Posts for: March, 2014
All children encounter sickness as they grow; thankfully most of these conditions are relatively mild and fade away in short order. But some children endure more serious, longer lasting conditions. The health of children with chronic diseases can be impacted in numerous ways, including the health of their teeth and gums.
Unfortunately, dental care is often pushed to the side as caregivers understandably focus on the primary disease. In addition, many chronic conditions involving behavior, such as autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or intellectual disabilities, may inhibit the child’s ability to cooperate with or even perform daily oral hygiene. Many special needs children have an acute gag reflex that makes toleration of toothpaste, spitting matter from the mouth, or keeping their mouths open more difficult. However difficult it may be, though, it’s still important to establish daily hygiene habits to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
There are techniques for building a daily routine for children with physical and behavioral limitations. For example, using “modeling and shaping” behavior, you (or perhaps a sibling) brush your teeth with your child to demonstrate how it should be done. If there’s a problem with cooperation, you can also position the child “knee to knee” with you as you brush their teeth. In this way you’ll be able to meet their eyes at a level position and lessen the chance of a confrontation.
We encourage all children to have their first dental visit before their first birthday. This is especially true for children with chronic conditions. The Age One visit helps establish a benchmark for long-term care; it then becomes more likely with regular visits to discover and promptly treat dental disease. This is especially important for special needs children who may have congenital and developmental dental problems, like enamel hypoplasia, a condition where the teeth have not developed sufficient amounts of enamel.
Teeth are just as much at risk, if not more so, in children with chronic diseases. Establishing daily hygiene and regular checkups can reduce that risk and alleviate concern for their long-term oral health.
If you would like more information on oral healthcare for children with chronic diseases, 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 “Managing Tooth Decay in Children With Chronic Diseases.”
When most people think of orthodontic treatment, they may think of braces worn during the teenage years. But there are some types of malocclusions (bad bites) that may benefit from intervention much earlier than adolescence. A cross-bite is one example.
A cross-bite occurs when the front teeth of the lower arch bite in front of the upper teeth rather than behind them. The condition can have an adverse effect on any of the six front teeth of either arch. This type of malocclusion can develop quite early in childhood.
Orthodontists have developed a two-phase treatment for a cross-bite, with the possibility that the first phase may be all that’s needed. If your child has a cross-bite, your orthodontist may first recommend he or she wear a specially-designed retainer for a few months. The retainer could stop and correct an existing problem before it becomes worse, or it could prevent a deeper problem from developing in the first place. The retainer could also help guide jawbone development during these formative years, even as early as age 7, for children at risk.
Even if this first phase doesn’t fully correct the cross-bite and the second phase (most likely braces or a similar orthodontic device) becomes necessary, it could still help to make the second phase easier and less costly. On the other hand, if orthodontic treatment is postponed until adolescence when the mouth structures are more fully formed it may become quite difficult or even impossible to correct the problems that have developed.
As a result, early intervention for this or similar orthodontic conditions is the most efficient strategy, even when later treatment is necessary. As part of your child’s regular dental care (which should begin ideally around their first birthday), we can advise you on any need for an orthodontic evaluation based on our observations. An orthodontist can then best advise whether waiting until later for treatment is best, or whether intervention now could lessen problems later.
If you would like more information on preventative orthodontics, 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 “Preventative & Cost Saving Orthodontics.”
Chewing tobacco, especially among young athletes, is considered fashionable — the “cool” thing to do. Many erroneously think it’s a safe alternative to smoke tobacco — it is, in fact, the source of numerous health problems that could ultimately lead to disfigurement or even death.
Chewing or dipping tobacco is especially linked with the sport of baseball. Its traditions in baseball go back to the late Nineteenth Century when players chewed to keep their mouths moist on dusty fields. The habit hit its greatest stride after the surgeon general’s warning on cigarettes in the late 1950s. Now, players wishing to emulate their major league heroes are prone to take up chewing tobacco at an early age.
But the habit comes with a price tag. Individuals who chew tobacco are more susceptible to oral problems like bad breath, mouth dryness, or tooth decay and gum disease. Users also increase their risk for sexual dysfunction, cardiopulmonary disease (including heart attack and stroke) and, most notably, oral cancer.
Derived from the same plant, chewing and smoke tobacco share a common trait — they both contain the highly addictive drug nicotine. Either type of user becomes addictive to the nicotine in the tobacco; and like smoking, a chewing habit can be very difficult to stop.
Fortunately, many of the same treatments and techniques for quitting smoking can also be useful to break a chewing habit. Nicotine replacement treatments like Zyban or Chantix have been shown effective with tobacco chewing habits. Substituting the activity with gum chewing (non-nicotine, and with the sweetener Xylitol), or even an herbal dip can also be helpful.
Like other difficult processes, it’s best not to try to quit on your own. You should begin your efforts to quit with a consultation with your doctor or dentist — they will be able to prescribe cessation medications and provide other suggestions for quitting. You may also find it helpful to visit a behavioral health counselor or attend a tobacco cessation support group.
Rather than just one approach, successful quitting usually works best with a combination of techniques or treatments, and perhaps a little trial and error. The important thing is not to give up: the improvements to your dental health — and life — are worth it.
If you would like more information on quitting chewing tobacco, 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 “Quitting Chewing Tobacco.”
You may have heard the expression: “If you just ignore your teeth, they will go away.” That may be true — but by practicing good oral hygiene, more and more people are now able to keep their natural teeth in good condition for their entire life. So we prefer to put a more positive spin on that old saw: “Take care of your teeth and they will take care of you — always.” What’s the best way to do that? Here are our top five tips:
- Brush and floss every day. You knew this was going to be number one, right? Simply put, tooth decay and gum disease are your teeth’s number one enemies. Effective brushing and flossing can help control both of these diseases. Using a soft-bristle brush with fluoride toothpaste and getting the floss into the spaces between teeth (and a little under the gum line) are the keys to successful at-home tooth cleaning and plaque removal.
- Don’t smoke, or use any form of tobacco. Statistically speaking, smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as non-smokers. And “smokeless” tobacco causes tooth discoloration, gum irritation, an increased risk for cavities, and a higher incidence of oral cancers. Of course, smoking also shortens your life expectancy — so do yourself a favor, and quit (or better yet, don’t start).
- Eat smart for better oral (and general) health. This means avoiding sugary between-meal snacks, staying away from sodas (and so-called “energy” or “sports” drinks), and limiting sweet, sticky candies and other smile-spoiling treats. It also means enjoying a balanced diet that’s rich in foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. This type of diet incorporates what’s best for your whole body — including your teeth.
- Wear a mouthguard when playing sports. An active lifestyle has many well-recognized health benefits. But if you enjoy playing basketball, bicycling, skiing or surfing — or any other sport where the possibility of a blow to the face exists — then you should consider a custom-fitted mouthguard an essential part of your gear. Research shows that athletes wearing mouthguards are 60 times less likely to suffer tooth damage in an accident than those who aren’t protected — so why take chances with your teeth?
- See your dentist regularly. When it comes to keeping your smile sparkling and your mouth healthy, we’re your plaque-fighting partners. We’ll check you for early signs of gum disease or tooth decay — plus many other potential issues — and treat any problems we find before they become serious. We’ll also help you develop healthy habits that will give you the best chance of keeping your teeth in good shape for your whole life.
If you would like to learn more about keeping your teeth healthy for life, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay — The World’s Oldest & Most Widespread Disease” and “Dentistry & Oral Health For Children.”