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Not So Scary

Not So Scary: Calming Your Child's Fears About the Dentist

No matter how old your child is, it’s a safe assumption that they might be fearful about seeing the dentist. Think about it: they’ll be lying in a chair in an unfamiliar place, listening to strange noises and seeing unusual tools, as a stranger pokes around in their mouth. They might be unnerved by the dentist talking to them while their mouth is wide open because they can’t answer. Or they are afraid of the drill.

Come to think of it, it can be a pretty unnerving place for adults too.

In order to make your child’s next cleaning a lot less scary, here is some advice for parents to calm their fears and make their next visit much more pleasant.

First of all, your child is in good company. Half of all American adults experience anxiety when going to the dentist, and one third simply won’t go at all. Without going twice a year, though, your child could eventually have more than just a mouthful of cavities. Not taking care of your teeth and gums can lead to heart disease, stroke, infections, and even some types of cancer.

 Fortunately, new high-tech tools, pharmaceutical options, dentist training programs and talking to your child beforehand can ease his or her fears.

 Because the fears range from fear of the unknown to fear of the drill sound or pain, it’s important to find a dentist your child is comfortable with. Does the dentist offer a kid-friendly atmosphere? 

 New dental training programs include psychology courses that show how to calm people’s fears. Some dentists learn how to become better listeners, looking for body language and other cues from the patients. They might even use humor to quell anxiety. 

 Be honest with the dentist right up front, so that her or she can make accommodations for your child.

 You might not be aware that pain relief has evolved significantly in the last decade or so. You and your child might decide to use nitrous oxide, which wears off within minutes, sedatives, and/or local or general anesthesia, if the procedure is more complicated. 

 If your child has sensitive areas in his or her mouth, inform the dentist and he or she can work around it.

 Before the visit, talk to your child about what to expect but avoid going into detail. Whatever you do, don’t mentions words such as “shot” or “pain.” Allow the staff to explain what will happen; they know how to do it best. Be positive and explain how important it is to take care of their teeth. The more they brush and floss correctly, which can be learned at the dentist’s office, the fewer trips and less procedures they will need in the future.

 "My favorite thing to have parents tell their child is that we are going to check their smile and count their teeth – that's it, nothing else," said Michael J. Hanna, D.M.D., a pediatric dentist in McKee Rocks, Pennsylvania, and a national spokesperson of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

 For families in the Houston area, Signature Smiles offers a kid-friendly environment to help relieve any anxiety your child may have about their visit. A kid’s waiting room equipped with televisions and stuffed animals is the first step in allaying fears, and the knowledgeable, family-oriented staff and dentists will put your child – and his dental health – in excellent hands.

Mouth Guards

Mouth Guards: Dental Safety and Concussion Protection

 More than five million teeth are knocked out annually and the lifetime cost to replace just one tooth is as high as $20,000. An athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer damage to his teeth when not wearing a mouth guard, according to the American Dental Association.

 Therefore, it makes good sense to have your children who play any sport to see a dentist to get fitted for a customized mouth guard to prevent not just tooth loss but head trauma as well.

 In fact, both the American Dental Association and the Academy for Sports Dentistry recommend a professionally produced, properly fitted customized mouth guard for athletes playing all contact and collision sports, from football to baseball. Even soccer and volleyball players should have a special mouth guard made.

 The right mouth guard for your child athlete

 A customized mouth guard is designed to exactly match the structure of your child’s individual mouth, making it far more comfortable and longer-lasting than a generic boil-and-bite, inexpensive mouth guard.

 Unlike generic mouth guards, a customized one can provide extra space for a child whose teeth and jaws are still developing, said Dr. Ray Padilla, president of the Academy of Sports Dentistry.

 The custom guards are also made of stronger and tear-resistant materials, are easy to clean, more comfortable, fit better, and do not affect the child’s breathing or speaking. They are also odorless and tasteless, not bulky and provide enough thickness in important areas that are more susceptible to damage.

 If you choose a customized mouth protector for your child athlete, the dentist will initially create an impression of her teeth. Using a special material, the mouth guard is then molded over this model. Although this type of mouth guard requires more time and work, it will work better in the long run.

 Usually, mouth guards cover only your child’s upper teeth, but if they wear braces or another fixed dental appliance in their lower jaw, the dentist will create a guard for the lower teeth also. The dentist will have several mouth guards to choose from, based on your child’s specific needs. 

 Although customized mouth guards typically cost between $190 and $500 and most dental insurance plans do not cover the cost, they will be more comfortable and save money in the long run by protecting your child’s teeth.

 For Houston area residents, the dental staff at Signature Smiles can help offer guidance on the appropriate mouth guards for your children.

 Tips to caring for the mouth guard

 Once your child receives their mouth guard, they should rinse it with fresh, cold water or a mouth rinse before and after each use. Or they may clean it with a mild soap and a toothbrush, using cool, soapy water and rinsing it thoroughly.

 After cleaning, they should put the mouth guard in a firm, perforated container. The container allows air circulation and helps to prevent damage. If the mouth guard is acrylic, it should be stored in fresh, clean water.

 The mouth guard should be checked from time to time for general wear. If you find holes or tears in it or if it becomes loose or causes pain, call your dentist to get a replacement. Your child should also bring their mouth guard to each regular dental visit for an examination.

Infant Dental Care

Infant Dental Care: What to Expect

Some parents may believe that taking care of their child’s baby teeth isn’t as important as caring for adult or permanent teeth, because baby teeth will fall out. Dentists, however, say that baby teeth are very important allowing for the child to eventually chew food and talk correctly. Baby teeth also save the spaces in a baby’s gums for future permanent teeth. 

If you are a little nervous about taking a fussy child to the dentist, you might investigate finding a pediatric dentist. These dentists receive two to three years specialty training after dental school and they limit their practice to treating just children. Pediatric dentists are both primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and kids through the teenage years. Most can treat kids with special health care needs.

 When your child is born, they have twenty baby teeth — ten in the lower jaw and another ten in the upper jaw — hidden under their gums. 

The two front teeth in the lower jaw are often the first to appear. Usually this happens when the baby is between six and ten months old, but some children will start teething when they are just a few months old and others when they are a year old. 

 If an infant’s molar is knocked out early, the baby teeth next to the missing tooth may move toward the gap and create spacing issues for the permanent tooth when it appears.

 When to bring your baby to the dentist

 Dentists maintain that it’s vital to bring your baby in for their first dental exam when they are between six months to a year old, or after their first tooth erupts.

 You can expect the dentist and his or her staff to review your child’s oral hygiene and overall health, how and what your child eats and drinks, and their risk of tooth decay. 

 Signature Smiles of Houston, for example, can recommend when to it may be appropriate to discontinue bottle-feeding, when to start flossing, and whether or not fluoride rinses are a good idea for your baby.  They can also help proactively identify cavities in young teeth.

 If your child develops decay in a tooth, they will need professional treatment or possibly specialist treatment in a hospital while they receive a general anesthetic. If a decayed baby tooth is ignored, your child could develop mouth pain, a dental abscess or infection, and issues with the teeth next to the decayed one.

 What to expect during your child’s first visit

 During your child’s first visit, the dentist or hygienist will remove any stains or deposits on your child’s teeth, show you proper cleaning methods, discuss how much fluoride your child is getting, and look for sores and bumps inside their mouth. If your child is using a pacifier or sucking their thumb, the doctor or hygienist will also tell you about how that may affect their teeth.

 When your child is about six years old, their first permanent teeth will appear. The four molars, or two in each jaw, come in behind your child’s existing baby teeth. Other adult teeth, including the incisors and canines, will erupt into the gaps in the gum left by lost baby teeth.

 By the time your child turns twenty-one, he or she will have thirty-two permanent teeth. Sometimes, however, the third molars, or wisdom teeth, do not emerge. But that is considered normal as well.

Are Dental Sealants Worth the Investment

Are Dental Sealants Worth the Investment?

 If your child has a sweet tooth and he's a likely candidate for cavities, ask your dentist about applying dental sealants to his back teeth. No needles or drills are involved. It's a safe, painless way to prevent decay in his first permanent teeth.

 What are sealants?

No matter how diligently you brush, sometimes toothbrush bristles miss the little fissures and pits where bacteria hide and multiply. In fact, research shows that 90 percent of tooth decay occurs on the back teeth biting surfaces. Although you still need to use fluoride, brush and floss your teeth, sealants can provide a long-term solution to this problem.

A sealant is a plastic shield that repels germs by coating a tooth's small holes, or pits and fissures.

 Cost? It’s free!

Most PPO Dental insurances cover 6-year-old's first molars and 12-year-old’s 2nd molars. The dentists at Signature Smiles recommend doing at least two rounds of sealants, one at 6 years old and again at 12 years old.  Adults can also benefit from sealants, especially if your dentist finds tiny cracks on the tops or sides of your teeth.

 What’s the sealing process for kids?

The sealing process is brief. The dental hygienist or dentist will clean the tooth with a drying agent and then will paint the sealant on each tooth. The strong covering takes only a minute to form and dry.  We will use a blue UV light much like when you go the nail salon.

Sealants are usually impossible to see when your child speaks or smiles. They are clear, white or slightly tinted.

Though you should still exercise proper dental hygiene, sealants provide a long-term solution for dental decay.  Unlike fillings, sealants can stay in place for five to 10 years. Fillings, on the other hand, are a short-term solution that will have to be repeated over time. Each time a tooth is filled, more drilling happens and the tooth slightly weakens.

 The American Dental Association gave sealants its seal of approval in 1976. While some people have raised concerns that sealants may expose children to the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, chemicals commonly found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, the benefits exceed the risks, the ADA says.

 Dental fillings are made from silver amalgam, porcelain and composite materials.

The cost for amalgam fillings averages between $110 and $200 per filling. Resin-based composite fillings run between $135 and $240 per filling. Compared to the cost of fillings, sealants are less expensive and definitely worth the investment.

 Financial assistance and more

Your child can have the family dentist apply sealants as they are covered under most dental insurances including Texas Dental Medicaid.

The Texas Department of State Health has information for low-income families and individuals on its website. Or you may call your child's school for details.

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