Your child’s first experiences at the dentist can help shape the future of his or her overall oral health. If you’re looking for a caring, compassionate dentist who caters to children, look no further than Summerland Dental Centre. We’re pleased to offer comprehensive children’s dentistry in a warm, comfortable office setting.
A Focus on Education
At Summerland Dental Centre, we believe that a big part of children’s dentistry involves teaching patients how to properly care for their teeth. Many children learn their most important oral hygiene habits by visiting our practice, including:
- How to avoid tooth decay
But Summerland Dental Centre does more than just teach children about proper oral care. Our team of dedicated dental professionals go the extra mile for your child, because we are moms and dads too.
Baby (or Primary) teeth are important as they not only hold space for permanent adult teeth, but they are important to chewing, biting, speech and appearance. Like adults, these are critical factors for a child’s self-esteem and confidence. For this reason it is important to maintain a healthy diet and daily hygiene. Our team will offer sound solutions to starting your child’s hygiene ritual off, as a memorable and fun experience.
Some First Visit Tips
- Take your child for a “preview” or online tour of the office.
- Read books with them about going to the dentist.
- Review with them what the dentist will be doing at the time of the first visit.
- Speak positively about your own dental experiences.
Ready to introduce your child to a lifetime of great oral health habits? Book their first appointment today with your local experts at the Summerland Dental Centre.
Dentistry for Children
Pediatric dentistry primarily focuses on children from birth through adolescence. Some pediatric dentists (pedodontists) opt to specialize in oral care for children with special needs, specifically children with autism, varying levels of intellectual disability, or cerebral palsy.
Child psychology is one of the most important components of pediatric dentistry. Dentists are trained to create a friendly, fun, social atmosphere for visiting children, and always avoid threatening words like “drill,” “needle,” and “injection.” Dental phobias beginning in childhood often continue into adulthood, so it is of paramount importance that children have positive experiences and find their “dental home” as early as possible.
What Does a Dentist Do for Children?
It is the function of Dentists to fulfill many important functions pertaining to the child’s overall oral health and hygiene. They place importance on the proper maintenance and care of deciduous (baby) teeth, which are instrumental in facilitating good chewing habits, proper speech production, and also hold space for permanent teeth.
Other important functions include:
- Education – dentists educate the child using models, computer technology, and child-friendly terminology, thus emphasizing the importance of keeping teeth strong and healthy. In addition, they advise parents on disease prevention, trauma prevention, good eating habits, and other aspects of the home hygiene routine.
- Monitoring growth – By continuously tracking growth and development, dentists are able to anticipate dental issues and quickly intervene before they worsen. Also, working towards earlier corrective treatment preserves the child’s self-esteem and fosters a more positive self-image.
- Prevention – Helping parents and children establish sound eating and oral care habits reduces the chances of later tooth decay. In addition to providing check- ups and dental cleanings, dentists are also able to apply dental sealants and topical fluoride to young teeth, advise parents on thumb-sucking/pacifier and provide good demonstrations of brushing and flossing.
- Intervention – In some cases, dentists may discuss the possibility of early oral treatments with parents. In the case of oral injury, malocclusion (bad bite), or bruxism (grinding), space maintainers may be fitted, a nighttime mouth guard may be recommended, or reconstructive surgery may be scheduled.
If you have questions or concerns about children’s dentistry, please contact our office.
The grinding of teeth (bruxism), is remarkably common in children and adults. For some children, this tooth grinding is limited to daytime hours, but nighttime grinding (during sleep) is most prevalent. Bruxism can lead to a wide range of dental problems, depending on the frequency of the behavior, the intensity of the grinding, and the underlying causes of the grinding.
A wide range of psychological, physiological, and physical factors may lead children to brux. In particular, jaw misalignment (bad bite), stress, and traumatic brain injury are all thought to contribute to bruxism, although grinding can also occur as a side effect of certain medications.
What are some symptoms of bruxism (teeth grinding)?
Generally, parents can usually hear intense grinding – especially when it occurs at nighttime. Subtle daytime jaw clenching and grinding, however, can be difficult to pinpoint. Oftentimes, general symptoms provide clues as to whether or not the child is bruxing, including:
- Frequent complaints of headache.
- Injured teeth and gums.
- Loud grinding or clicking sounds.
- Rhythmic tightening or clenching of the jaw muscles.
- Unusual complaints about painful jaw muscles – especially in the morning.
- Unusual tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
How can bruxism damage my child’s teeth?
Bruxism is characterized by the grinding of the upper jaw against the lower jaw. In some cases, where there is vigorous grinding, the child may experience moderate to severe jaw discomfort, headaches, and ear pain. Even if the child is completely unaware of nighttime bruxing (and parents are unable to hear it), the condition of the teeth provides your dentist with important clues.
First, chronic grinders usually show an excessive wear pattern on the teeth. If jaw misalignment is the cause, tooth enamel may be worn down in specific areas. In addition, children who brux are more susceptible to chipped teeth, facial pain, gum injury, and temperature sensitivity. In extreme cases, frequent, harsh grinding can lead to the early onset of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
What causes bruxism?
Bruxism can be caused by several different factors. Most commonly, “bad bite” or jaw misalignment promotes grinding. Dentists also notice that children tend to brux more frequently in response to life stressors. If the child is going through a particularly stressful exam period or is relocating to a new school for example, nighttime bruxing may either begin or intensify.
Children with certain developmental disorders and brain injuries may be at particular risk for grinding. In such cases, your dentist may suggest botulism injections to calm the facial muscles or provide a protective nighttime mouthpiece. If the onset of bruxing is sudden, current medications need to be evaluated. Though bruxing is a rare side effect of specific medications, the medication itself may need to be switched for an alternate brand.
How is bruxism treated?
Bruxing spontaneously ceases by the age of thirteen in the majority of children. In the meantime, however, your dentist will continually monitor its effect on the child’s teeth and may provide an interventional strategy. In general, the cause of the grinding dictates the treatment approach. If perhaps the child’s teeth are badly misaligned, your dentist may take steps to correct this. Some of the available options include: altering the biting surface of teeth with crowns and beginning occlusal treatment.
If bruxing seems to be exacerbated by stress, your dentist may recommend relaxation classes, professional therapy, or special exercises. The child’s pediatrician may also provide muscle relaxants to alleviate jaw clenching and reduce jaw spasms.
In cases where young teeth are sustaining significant damage, your dentist may suggest a specialized nighttime dental appliance such as a nighttime mouth guard. Mouth guards stop tooth surfaces from grinding against each other and look similar to a mouthpiece a person might wear during sports. Bite splints or bite plates fulfill the same function and are almost universally successful in preventing grinding damage.
If you have questions or concerns about bruxism or grinding teeth, please contact our office.
Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth
The eruption of primary teeth (also known as deciduous or baby teeth) follows a similar developmental timeline for most children. A full set of primary teeth (baby teeth) begins to grow beneath the gums during the fourth month of pregnancy. For this reason, a nourishing prenatal diet is of paramount importance to the infant’s teeth, gums, and bones.
In most of the cases, the first primary tooth breaks through the gums between the ages of six months and one year. By the age of three years old most children have a “full” set of twenty primary teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) encourages parents to make a “well-baby” appointment with a dentist approximately six months after the first tooth emerges. Dentists communicate with parents and children about prevention strategies, emphasizing the importance of a sound, “no tears” daily home care plan.
Although primary teeth are deciduous, they facilitate speech production, proper jaw development, good chewing habits, and the proper spacing and alignment of adult teeth. Caring properly for primary teeth helps defend against painful tooth decay, premature tooth loss, malnutrition, and childhood periodontal disease.
In what order do primary teeth (baby teeth) emerge?
As a general rule-of-thumb, the first teeth to emerge are the central incisors (very front teeth) on the lower and upper jaws (6-12 months). These (and any other primary teeth) can be cleaned gently with a soft, clean cloth to reduce the risk of bacterial infection. The central incisors are the first teeth to be lost, usually between 6 and 7 years of age.
Next, the lateral incisors (immediately adjacent to the central incisors) emerge on the upper and lower jaws (9-16 months). These teeth are lost next, usually between 7 and 8 years of age. First molars, the large flat teeth towards the rear of the mouth, then emerge on the upper and lower jaws (13-19 months). The eruption of molars can be painful. Clean fingers, cool gauzes, and teething rings are all useful in soothing discomfort and soreness. First molars are generally lost between 9 and 11 years of age.
Canine (cuspid) teeth then tend to emerge on the upper and lower jaws (16-23 months). Canine teeth can be found next to the lateral incisors and are lost during preadolescence (10-12 years old). Finally, second molars complete the primary set on the lower and upper jaw (23-33 months). Second molars can be found at the very back of the mouth and are lost between the ages of 10 and 12 years old.
What else is known about primary teeth?
There is enough evidence that each child is unique, baby girls generally have a head start on baby boys when it comes to primary tooth eruption. Lower teeth usually erupt before opposing upper teeth in both sexes. Usually, teeth erupt in pairs – meaning that there may be months with no new activity and months where two or more teeth emerge at once. Due to smaller jaw size, primary teeth are smaller than permanent teeth and appear to have a whiter tone. Finally, an interesting mixture of primary and permanent teeth is the norm for most school-age children.
If you have questions or concerns about primary teeth, please contact our office.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) advises parents to make biannual dental appointments for children, beginning approximately six months after the first tooth emerges.
These two important yearly visits allow the pediatric dentist to monitor new developments in the child’s mouth, evaluate changes in the condition of teeth and gums, and continue to advise parents on good oral care strategies. The dentist may schedule additional visits for children who are particularly susceptible to tooth decay or who show early signs of orthodontic problems.
What is the purpose of a dental checkup?
First, the dentist aims to provide a “good dental home” for the child. If a dental emergency does arise, parents can take the child for treatment at a familiar, comfortable location.
Second, the dentist keeps meticulous records of the child’s ongoing dental health and jaw development. In general, painful dental conditions do not arise overnight. If the dentist understands the child’s dental health history, it becomes easier to anticipate future issues and intervene before they arise.
Third, the dentist is able to educate parents and children during the visit. Sometimes the dentist wants to introduce one or several factors to enhance tooth health – for example, sealants, fluoride supplements, or xylitol. Other times, the dentist asks parents to change the child’s dietary or oral behavior – for example, reducing sugar in the child’s diet, removing an intraoral piercing, or even transitioning the child from sippy cups to adult-sized drinking glasses.
Finally, dental X-rays are often the only way to identify tiny cavities in primary (baby) teeth. Though the child may not be feeling any pain, left unchecked, these tiny cavities can rapidly turn into large cavities, tooth decay, and eventually, childhood periodontal disease. Dental X-rays are only used when the dentist suspects cavities or orthodontic irregularities.
Are checkups necessary if my child has healthy teeth?
The condition of a child’s teeth can change fairly rapidly. Even if the child’s teeth were evaluated as healthy just six months prior, changes in diet or oral habits (for example, thumb sucking) can quickly render them vulnerable to decay or misalignment.
The dentist provides thorough dental cleanings during each visit in addition to routine visual examinations. These cleanings eradicate the plaque and debris that can build up between teeth and in other hard to reach places. Though a good homecare routine is especially important, these professional cleanings provide an additional tool to keep smiles healthy.
The dentist is also able to monitor the child’s fluoride levels during routine visits. Oftentimes, a topical fluoride gel or varnish is applied to teeth after the cleaning. Topical fluoride remineralizes the teeth and staunches mineral loss, protecting tooth enamel from oral acid attacks. Some children are also given take-home fluoride supplements (especially those residing in areas where fluoride is not routinely added to the community water supply).
Finally, the dentist may apply dental sealants to the child’s back teeth (molars). This impenetrable liquid plastic substance is brushed onto the molars to seal out harmful debris, bacteria, and acid.
If you have questions or concerns about when to schedule your child’s dental checkups please contact our office.
Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking
Sucking of thumbs and pacifiers is a happy, everyday part of life for most infants. Since sucking is a natural, instinctual baby habit, infants derive a sense of comfort, relaxation, and security from using a thumb or pacifier as a sucking aid.
A research of a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), shows that the vast majority of children will cease using a pacifier before the age of four years old. Thumb sucking can be a harder habit to break and tends to persist for longer without intervention. Children who continue to suck thumbs or pacifiers after the age of five (and particularly those who continue after permanent teeth begin to emerge) are at high-risk for developing dental complications.
How can thumb sucking and pacifier use damage children’s teeth?
Pacifier and thumb sucking damage can be quite insidious. Both can be difficult to assess with the naked eye, and both tend to occur over a prolonged period of time. Below is an overview of some of the risks associated with prolonged thumb sucking and pacifier use:
Jaw misalignment – Pacifiers come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, most of which are completely unnatural for the mouth to hold. Over time, pacifiers and thumbs can guide the developing jaws out of correct alignment.
Tooth decay – Many parents attempt to soothe infants by dipping pacifiers in honey, or some other sugary substance. Oral bacteria feed on sugar and emit harmful acids. The acids attack tooth enamel and can lead to pediatric tooth decay and childhood caries.
Roof narrowing – The structures in the mouth are extremely pliable during childhood. Prolonged, repeated exposure to thumb and pacifier sucking actually cause the roof of the mouth to narrow (as if molding around the sucking device). This can cause later problems with developing teeth.
Slanting teeth – Growing teeth can be caused to slant or protrude by thumb and pacifier sucking, leading to poor esthetic results. In addition, thumb sucking and pacifier use in later childhood increases the need for extensive orthodontic treatments.
Mouth sores – Passive sucking is much less harmful than aggressive sucking. Aggressive sucking (popping sounds when the child sucks) may cause sores or ulcers to develop.
If you do intend to purchase a pacifier:
- Buy a one-piece pacifier to reduce the risk of choking.
- Buy an “orthodontically correct” model.
- Do not dip it in honey or any other sugary liquid.
- Rinse with water (as opposed to cleansing with your mouth) to prevent bacterial transmissions.
How can I encourage my child to stop thumb or pacifier sucking?
In most cases, children naturally relinquish the pacifier or thumb over time. As children grow, they develop new ways to self-soothe, relax, and entertain themselves. When thumb sucking or pacifier use persists past the age of five, a gentle intervention may be required.
Here are some helpful suggestions to help encourage the child to cease thumb sucking or pacifier use:
- Ask the dentist to speak with the child about stopping. Often, the message is heard more clearly when delivered by a health professional.
- Buy an ADA recommended specialized dental appliance to make it difficult for the child to engage in sucking behaviors.
- Implement a reward system (not a punishment), whereby the child can earn tokens or points towards a desirable reward for not thumb sucking or using a pacifier.
- Wrap thumbs in soft cloths or mittens at nighttime.
If the above suggestions do not seem to be working, your dentist can provide more guidance. Remember: the breaking of a habit takes time, patience, and plenty of encouragement!
In contrast to general anesthesia (which renders the child unconscious), dental sedation is only intended to reduce the child’s anxiety and discomfort during dental visits. In some cases, the child may become drowsy or less active while sedated, but this will quickly desist after the procedure is completed.
When is sedation used?
Sedation is used in several circumstances. Firstly, very young children are often unable to keep still long enough for the pediatric dentist to perform high-precision procedures safely. Sedation makes the visit less stressful for both children and adults and vastly reduces the risk of injury. Secondly, some children struggle to manage anxiety during dental appointments. Sedation helps them to relax, cope, and feel happier about treatment. Thirdly, sedation is particularly useful for children with special needs. It prevents spontaneous movement and guides cooperative behavior.
What are the most common types of sedation?
Most dentists have several sedation options available, and each one comes with its own particular benefits. The dentist will assess the medical history of the child, the expected duration of the procedure, and the child’s comfort level before recommending a method of sedation.
Conscious sedation allows children to continually communicate, follow instructions, and cooperate during the entire procedure. The major methods of conscious sedation are described below:
Laughing Gas – The dentist may recommend laughing gas for children who exhibit particular signs of nervousness or anxiety. Laughing gas is delivered via a mask, which is placed over the child’s nose. Laughing gas is always combined with oxygen – meaning that the child can comfortably breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Laughing gas relaxes children extremely quickly, and can produce happy euphoric behavior. It is also quick acting, painless to deliver, and wears off within a matter of minutes. Before removing the mask completely, the pediatric dentist delivers regular oxygen for several minutes, to ensure the nitrous oxide is eliminated from the child’s body. On rare occasions, nitrous oxide may cause nausea. For this reason, most dentists suggest minimal food intake prior to the appointment.
Oral sedation – Children who are uncooperative, particularly anxious, or unable to control their muscles for prolonged periods, may be offered an oral sedative. Oral sedatives come in many different forms (usually tablets, pills, and liquids), and may make the child feel drowsy. If oral sedatives are to be used, the pediatric dentist may require parents to prepare the child before the appointment. Some common preparatory measures may include: limiting food and fluid intake prior to the appointment, having the child wear comfortable clothing to the appointment, and preparing to stay with the child for several hours after the appointment. Oral sedatives rarely produce serious side effects; nausea is among the most common.
Other forms of conscious sedation – Other less common ways to administer sedatives include intravenous (IV sedation), the use of suppositories, and even the use of a nasal spray. In most cases, the method of delivery may change, but the chemical nature of the sedative remains the same.
What about general anesthetic?
General anesthetic (which puts the child in a deep sleep), is rarely used in dental work unless:
- A procedure cannot otherwise be performed safely.
- The child has a condition which limits cooperation or the ability to follow instructions.
- The child needs a lengthy treatment.
- The child needs more complex dental treatment or oral surgery.
- General anesthetic requires more intensive preparation before the treatment and a longer period of recovery after the treatment. Conscious sedation is usually favored wherever possible.
If you have questions or concerns about sedation techniques, please contact our practice.
Why Are Primary Teeth Important?
Primary teeth, also known as “baby teeth” or “deciduous teeth,” begin to develop beneath the gums during the second trimester of pregnancy. Teeth begin to emerge above the gums approximately six months to one year after birth. Typically, preschool children have a complete set of 20 baby teeth – including four molars on each arch.
One of the most common misconceptions about primary teeth is that they are irrelevant to the child’s future oral health. However, their importance is emphasized by the American Dental Association (ADA), which urges parents to schedule a “baby checkup” with a pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth emerges.
What are the functions of primary teeth?
Primary teeth can be painful to acquire. To soothe tender gums, biting on chewing rings, wet gauze pads, and clean fingers can be helpful. Though most three-year-old children have a complete set of primary teeth, eruption happens gradually – usually starting at the front of the mouth. The major functions are described below:
Speech production and development – Learning to speak clearly is crucial for cognitive, social, and emotional development. The proper positioning of primary teeth facilitates correct syllable pronunciation and prevents the tongue from straying during speech formation.
Eating and nutrition – Children with malformed or severely decayed primary teeth are more likely to experience dietary deficiencies, malnourishment, and to be underweight. Proper chewing motions are acquired over time and with extensive practice. Healthy primary teeth promote good chewing habits and facilitate nutritious eating.
Self-confidence – Even very young children can be quick to point out ugly teeth and crooked smiles. Taking good care of primary teeth can make social interactions more pleasant, reduce the risk of bad breath, and promote confident smiles and positive social interactions.
Straighter smiles – One of the major functions of primary teeth is to hold an appropriate amount of space for developing adult teeth. In addition, these spacers facilitate the proper alignment of adult teeth and also promote jaw development. Left untreated, missing primary teeth cause the remaining teeth to “shift” and fill spaces improperly. For this reason, pediatric dentists often recommend space-maintaining devices.
Excellent oral health – Badly decayed primary teeth can promote the onset of childhood periodontal disease. As a result of this condition, oral bacteria invade and erode gums, ligaments, and eventually bone. If left untreated, primary teeth can drop out completely – causing health and spacing problems for emerging permanent teeth. To avoid periodontal disease, children should practice an adult-guided oral care routine each day, and infant gums should be rubbed gently with a clean, damp cloth after meals.
If you have questions or concerns about primary teeth, please contact our office.