How can I help my child stop thumbsucking or using a pacifier?

April 15th, 2020

Did you know that when a child sucks on a thumb, fingers, or pacifier, it can negatively impact his/her dental health?  While it is common for little ones to suck their thumbs, prolonged thumbsucking and pacifier use can cause orthodontic problems such as open bites, crossbites, and flared front teeth.

First steps to changing the habits:

  1. Limit thumbsucking or pacifier use to bedtime only or when your child is upset.
  2. Do not allow your child to carry the pacifier around in their mouth when they are playing or watching TV.
  3. If your child engages in the habit when they have a special blanket or stuffed animal with them, try to remove the comfort item.
  4. Make it fun: remember that positively reinforcing the habits you want is a great way to encourage kids as they give up their old habits.  

Check out some ideas below:

For thumb/finger sucking: 

  • Use a sticker chart to track progress. If your child is able to go a period of time without sucking his/her thumb or finger, he/she can earn a sticker. After a certain number of stickers, he/she may earn a special outing or present. Earlier in the process, some children may need to earn multiple stickers per day to keep the motivation up. As time progresses, you can work towards longer intervals. You know your child child. Think about what would motivate them. Check out for a free printable calendar and coloring sheets. 
  • Put a band-aid on your child’s thumb/finger every morning to help him/her remember not to suck it. We recommend using this only during the waking hours to prevent accidentally swallowing the band-aid while asleep. Pick out fun band-aids at the store together! 
  • Try the T-Guard or Finger Guard, a plastic case that covers the thumb or finger and has a bracelet so it cannot easily be removed. This can be ordered online. 
  • Try Mavala Stop, a bitter tasting liquid which is painted on the thumb or finger. This is not meant to be punishment but a gentle reminder. 
  • If these strategies do not work, talk with your dentist about an orthodontic appliance. These appliances are usually only used when a child is ready to stop but is having a hard time with other strategies. 

For pacifier use:

  • Start by limiting use to nap time and bedtime only, or when your child is upset.
  • Leave the pacifier for the “pacifier fairy.” We hear that she leaves fun surprises!
  • Cut the nipple over time, making it shorter and shorter. (Note: make sure that the pacifier is in one piece and not a choking hazard.)
  • Take to Build A Bear and put it inside the bear! 
  • Leave the pacifier for Santa Claus to take to the baby elves, or the stork to give to the new baby sibling or family member! 
  • Cut it out “cold turkey.” Most children have a few rough nights but adjust better than parents think.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

November 19th, 2019

Toothaches in children can be tricky ordeals that cause distress for both the child and the parent. You may feel helpless and frustrated because you cannot pinpoint the location of the pain. It is so hard to see your little one experience discomfort and feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But there are ways you can help. Try these tips the next time your child has a toothache.

Zero in on the Painful Area

The first thing you need to do is find out where the pain is coming from. If your child is old enough, ask him or her to point to the painful area. In younger children, look for swelling and redness on the gums and cheek, dental caries (discolorations on the tooth), or broken teeth. Try to get as close to the location of the pain as possible so you can determine an effective course of action to relieve it.

Try to Find the Cause

Not all toothaches are actually toothaches. A child can bite his or her tongue or cheek, have sore gums, or develop ulcers in the mouth. Teeth that are coming in can also be quite painful. If a tooth is discolored, broken, loose, or has spots that are either darker or lighter than the rest of the tooth, those could be causes of pain.

Five-Step Approach to Dental Pain Relief

  1. Floss. Help your child floss to remove any food particles that may be wedged between the teeth and could be causing pain.

  2. Rinse with warm salt water. Use a warm salt-water solution and have your child rinse well by swishing or holding the salt water over the painful area.

  3. Use a cold compress. This can relieve pain and swelling. If there is no swelling, you can try it anyway to subdue the pain. Try it on for about 15 minutes, then off for 20.

  4. Give the child ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Use the appropriate dosage for your child’s age and administer it regularly as directed.

  5. If you determine that the tooth or gum is damaged, or if the pain simply cannot be relieved, call our office.

If your child is experiencing throbbing pain, fatigue, or fever, you should call your pediatrician as soon as possible. If your child is experiencing mouth pain accompanied by trouble breathing or swallowing, it can indicate a more serious situation and you should take your son or daughter to the emergency room.

Most mouth pain in children can be remedied with the simple steps here. The important thing is that you remain calm, no matter what. You child is taking cues from you and if you panic, he or she will panic.

First Trip to the Dentist: How to Make Sure it is Smooth Sailing

October 21st, 2019

Trips to the dentist are an essential part of oral care, but for a child, the first time can be scary. Sitting in a chair, under a light, while a stranger pokes inside their mouth is understandably daunting.

We are often afraid of things we don’t understand, so the best way to make your child’s first trip to the dentist smooth sailing is to help them understand what to expect before they get to the office. Knowledge will make the visit more comfortable and relaxing.

Normalize visits to the dentist with books, or simply talking about it! There are many children’s books out there from Dr. Suess, The Berenstain Bears, and Sesame Street. A quick search online will bring up a plethora of books about brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist.

We also recommend roleplaying with a pretend visit!  Making the dentist fun at home will make the outing more fun when the time comes. Be sure to use positive vocabulary, avoiding words like shot and hurt. Instead, talk about a clean, strong, smile. In keeping with the positive theme, be sure not to bribe your kids with a post-appointment treat. Bribery gives the idea that there is something to be nervous about. Instead, opt for surprising them with some sort of reward after the fact.

Here at our practice, because we specialize in pediatric dentistry, we too have tactics to make the appointment go easy and smooth for both you and your child! Thank you for trusting us to do so.

So when should you schedule this trip? As a rule of thumb, kids should start going to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after their first tooth erupts. We’ll see you then!


Understanding Cavities

September 19th, 2019

Getting a cavity seems like delayed punishment for eating that special dessert every weekend or for the few days you forgot to floss. When you are doing everything right with minimal exception and a cavity is diagnosed, it is discouraging. Knowing how cavities form and what causes them is valuable in knowing how to prevent them. In this blog post, we will help you understand cavities!

A cavity is not a one-time event. It is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There are ingredients to this infection, which include bacteria, acid, your tooth, and a food source. The main bacterial culprit is S. Mutans. Bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. When you have caries, the numbers of “bad” bacteria increase and produce an environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay. A main indicator of this is a pH measurement of your saliva.

Several factors can influence the biofilm pH. Foods and beverages all have different pH levels. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Since acid promotes tooth decay, a beverage like soda will promote a cavity. Water, being neutral, is a good choice to promote healthy oral pH. Healthy eating can still cause cavities. Here is an example of a highly acidic, yet traditionally healthy meal:

Toast with store-bought strawberry jam, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh cranberries.

Instead, here is a better choice, which involves mixing acidic healthy foods with alkaline (non-acidic) foods to reduce the overall pH:

Toast with almond butter, and Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The first example will result in a very low pH in the mouth and even in the rest of the body. The second meal mixes highly acidic blueberries with an alkaline Greek yogurt. Dairy products from cows are highly acidic. Toast is acidic because of the yeast and almonds are alkaline.

A natural buffer is saliva. Whenever mouth breathing or medications compromise the saliva flow, the pH is going to drop and caries can go rampant. Getting a cavity is not just about the sweets or forgotten flossing sessions. It is about the pH levels and bacterial management.

For more helpful tips about how to avoid cavities, contact our office!