Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that is always forming on teeth. When combined with sugar from food and drinks, these bacteria produce acids that attack tooth enamel. Repeated acid attacks can break down enamel and ultimately result in tooth decay. Frequent snacks in between meals expose teeth to repeated acid attacks. Frequent sips of sugary beverages (including juices, sodas and sports drinks) also cause acid attacks. Limiting sweets, sugary drinks, and acidic foods and beverages will reduce the breakdown of tooth enamel.
Keep That Smile Clean
Brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day are important for keeping teeth and gums healthy.
- Choose a child-size toothbrush with soft bristles. Replace it every three to four months or when it becomes worn. Also replace it if your child has been sick.
- For children under three years old, use no more than a smear or grain of rice sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- For children three to six years of age, use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Make sure your child does not swallow the toothpaste.
- As children grow up and become more skillful, they’ll be able to brush their own teeth, but may require daily reminders!
Fluoride: Nature’s Cavity Fighter
Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens teeth and protects them from decay. It occurs naturally in some drinking water. If you live in an area without optimal levels of fluoride in the community drinking water, your dentist or physician may prescribe fluoride supplements. In areas that have proper amounts of fluoride in the drinking water, children should not take fluoride supplements. Fluoride is also found in many types of toothpastes, mouth rinses and treatments applied in the dental office.
Protect Teeth with Sealants
What is a sealant? A sealant is a plastic material (resin) applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth. The resin flows into the pits and grooves in the teeth. Once they are covered, food and plaque cannot get in. The sealant forms a barrier against acid attacks.
How are sealants applied? The teeth are cleaned and the chewing surfaces are prepared to help the sealant stick to the teeth. The sealant is painted onto the chewing surface where it bonds to the tooth and hardens. A special light is used to help the sealant harden. It usually takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.
How long do sealants last? Sealants may last several years before they need to be reapplied. As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the sealants and reapply them if needed.
Floss Every Day
Flossing is important to remove plaque from between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Floss your child’s teeth until they are old enough to do it on their own. Then show your child how to use floss or another “between-the-teeth” cleaner. Your child’s dentist or hygienist can teach proper brushing and flossing. Look for dental products that display the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which means they meet the ADA standards for safety and effectiveness.
Why Regular Dental Visits Are Important
Regular dental check-ups and dental care-such as cleanings, fluoride treatments, and sealants are essential for a healthy mouth. Plan your child’s first dental visit within six months after their first tooth appears, but no later than their first birthday. Consider it a “well baby checkup” for your child’s teeth.
At the dental visit, your dental team will:
1) Check on oral hygiene, injuries, cavities, or other problems.
2) Find out your child’s risk of getting tooth decay.
3) Assess how the teeth are developing.
4) Let you know if your child may later need treatment for crooked teeth or a “bad bite.”
5) Provide advice to help you take care of your child’s oral health.
Prevent Sports-Related Dental Injuries
Sports-related dental injuries can be reduced by wearing a mouth guard. Mouth guards are available at sporting goods stores or can be custom-made by your dentist to fit your child’s mouth. Ask your dentist which type is best for your child, especially if he or she wears braces.
There are so many dental products. How do I choose?
- Remember to Floss Daily. If you haven’t been flossing, you may experience sore or bleeding gums for the first five or so days after you begin flossing. This should stop once the plaque is broken up and the bacteria are removed. If bleeding does not stop, see your dentist. If you have trouble handling floss, you may wish to try a floss holder or another type of interdental cleaning aid. Interdental cleaners include narrow brushes, picks, or sticks used to remove plaque from between teeth. Your dentist or hygienist can tell you how to use these special cleaners.
- Choose Products With the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. The ADA Seal on a product is your assurance that it has met ADA standards for safety and effectiveness. Look for the ADA Seal on fluoride toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, interdental cleaners, oral irrigators and mouth rinse.
- Look For a Toothpaste With Fluoride. Fluoride helps keep tooth enamel strong and can aid in repairing the early stages of decay. If you have sensitive teeth, your dentist may suggest using a special toothpaste.
- Select a Toothbrush That Feels Comfortable in Your Hand and in Your Mouth, and Use It Twice a Day. Manual or powered – can remove plaque above the gumline and reduce gingivitis. For children, choose a child-sized toothbrush.
- Replace Your Toothbrush Every Three or Four Months, or Sooner If the Bristles Become Frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t clean your teeth properly. Children’s toothbrushes often need replacing more frequently. If you have hand, arm, or shoulder problems that limit movement, you may find a powered toothbrush easier to use.
- Oral Irrigating Devices Use a Stream of Water to Remove Food Particles Around the Teeth. They can be helpful for people who wear braces or dentures. However, an oral irrigator is meant to enhance, not replace, regular brushing and flossing.
- Check Mouthwash Labels Closely. Some Mouth Rinses Just Cover Up Odors; Others Actually Kill Germs and Reduce Plaque. Some mouth rinses have fluoride. If you are constantly using a breath freshener for bad breath, see your dentist. In some cases, bad breath may be a sign of poor oral health.
- Ask Your Dentist for Product Tips. Every person is unique and thus every person has their own dental needs. Ask your dental team for tips on what products or techniques may be right for you.
Signs and symptoms
A TMD is a condition, not a specific disease. Temporomandibular disorders can have many different signs and symptoms, from mild to severe. Some patients may have symptoms but are still able to function fully. Specific symptoms may include:
- pain in or around the ear
- tender jaw muscles
- clicking or popping noises in the jaw
- difficulty opening or closing the mouth
- pain when yawning or chewing
- (TMJ) jaw joints that feel as if they are “locked,” “stuck” or they “go out”
What causes TMD?
Several conditions may be linked with TMD. This often makes it difficult to pinpoint the cause of a particular case of TMD. Related conditions may include:
- jaw or head injuries
- diseases that affect the muscles or joints, such as arthritis
- tooth grinding
To determine how best to treat your condition, a complete evaluation is recommended. Your dentist may check the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving. Your complete medical history may be reviewed, so it is important to keep your dental office record up-to-date. Your dentist may take X-rays and may make a model of your teeth to see how your bite fits together. Your dentist may also request specialized X-rays of the TMJ.
How the jaw joints and muscles work
The joints and muscles on each side of your jaw help open and close the mouth. These joints move in many different directions. They allow you to chew, talk, and swallow. The two temporomandibular joints are among the most complex joints in the body. They work together in a delicate balance with muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and your jaw bones. When a problem prevents these parts from working together properly, pain may result but not always.
For some patients, the disorders may disappear by themselves; for others, they may come and go, or may worsen over time.
TMD disorders are often managed, rather than cured.
Your general dentist may recommend treatment, or they may refer you to a physician or dental specialist. There are several ways TMD may be managed. The success of the treatment often depends upon you and your dentist working together to find what works to relieve your symptoms. Treatment may involve a series of steps. The step-by-step plan allows you to try simple treatment before moving on to more involved treatment. Experts generally recommend a “less is often best” approach to treating TMJ disorders.
The following self-care practices may be recommended:
- eating softer foods or avoiding foods that cause symptoms
- minimize extreme jaw movements, such as yawning, yelling or singing
- avoid chewing gum
- modifying the pain with heat or ice packs
- practicing relaxation techniques to control jaw tension, such as meditation
If necessary, your dentist may recommend the following to relieve your symptoms:
- Exercises to strengthen jaw muscles
- Medicines to reduce pain or inflammation
- A night guard or bite plate to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth
In some cases, your dentist may recommend fixing an uneven bite by adjusting or reshaping some teeth. Orthodontic treatment may also be recommended.
How can you tell if a tooth is cracked?
It can be hard for you to tell if a tooth is cracked. If you have pain, you may not be able to tell which tooth hurts or whether the pain is from an upper or a lower tooth. Cracks sometimes are invisible to the eye and may not show up on an x-ray. Sometimes you won’t have any pain or sensitivity at all; your dentist will discover it during your exam.
If you are having symptoms, you can help your dentist find the cracked tooth by sharing some information:
- the things that cause you tooth pain (such as heat, cold or foods that are sweet, sour or sticky)
- the area of the pain
Why does a tooth crack?
A tooth may crack for many reasons, such as the following:
- chewing on hard objects or foods such as pencils, ice, nuts or hard candy
- an accident, such as a blow to the mouth
- grinding or clenching of teeth
- uneven chewing pressure, especially if a nearby tooth is lost
- loss of tooth structure through wear
- loss of tooth structure due to large fillings or other restorations
- exposure of tooth enamel to extreme hot and cold temperatures
Why does a cracked tooth hurt?
Sometimes, a crack in the enamel travels through to the pulp. This type of cracked tooth may hurt when you bite down or when you stop biting. The crack may be too small to see, but when it opens, the pulp inside the tooth may become irritated. The pulp is soft tissue inside the center of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood vessels. If the crack extends into the pulp, the tooth may become sensitive to extreme heat and cold. The pulp also can become infected as a result of the crack. If this happens, endodontic (root canal) treatment may be needed to save the tooth.
How is a cracked tooth treated?
Treatment depends on the size, location and direction of the crack, as well as your symptoms. Your dentist will talk with you about the treatment that is best for your tooth. It is possible that your dentist will recommend no treatment at all, since tiny cracks are common and usually do not cause problems.
Types of treatment include the following:
- repairing the tooth with a filling material
- placing a crown (cap) on the tooth to protect it from further damage
- endodontic (root canal) treatment if the pulp is involved
- extracting the tooth if it is severely cracked and cannot be saved
Special Tip for the Growing Years: Birth to Age 6
Baby’s First Teeth
Your child’s baby teeth help your child chew and speak normally. They also hold space in the jaws for the adult teeth that come in later. Starting infants with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come. A baby’s teeth start to come in (erupt) when the baby is about six months old. By age three, most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth. Baby teeth will usually be lost (shed) as your child develops and grows. This makes space for adult (permanent) teeth, which begin to come in around age 6. However, taking care of the baby teeth is vital to protecting the adult teeth that come later. By the age of 21, a person usually has all of their adult teeth.
As teeth begin to erupt, some babies may have sore or tender gums. Rubbing your child’s gums with a clean wet gauze or finger may help. A clean, chilled teething ring – don’t dip it in sugar, syrup, honey or other foods – may also ease tender gums. Gels or creams with benzocaine should not be used to soothe sore gums in babies younger than two. Benzocaine can be found in such over-the-counter products as Anbesol, Hurricane, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase. Stick with other methods of soothing your child’s gums. If the child is still uncomfortable while teething, consult your pediatrician.
Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Tooth decay can begin as soon as your baby’s teeth come in. Decay in baby teeth can lead to cavities and cause pain. Left untreated, it can destroy the teeth of an infant or young child. Babies have a higher risk for decay if their teeth are in frequent contact with sugary liquids for long periods of time. These liquids include fruit juice, soda and other sweetened liquids. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar in these drinks. The bacteria release acids that can attack teeth and cause cavities. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle or use a bottle as a pacifier. If your child uses a pacifier, don’t dip it in sugar or honey, or put it in your mouth before giving it to the child. It’s important to know that the cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth can be passed to your baby. Sippy cups or “no-spill” cups should only be used until around a child’s first birthday. After that, try to get your child to drink from a small open cup.
Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth
After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This will remove plaque and bits of food that can harm erupting teeth. When your child’s teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child-sized toothbrush and water. Position your child so you can see into the mouth easily. You might want to sit down and rest his or her head in your lap. If your child is under three years old and you start using fluoride toothpaste, use no more than a smear or grain-of-rice-sized amount. For children three to six years old, use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure your child spits out the toothpaste. Brush your child’s teeth until he or she is at least six years old. Begin using floss when your child has two teeth next to each other.
First Dental Visit
As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, schedule his first dental visit. Children should visit the dentist before their first birthday. Treat the first visit as you would a well-baby checkup with the child’s pediatrician. It’s best to meet the dentist when your child is having no dental problems – don’t wait until an emergency comes up.
Many infants and young children like to suck on thumbs, fingers and pacifiers. Sucking is a natural reflex that may make them feel safe, happy, and relaxed. However, in some cases a child’s sucking habits can cause problems with tooth alignment and the proper growth of the mouth. Sucking habits usually stop between the ages of two and four. If your child uses a pacifier or sucks his or her fingers, talk to your dentist about how to wean your child of this habit. Pacifiers should not be used after age two, and finger or thumb sucking should end by age four.
Helping a Child Get Through Thumb Sucking
- Instead of scolding your child for sucking, praise him or her for not sucking.
- Remember that children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or seeking comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and comfort your child.
- Reward your child when he or she avoids sucking during difficult periods, such as being separated from you.
- Your child’s dentist can encourage your child to stop sucking and explain what could happen to their teeth if he or she does not stop.
- If these methods do not work, remind your child of the habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock over the hand at night.
- If the sucking continues, talk to your child’s dentist or pediatrician. He or she may recommend the use of a mouth appliance or a bitter-tasting liquid to coat the thumb or thumbnail to discourage sucking.
For More Information Please Visit www.ADA.org