Exceptional Smiles by your Dallas Orthodontist & Dentist for Children YouTube: Dallas Dentist for Kids & Braces for All Ages Google+: Orthodontist & Pediatric Dentist in Dallas Facebook: Dallas Pediatric Dentist & Orthodontist for All Ages Blog: Dallas Braces & Dentist for Kids Woodhill Dental Specialties: Pediatric Dentist & Orthodontist in Dallas Orthodontics in Dallas Pediatric Dentistry in Dallas

For Patients: Health Resources - Pediatric Dentistry

Dental Care for Your Baby

Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby's first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your baby will be on her way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Even before your baby's first tooth appears (or, in dental jargon, "erupts"), her gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby's gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process of building a good habit of daily oral care.

When that first tooth makes an entrance, it's time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case the bristles are soft and few. At this stage, toothpaste isn't necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn't react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don't give up; switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months, then try the toothbrush again. During the teething process your child will want to chew on just about anything - a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.

When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child's brush. However, for the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, unless advised to do so by your dentist, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing, to prepare her for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.

Don't give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle -- sugary liquids in prolonged contact with her teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called early childhood caries.

It's recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth's eruption -- usually around her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely she is to avoid problems. We'll look for any signs of early problems with your baby's oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for her teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular check-ups.

As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and she'll intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as she shows interest, give her a toothbrush of her own and encourage her to "brush" with you. (You'll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy for her to grip.) Most children don't have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they're about six or seven, so you'll have to do that part of the job for her. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!

Thumb-Sucking

Along with favorite blankets, teddy bears, and nap time, thumb-sucking can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood. According to a recent report, between 75% and 95% of infants suck their thumbs, so chances are there's a thumb-sucker (or a former thumb-sucker) in your family. Is this cause for worry?

The majority of children suck a thumb or a finger from a very young age; most even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant, and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.

According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them.

However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower his chances of continuing to suck his thumb). If your child is still sucking when his permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.

First, take note of how your child sucks his thumb. If he sucks passively, with his thumb gently resting inside his mouth, he is less likely to cause damage. If, on the other hand, he is an aggressive thumb-sucker, placing pressure on his mouth or teeth, the habit may cause problems with tooth alignment and proper mouth growth. Extended sucking affects both the teeth and the shape of the face and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future.

If at any time you suspect your child's thumb-sucking may be affecting his oral health, please give us a call or bring him in for a visit. We can help you assess the situation.

In most cases, no. However, it's important to pay attention to your child's habits, in case his behavior has the potential to affect his oral health.

Should you need to help your child end his habit, follow these guidelines:

  1. Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb-sucking, give praise when he doesn't suck.
  2. Put a band-aid on his thumb or a sock over his/her hand at night. Let him know that this is not a punishment, just a way to help him remember to avoid sucking.
  3. Start a progress chart and let him put a sticker up every day that he doesn't suck his thumb. If he makes it through a week without sucking, he gets to choose a prize (trip to the zoo, new set of blocks, etc.) When he has filled up a whole month reward him with something great (a ball glove or new video game); by then the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in his treatment will increase his willingness to break the habit.
  4. If you notice your child sucking when he's anxious, work on alleviating his/her anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb-sucking.
  5. Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides, while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions.
  6. Explain clearly what might happen to his/her teeth if he keeps sucking his/her thumb.

Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the thumb-sucking habit.

Pediatric Teeth Whitening

Whitening or "bleaching" of the teeth has become very popular over the last several years. Recognizing many adolescents have a desire or need for this service we offer many different options for our patients and parents.

For many of our younger patients with primary (baby) teeth remaining, Dr. Hedrick and Dr. Tujios do not recommend the products used in our office as they may cause children's teeth to develop extreme sensitivity. Also because of the difference in the tooth structure of permanent and deciduous teeth an uneven pattern may result. However, should your child desire or have a need for whitening please feel free to discuss this with us, as there are many options available.

In other instances where there is complete permanent dentition, we offer preformed bleach tray kits, and also professional in office whitening. We are also happy to make these services available to the parents of our patients.

Below you will find the policy of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry regarding whitening. This is the policy we follow in our practice.

Policy Statement

The AAPD encourages:

  1. The judicious use of bleaching for vital and nonvital teeth.
  2. Patients to consult their dentists to determine appropriate methods for the timing of dental whitening within the context of individualized, comprehensive, and sequenced treatment plans.
  3. Dental professionals and consumers to consider side effects when contemplating dental bleaching for child and adolescent patients.
  4. The AAPD discourages full-arch bleaching for patients in mixed dentition.