Working with Your Child’s Pediatrician for Better Dental Health

There are a few organizations that set forth guidelines for dentists. The most well-known one is probably the American Dental Association. But there’s also the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both of these organizations provide education, training, and advocacy for pediatricians, dentists, other health professionals, and families.

brush2The most important function of these organizations is improving children’s oral health and strategies.

Pediatricians, family physicians, and other primary care clinicians are well positioned to improve the oral health of children. They see infants and young children frequently in the early years of life when prevention is critical and lifelong habits are being established. Family medicine is America’s largest primary medical care specialty, with 105,000 family physicians providing care for over one third of America’s children particularly in rural and underserved areas. General pediatricians, numbering 45,000, care for a broad cross-section of children. By acquiring the skills to conduct oral exams, apply preventive strategies, counsel caregivers, and appropriately refer patients to dentists, primary care clinicians can help eliminate oral health disparities.

West Maple Dental Specialists follows the guidelines recommended by the ADA and AAP so that we can make a difference by improving communication and collaboration between ourselves and our patients. We work with many area pediatricians and other health professionals to create a strong oral health team!

  • Early childhood caries (cavities) is the number 1 chronic disease affecting young children.
  • Early childhood caries is 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever.
  • Tooth pain keeps many children home from school or distracted from learning.
  • Children are recommended to have their first dental visit by age 1.

Even Baby Steps will Protect Your Infant’s Teeth

brushing-teeth-787630_1920Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease.

It’s best to start dental care when your child is an infant. Most parents are aware of common childhood illnesses like coughs, colds, and ear infections. However, tooth decay can affect a child’s overall health and is completely preventable! The health of an infant’s baby teeth is so important when it comes to their permanent teeth’s healthy growth.

Infant Dental Care

As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, he or she is at risk for tooth decay. Protecting their dental health starts even earlier than you may think – before that first tooth even emerges! One preventative step you can take is to avoid putting your baby to bed with formula or fruit juice. Use water instead. And after each feeding, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean (damp) washcloth or gauze pad.

When that first tooth appears, help your child get into the habit of teeth brushing. Use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day. Remember to use a small amount of fluoride-free toothpaste or just water. Floss your infant’s baby teeth. When two baby teeth erupt side by side, gently floss them at least once a day. And lastly, start thinking about the best time to wean your infant from the bottle. Most pediatricians and dentists recommend weaning your child from the bottle by the age of 1.

Baby’s Dental Cavities

Since baby teeth are going to fall out eventually, there’s no need to spend the time or money on cavity fillings, right? Unfortunately, this is a common mistake. Decayed baby teeth can cause infections that could damage the underlying permanent teeth. Plus, an untreated cavity can eventually lead to the need for a root canal or tooth extraction. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. There may not be enough room left when it’s time for the permanent teeth to come in, with the result being crowded or crooked teeth. Temporary doesn’t mean unimportant.

Thumb Sucking may have a Small Benefit for Kids

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows children who bite their nails and suck their thumbs are about one-third less likely to develop certain allergies.

640px-Self_soothingResearchers say the findings may be another example of what’s called the hygiene hypothesis, the idea that being overly clean and avoiding exposure to the microbes in the environment may increase a child’s risk of allergies.

For the study, researchers measured the thumb-sucking and nail-biting habits of over 1,000 children in New Zealand at ages 5, 7, 9 and 11. Skin-prick allergy tests were then performed on the subjects when they were 13 and 32 years old.

An analysis showed that of all the children, 31 percent were frequent thumb suckers or nail biters.

When they were tested at age 13, the number of children showing sensitivities toward allergens was lower among those who had sucked their thumbs or bitten their nails — about 38 percent — compared with those who did not, at 49 percent.

The association remained present at age 32, despite other factors that could have influenced allergic sensitivities, including the person’s sex, parental history of allergies, pet ownership, breast-feeding, and parental smoking.

However, the findings don’t necessarily mean parents should start telling their kids to bite their nails or suck their thumb. The American Dental Association advises that while thumb- or finger-sucking is a natural reflex in young children, intense sucking can cause problems with a child’s tooth alignment.

The team at West Maple Dental Specialists works hard with our patients to break thumb-sucking and pacifier habits to benefit children’s overall oral health.

Sports Drinks aren’t a Healthy Alternative

New research has found that 89% of school children are consuming sports drinks. Of those, 68% are drinking them regularly (between once and seven times per week).

sports-drinksThe Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) UK says that regular consumption of sports drinks by children – for social reasons or hydration – could have a detrimental effect on their teeth and overall health.

The survey was conducted by Cardiff University School of Dentistry, and published in the British Dental Journal. It showed that a high proportion (68%) of 12-14-year-olds are regularly consuming high sugar, sports drinks unnecessarily.

The survey looked at 160 children in four schools across South Wales and found that children are attracted to sports drinks because of their sweet taste, low price and availability. The research highlights the fact that parents and children are not aware that sports drinks are not intended for consumption by children.

Water and milk are sufficient enough to hydrate children and adults before during and after exercise. There is no evidence of beneficial effects of sports drinks in non-elite athletes or children. However, there is evidence that an increasing consumption of sugar sweetened drinks increases cardiometabolic risks and contributes to tooth decay.

Half of the children surveyed claimed to drink them socially and most (80%) purchased sports drinks in local shops, while 90% claimed that taste was a factor and only 18% said they drink them because of the perceived performance enhancing effect.

The FSEM is calling for tighter regulation around the price, availability and marketing of sports drinks to children, especially surrounding the school area, to safeguard general and dental health.

Dr Paul D Jackson, president of the FSEM UK comments: “The proportion of children in this study who consume high carbohydrate drinks, which are designed for sport, in a recreational non-sporting context, is of concern.

“Sports drinks are intended for athletes taking part in endurance and intense sporting events, they are also connected with tooth decay in athletes and should be used following the advice of dental and healthcare teams dedicated to looking after athletes. Water or milk is sufficient enough to hydrate active children, high sugar sports drinks are unnecessary for children and most adults.”

Maria Morgan, senior lecturer in dental public health says: “The purpose of sports drinks is being misunderstood and this study clearly shows evidence of high school age children being attracted to these high sugar and low pH level drinks, leading to an increased risk of dental cavities, enamel erosion and obesity.

“Dental and health professionals should be aware of the popularity of sports drinks with children when giving health education or advice or designing health promotion initiatives.”

Russ Ladwa, chair of the British Dental Association’s Health and Science Committee says: “The rise of sports drinks as just another soft drink option among children is a real cause for concern, and both parents and government must take note. They are laden with acids and sugars, and could be behind the decay problems we’re now seeing among top footballers.

“Sports drinks are rarely a healthy choice, and marketing them to the general population, and young people in particular, is grossly irresponsible. Elite athletes might have reason to use them, but for almost everyone else they represent a real risk to both their oral and their general health.”