our blog

Gum Disease in Children

August 5th, 2020

When it comes to gum disease and your child, it’s a good news/bad news situation. The very good news is that children rarely suffer from advanced gum disease, or periodontitis. The not-so-good news? Early gum disease, called gingivitis, is unfortunately an all-too-common childhood problem.

  • What does gingivitis look like in children?

Childhood gingivitis has the same causes and symptoms as the adult version. Healthy gums are firm and pink. When bacteria and plaque accumulate on the teeth, your child’s gums become irritated and inflamed. Call our Pearland, TX office right away if you notice any of these symptoms of gingivitis: bleeding gums, puffiness, redness, gum tissue receding from the teeth, or bad breath even after brushing.       

  • How to Prevent Gingivitis

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor dental care. Creating a regular dental routine is the best way to prevent gingivitis from ever developing! Brushing and flossing with your child for two minutes twice a day from the very beginning helps make healthy cleaning a lifelong habit. Care should be taken to gently brush teeth at the gum line to make sure plaque doesn’t get a chance to build up there and cause gum irritation. And when your child comes in for regular cleanings, Dr. Pamela Clark can be sure that any plaque that might remain on the teeth is removed.

Two additional notes: as your child approaches adolescence, hormone fluctuations can make gums more sensitive and easily irritated. This is a time to really emphasize careful and gentle brushing and flossing. Also, some medical conditions may make children more pre-disposed to gum problems, so be sure to make us aware of your child’s medical history.

  • Uncommon Gum Diseases

While gingivitis is very preventable with proper dental hygiene, there are some rare gum conditions that can occur around the time of puberty that are quite different from gingivitis. Aggressive Periodontitis can cause severe bone loss around the first molars and incisors, even without any kind of plaque build-up, and Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis leads to inflammation of the gums, heavy plaque, and, eventually, loose teeth. Again, these conditions are rare, but if you have a family history of these diseases, let us know. Checkups and cleanings are a great way to catch any potential gum problems, so be sure to bring your child in for regular visits.

Almost all childhood gingivitis is preventable. With careful brushing and flossing at home, and visiting us regularly for checkups and cleanings, your child can enjoy healthy gums and teeth now and learn habits that will keep those gums and teeth healthy for a lifetime. And that is a good news/great news situation!

Educational and Entertaining Enamel Experiments

July 22nd, 2020

Let’s talk about the science of our teeth for a moment. Our enamel has a very high mineral content, making it extremely strong.  In fact, enamel just happens to be the hardest substance in our bodies.  But, unfortunately, it is not indestructible! Certain foods we eat can actually damage the surface of our teeth. Some simple and entertaining experiments can show children how our teeth can be affected by things we eat and drink, and how we can help protect them.

If you have a science-minded student at home, there are many activities you can do together, using educational websites, common household products and lots and lots of eggs. (Why eggs? Eggshells are a great substitute for teeth in these experiments. Not only are they various shades of white--like our own teeth, they are also calcium-rich—like our own teeth.) You can find any number of experiments using uncooked eggs, hardboiled eggs, whole shells with the contents blown out, or eggshells alone, so you can find just the right activity for whichever egg treatment works best for you.

Examine Enamel Erosion

One of the ways we protect our teeth is with healthy eating. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches in our foods to produce acids. These acids are the substances that break down the minerals in our enamel and leave the enamel weaker. Weaker enamel is more easily attacked by bacteria and acids, which leads to cavities.

With eggs or eggshells and some carefully selected food products, you can see just how acidity affects teeth. Different websites suggest a variety of acidic liquids to dunk your eggs in, such as vinegar, soda, or citrus juices, so it’s easy to find an experiment that works with your pantry. Always use a plain water sample when you submerge eggs or shells to act as a control to measure differences against. How do the egg shells soaked in acidic liquids differ from those in plain water? It’s also fun to add simple sugar water as a test liquid to see what happens. Is it sugar or acid that causes more damage? And why might that be?

The Fluoride Fix

Fluoride is well known as a mineral that protects the structure of our teeth and helps prevent cavities. And there are actually experiments out there to test the protection fluoride provides using your egg stand-ins.

In some experiments, a hardboiled egg is coated with fluoride toothpaste or rinse for a specific amount of time and then dunked into vinegar. An untreated egg also gets a vinegar bath. You are asked to observe what is happening to each egg as it sits in its vinegar bath—are there bubbles on one egg and not the other? What do the bubbles mean? Other experiments require longer exposure to fluoride and then to vinegar—what happens to the shells of the treated and untreated eggs? What could this mean for our teeth?

Staining Studies

Our diet can do more than help create cavities. Enamel is very strong, but it is not stain-proof! Dark colored foods and drinks can make our teeth appear darker or more yellow. (And teeth that have suffered enamel erosion can pick up stains more easily.) How does food affect the brightness of our smiles?

If this question interests you, find experiments that use favorite beverages as a soak for your eggs. Choose liquids with a range of color, such as coffee, soda, and apple juice. Or choose an experiment that uses different varieties of soft drinks. Will foods the same color cause the same amount of discoloration in your egg volunteers? Do you want shorter or longer soaks in each liquid? Do you want to make use of a recycled toothbrush to see if brushing that discolored shell makes a difference? With toothpaste or without?

Even though these activities are designed for older children, they still require adult supervision. You can find detailed instructions for any of these experiments at many science and educational sites online. With some household supplies, plenty of extra cups, and a quantity of eggs, you and your child can demonstrate some of the basic effects our food choices have on the health and appearance of our teeth. It’s a wonderful way to promote healthy eating and brushing habits, scientific curiosity, and shared experiences!

Don’t forget to let Dr. Pamela Clark know how your experiments turned out the next time you visit our Pearland, TX office!

Brushing Tips for Kids

July 15th, 2020

You’re all set for your happy morning and nighttime ritual. You’ve provided your son with his favorite action hero toothbrush and your daughter with her favorite flavored toothpaste. You’ve gotten them into the healthy habit of two minutes of brushing twice each day. You’ve introduced them to flossing. You have favorite brushing songs! Stickers! Gold stars! And, best of all, you’re teaching great brushing techniques.

Kids need the same basic brushing tools and skills as adults. What makes for the best cleaning?

Find the right brush

No matter how cute—or heroic—the brush, it needs to have soft bristles to protect enamel and delicate gum tissue. The head should be a perfect fit for your child’s mouth. And if the handle is easy to grip and hold, you have a winner.

Find the right toothpaste

The bubblegum flavor might appeal to your child, but it’s the fluoride that helps to prevent cavities. Talk to us about the right time to start using fluoride toothpaste and the right amount for your child’s brush.

Teach your child the angles

If your child is too young to brush alone, start geometry lessons early. Holding the brush at a 45-degree angle toward the gums will clean bacteria and plaque from the tooth surface and the gum line. And don’t forget the chewing surfaces and the insides of the teeth. When your child begins brushing on her own, coach her as she learns the best way to clean all the surfaces of her teeth.

Easy does it

Teeth and gums should be massaged, not scrubbed. Brushing too hard can damage not only tender gum tissue, but even your child’s enamel.

Learn to let go

No matter how comfortable and appealing the brush, after three or four months, it’s time for a change. Frayed bristles don’t clean as effectively, and making up for it by brushing harder isn’t the answer (see above). Also, toothbrushes can build up quite a collection of bacteria over time (see below), so a fresh brush is a must!

Everything in its place

A toothbrush should dry thoroughly between uses without touching other brushes. Placing a brush in a plastic container doesn’t let it dry and encourages bacterial growth. And a toothbrush needs its own space—touching toothbrush heads means sharing toothbrush bacteria. The best way to keep toothbrushes as dry and as germ-free as possible is to store them upright, without touching other brushes, in a clean, well-ventilated area.

Rinse and repeat

Your child should rinse his toothbrush before and after using it, and be sure to rinse his mouth as well. That should get rid of any leftover food particles brushing has removed.

Finally, keep up the good work! As you teach your child proper brushing techniques, and make sure she uses them as she grows, you are preparing her for a lifetime of great checkups with Dr. Pamela Clark at our Pearland, TX office. Give yourself a gold star—you’ve earned it!

Taking Care of Your Toothbrush

July 8th, 2020

Did you know your toothbrush could be covered with almost ten million germs? We know … it’s gross! That’s why you should know how to store your toothbrush properly, and when it’s time to replace it.

If you need to brush up on your toothbrush care knowledge, we’ve got you covered so brushing will always leave you feeling squeaky clean.

Keeping a Clean Toothbrush

Your mouth is home to hundreds of types of microorganisms, so it’s normal for some of them to hang onto your toothbrush after you’ve used it. Rinsing your brush thoroughly with water after each use can get rid of leftover toothpaste and food particles that cling to the bristles. Some dentists suggest soaking your toothbrush in mouthwash every now and then can help reduce the amount of bacteria further.

Store your toothbrush in a cool, open environment away from the toilet or trash bin to avoid airborne germs. Closed containers should be avoided because they provide a warm, wet habitat that bacteria love to grow in.

If you have multiple people sharing one sink, an upright holder with different sections will keep everyone’s brushes separated and avoid cross contamination. In addition, we would hope this is a no-brainer, but please don’t share toothbrushes!

Microwaves and dishwashers are not suitable tools for cleaning a toothbrush, because brushes aren’t built to last through this kind of treatment. If you want a really clean toothbrush, your best option is simply to buy a new one.

Replacing Your Toothbrush

The American Dental Association recommends you replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner depending on individual circumstances. Dr. Pamela Clark and our team agree. If you have braces, tend to brush too strongly, or the bristles become frayed, it’s time for a new brush.

Children will also need replacement brushes more frequently than adults. If you or your child has been sick, you should replace the toothbrush immediately to avoid re-exposing yourself to illness.

Worn-out brushes are not only unsanitary, they don’t do a good job cleaning teeth. Bristles that are worn out and dull won’t scrape away plaque and bacteria as well as a fresh toothbrush can.

 

Though the idea of ten million germs can be worrisome, if you take a few small precautions, you may ensure your toothbrush stays in good shape. And the cleaner the toothbrush, the cleaner the smile!