Prevention Tips for Children

Online Dental Education Library

Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.

Emergencies
Even though you are careful, you may occasionally damage your appliances. Wires and brackets can become loose or break. Typically, this is not an emergency situation. If the patient is not in discomfort, you can call the office and make an appointment to come in when it is convenient. If the patient is in pain, please call for an immediate emergency appointment.

We want our patients to be informed of problems that may occur and understand how to solve them, at least temporarily, until it is possible to return to our office.

Loose Bracket
If a bracket comes loose from the tooth, call our office so we can determine if an emergency appointment is indicated. If the patient is comfortable and if it will not cause any problems or delay in treatment, additional time can be allowed to reattach the bracket at the next regularly scheduled appointment. If it is causing discomfort, we will schedule an immediate emergency appointment. If the loose bracket is still attached to a wire, leave it in place and apply wax to keep it from moving on the wire if it is bothersome. If the bracket comes completely out, place it in an envelope and bring it to your next appointment.

Broken Archwire
If a main archwire breaks (the one that goes all the way around the outside of your braces), you should leave it in if it is not uncomfortable and seems stable. If it is bothering you, you can do whatever it takes to make it more comfortable until you can visit the office to have the wire replaced. You can try such things as removing the offending piece, clipping an irritating piece with a small wire cutter or nail clipper, tucking the wire under a bracket, etc. Use wax as needed and call our office for an appointment.

Loose Wire
Try to place the wire back in the bracket. Place wax if there is any discomfort and call for an appointment.

Poking Wire
Sometimes a poking wire can be safely turned down so that it no longer causes you discomfort. Try to tuck the wire back in and out of the way with the blunt end of a toothbrush, pencil eraser or some other smooth object. If you are unable to take care of a poking wire, apply wax and call our office for an appointment.

Soreness
Periodic soreness of the teeth or surrounding tissues during treatment is to be expected. If you experience this normal discomfort, it can usually be relieved by rinsing your mouth with a warm salt water solution (one teaspoonful of salt in a cup of warm water). A mild over-the-counter pain reliever (Motrin, Tylenol, etc.) can be taken as directed.

Lost or Broken Retainers
Contact our office as soon as possible to arrange for repair or replacement of the retainer. If the retainer is cracked or has a broken wire but still fits comfortably, you should continue to wear it until you can bring it in for repair or replacement. If, for example, you break or lose your upper retainer, make sure you continue to wear your lower retainer (or vice versa), as this will help reduce the shifting potential of the teeth until you can be seen in our office.

Accidents Involving Teeth
For serious mouth injuries, the patient should initially be seen as soon as possible at the emergency room or by his/her family dentist. Once the initial trauma has been resolved, contact our office for an emergency appointment so we can repair any damage to the appliances and evaluate the affected teeth.

Please Remember
If you are involved with contact sports, we recommend you use a mouthguard. Use only an orthodontic mouthguard (not one you boil and adapt). We will be happy to supply you with one and they are also available wherever mouthguards are sold.

Our office is generally open Monday through Thursday. We can usually get you in to repair a problem quickly. In some instances, we will make you comfortable and then schedule another appointment at a later date if more involved treatment is necessary to remedy the problem. In case of an after-hours emergency, call our office and follow the instructions on the answering machine.

 

Infants

Infants should be seen by our office after the first six months of age, and at least by the child's first birthday. By this time, the baby's first teeth, or primary teeth, are beginning to erupt and it is a critical time to spot any problems before they become big concerns.

Conditions like gum irritation and thumb-sucking could create problems later on. Babies who suck their thumbs may be setting the stage for malformed teeth and bite relationships.

Another problem that can be spotted early is a condition called "baby bottle tooth decay," which is caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.

If left untreated, this can lead to premature decay of your baby's future primary teeth, which can later hamper the proper formation of permanent teeth.

One of the best ways to avoid baby bottle tooth decay is to not allow your baby to nurse on a bottle while going to sleep. Avoid dipping pacifiers in sweet substances such as honey, because this only encourages early decay in the baby's mouth. Encouraging your young child to drink from a cup as early as possible will also help stave off the problems associated with baby bottle tooth decay.

Teething, Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking

Teething is a sign that your child's gums are sore. This is perfectly normal. You can help relieve this by allowing the baby to suck on a teething ring, or gently rubbing your baby's gums with the back of a small spoon, a piece of wet gauze, or even your finger.

For babies under the age of 4, teething rings and pacifiers can be safely used to facilitate the child's oral needs for relieving gum pain and for suckling. After the age of 4, pacifiers are generally discouraged because they may interfere with the development of your child's teeth.

Moreover, thumb-sucking should be strongly discouraged because it can lead to malformed teeth that become crooked and crowded.

Primary and Permanent Teeth

Every child grows 20 primary teeth, usually by the age of 3. These teeth are gradually replaced by the age of 12 or so with a full set of 28 permanent teeth, and later on, four molars called "wisdom teeth."

It is essential that a child's primary teeth are healthy, because their development sets the stage for permanent teeth. If primary teeth become diseased or do not grow in properly, chances are greater that their permanent replacements will suffer the same fate. For example, poorly formed primary teeth that don't erupt properly could crowd out spaces reserved for other teeth. Space maintainers can sometimes be used to correct this condition, if it is spotted early enough.

Brushing

Babies' gums and teeth can be gently cleaned with special infant toothbrushes that fit over your finger. Water is suitable in lieu of toothpaste (because the baby may swallow the toothpaste). Parents are advised to avoid fluoride toothpastes on children under the age of 2.

Primary teeth can be cleansed with child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrushes. Remember to use small portions of toothpaste (a pea-sized portion is suitable), and teach your child to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste when finished.

Fluoride

Fluoride is generally present in most public drinking water systems. If you are unsure about your community's water and its fluoride content, or learn that it has an unacceptable level of fluoride in it, there are fluoride supplements your dentist can prescribe. Your child may not be getting enough fluoride just by using fluoride toothpaste.

Toothaches

Toothaches can be common in young children. Sometimes, toothaches are caused by erupting teeth, but they also could indicate a serious problem.

You can safely relieve a small child's toothache without the aid of medication by rinsing the mouth with a solution of warm water and table salt. If the pain doesn't subside, acetaminophen may be used. If such medications don't help, contact your dentist immediately.

Injuries

You can help your child prevent oral injuries by closely supervising him during play and not allowing the child to put foreign objects in the mouth.

For younger children involved in physical activities and sports, mouth guards are strongly encouraged, and can prevent a whole host of injuries to the teeth, gums, lips and other oral structures.

Mouth guards are generally small plastic appliances that safely fit around your child's teeth. Many mouth guards are soft and pliable when opened, and mold to the child's teeth when first inserted.

If the tooth has been knocked out, try to place the tooth back in its socket while waiting to see our office.  Remember to hold the dislocated tooth by the crown—not the root. If you cannot relocate the tooth, place it in a container of cold milk, saline or the victim's own saliva. Place the tooth in the solution.

First, rinse the mouth of any blood or other debris and place a cold cloth or compress on the cheek near the injury. This will keep down swelling.

For a fractured tooth, it is best to rinse with warm water and again, apply a cold pack or compress. Ibuprofen may be used to help keep down swelling.

If the tooth fracture is minor, the tooth can be sanded or if necessary, restored by the dentist if the pulp is not severely damaged.

If a child's primary tooth has been loosened by an injury or an emerging permanent tooth, try getting the child to gently bite down on an apple or piece of caramel; in some cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gum.

Irritation caused by retainers or braces can sometimes be relieved by placing a tiny piece of cotton or gauze on the tip of the wire or other protruding object. If an injury occurs from a piece of the retainer or braces lodging into a soft tissue, contact our office immediately and avoid dislodging it yourself.

Sealants

Sealants fill in the little ridges on the chewing part of your teeth to protect and seal the tooth from food and plaque. The application is easy to apply and typically last for several years.