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Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child’s teeth?

August 26th, 2015

Depending on how long the thumb sucking or constant pacifier use continues, and how aggressively the child sucks a thumb or the pacifier, it can indeed be an oral health issue. Generally speaking, most children outgrow these behaviors or are able to be weaned off them successfully sometime between ages two and four. When children wean off the behaviors in this age range, long-term damage is unlikely.

Why Kids Suck Their Thumb or Pacifier

Both of these habits are actually a form of self soothing that your child likely uses when he or she is very upset, or feeling stressed, confused, frustrated, or unable to properly express the emotions. If your son or daughters is a regular thumb sucker, or the child wants to use the pacifier almost constantly, it is best to try to taper off these habits at a young age.

If your child continues to suck a thumb or request a pacifier consistently after leaving toddler-hood, this could be a source of concern, and it should be addressed with Dr. Pamela Clark and our staff. We will be able to evaluate your child's mouth to look for any signs of damage such as palate changes or teeth shifting.

Say Goodbye to Old Habits

In the event that your child is quite reluctant to give up a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit, there are a few things you can do to discourage these behaviors.

  • When you notice that your child is not using a pacifier or sucking a thumb, offer effusive praise. This type of positive reinforcement can be much more effective than scolding the child.
  • Consider instituting a reward system for giving up the habit. If the child goes a certain amount of time without this behavior, award him or her for being such a “big kid.”
  • Employ the help of older siblings or relatives that your child admires. When a child’s role model says that he or she stopped sucking thumbs at a certain age, your child is likely to try to emulate that.

Tooth Worms? The History of Cavities and Tooth Fillings

August 19th, 2015

Scientists have discovered tooth decay in specimens that are more than 15,000 years old. The ancients once thought that cavities were caused by something called “tooth worms” … Eew! They didn’t exist, of course, but how else could humans explain the holes that cavities make in teeth?

The appearance of cavities on a widespread basis is often traced to the rise of farming. The new diet filled with grains and carbs made our mouths a haven for cavity-causing bacteria. As we added more sugar to our diets, our teeth got worse.

The “tooth worm” idea didn’t completely disappear until the 1700s when scientists finally began to understand the process of dental caries. Once that part of the puzzle was solved, they began focusing on filling existing cavities and preventing new ones.

Dental Fillings Come of Age

Many different materials, including beeswax, cork, aluminum, tin, and even asbestos, have been used to fill the holes caused by dental decay. Sometime in the mid-1800s, however, dentists began to use metal fillings such as gold, platinum, silver and lead amalgams.

The amalgam we use today is mixed from liquid mercury, silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals, but some patients still like the look of a gold filling. Newer options include composite-resin fillings, which are made from a tooth-colored mixture of plastic resin and finely ground glass-like or quartz particles that form a durable and discreet filling. Porcelain or ceramic fillings are natural in color, but more resistant to staining.

Dr. Pamela Clark can help decide which filling is best for you, based on cost as well as your dental and lifestyle needs. You may not have “tooth worms,” but if you have cavities, contact our Pearland, TX office so we can take the proper action to protect the health of your mouth.

Preventing Tooth Decay in Children

August 12th, 2015

Childhood tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting nearly one in three children between the ages of two and five. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports that tooth decay can appear in children as young as six months old. As a parent, it is possible to spare your child from early childhood tooth decay, and potentially prevent a lifetime of oral health problems in one fell swoop.

Birth to age two

Good oral health begins before your child’s teeth ever erupt from the gums. During the first few months of life, you should be wiping your child’s gums with a damp cloth after eating. As soon as teeth appear, Dr. Pamela Clark and our team at Pearland Pediatric Dentistry recommend you start brushing them with a toddler toothbrush and water, and call our Pearland, TX office to schedule your child’s first visit. Never allow your child to go to bed with a bottle, and try to limit beverages other than water only to meal times. Children who walk around or go to sleep with bottles or sippy cups full of juice or milk are exposed to more sugars and are more likely to develop tooth decay.

Ages two to six

All of your child’s primary teeth should erupt by age three. Brush your toddler’s teeth at least twice daily with a toddler toothpaste and toothbrush. As your child gets older and learns not to swallow toothpaste, you may begin to use oral care products specially designed for preschoolers and elementary-age children. Be sure to maintain regular dental appointments and cleanings as recommended by your child’s dentist, and encourage your son or daughter to begin drinking from a regular cup. This is also the time to teach your child the importance of healthy eating habits, which includes limiting sweets and sugary desserts to mealtime.

By first grade, your child will begin to lose primary teeth. This is the time to start talking with Dr. Pamela Clark about dental sealants, which can prevent tooth decay from forming on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Sealants are painless, easy to apply, and undetectable to other people.

Tips

Fluoride is an important ingredient for healthy teeth. Check to make sure the water your child drinks is enriched with fluoride. Also, brush your child’s teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, and talk to our office about whether fluoride treatments could be right for your family. For more information about preventing your child’s tooth decay, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Pamela Clark, please give us a call at our convenient Pearland, TX office!

Easing the Teething Blues

August 5th, 2015

Every moment of your baby’s first year of life is precious, since every day your child grows a little, develops new skills, and discovers new things. Most of it is wonderful, but parents don’t like to see their babies in pain. That’s why teething can be such a hard experience. However, you can take steps to make it easier for you and your baby.

What to Expect

Most babies begin teething around the age of six months, when the lower central incisors start to appear. Shortly after this time, the upper central incisors poke through, followed by the lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars. Unfortunately, you’ll probably know that your baby is teething not because you see these teeth come in, but because your baby will be in discomfort. These are some of the signs to watch for when you’re expecting your baby to begin teething.

  • Tender and sore gums
  • More drooling than before
  • Being crankier than usual
  • Chewing on hard objects

What You Can Do

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to make your child more comfortable. These are some approaches that Dr. Pamela Clark and our team recommend:

  • Take a clean moistened wash cloth or use your own washed finger to rub your baby’s gums and provide relief due to the pressure.
  • Provide a firm rubber teething ring for your baby to use, but don't use the type that is filled with liquid.
  • Use a bottle. A bottle filled with cold water can be soothing. Don’t give your baby formula, milk, or juice constantly because the sugar can cause tooth decay.
  • Medications can help for extreme crankiness. Infant Tylenol is an example, but it’s best to check with your pediatrician before giving your baby medications.

You might also want to take special care to dry the drool. It’s not just to keep yourself and your baby dry. Keeping your baby’s skin dry can help prevent irritation.

When to Visit Us

Once your child’s first tooth comes in, it’s time to start thinking your baby’s first trip to our Pearland, TX office. The American Dental Association suggests that you bring your child to the dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, or at about one year of age. Dr. Pamela Clark can do a quick check for tooth decay, and we’ll make sure you know how to take care of your child’s new teeth.