimal dental care at home.

Optimal dental care begins with a personal choice. If you’re committed to keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, then the steps on this list will come naturally. 

While you’re together at home, make it a point to discuss the importance of oral hygiene with your family. Then you can learn, practice, and grow together as you discover how fun dental health can be!

In the meantime, please call us for any dental-related questions or emergencies, and remember we can still schedule routine appointments in advance. We’re here for you and miss your beautiful smiles!