Is thumb-sucking bad?

September 29th, 2021

Is Thumb Sucking Bad?

Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. It may make them feel secure and happy or provide a sense of security at difficult periods. Since thumb-sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.

Thumb-sucking that persists for long periods of time can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.

Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.  Children should ideally cease thumb-sucking by about age three to prevent flaring of their permanent teeth.

Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb-sucking. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, consult with your pediatric dentist.

A few suggestions to help your child get through thumb sucking:

  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb-sucking.
  • Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from their parents.
  • Your pediatric dentist can encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue.
  • Consider using a sticker chart, or one of our coloring sheets to help encourage cessation of the habit.
  • If these approaches don’t work, remind the children of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Sometimes, your pediatric dentist may recommend the use of a mouth appliance.

Visit our blog for more tips on how to help your child beat thumb-sucking and pacifiers.

Is It Okay To Use A Pacifier?

August 31st, 2021

Union Pediatric Dentistry discusses Is it ok to use a pacifier for infant children

Children often suck on fingers, thumbs, pacifiers and other objects as a way to calm themselves. Sucking, a natural reflex, helps children feel happy and provides a sense of security, especially during stress. Because it is calming, sucking can relax a child to sleep.

Prolonged pacifier use, or thumb-sucking, can cause orthodontic problems such as open bites, crossbites, and flared front teeth. Pacifier usage is often an easier habit to break in a child. For this reason, if your child begins to develop a consistent sucking habit, we recommend that you encourage your infant away from thumbs (or fingers) and towards a pacifier.

Remember to keep pacifiers clean and sterilized often to avoid infections or bacterial growth.

What types of pacifiers are okay?

There are many types of pacifiers, but they are not all equal. Make sure you look for an orthodontic pacifier which is flattened on the bottom and rounded on top. This reduces pressure on the gums and allows the baby's tongue to move naturally. Additionally, heavier pacifiers, like those with a stuffed animal attached, tend to cause more flaring of the teeth due to the pressure from the weight.

Changing your child's habits

  • Only let your child have their pacifier at bedtime or to calm them down when upset.
  • Remove the pacifier from their mouth when they are playing or watching TV and gently remind your child it is for bed time. Don't let them walk around with it in their mouth.
  • Often children will use a pacifier or suck their thumb while snuggling a comfort item, like a special blanket or stuffed animal. Try to limit access to the comfort item if necessary.
  • Make it fun! Remember positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage kids to change their habits. Check out our free printable calendar and coloring sheets.

Click here for additional tips on how to help your child stop using a pacifier, or thumb-sucking.

What are tongue and lip ties?

August 23rd, 2021

Nursing and Tongue Ties

Everyone has a band of tissue, called a frenum, which attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth.  Another frenum attaches the top lip to the gums.  A tongue-tie is a condition that restricts the normal mobility and function of the tongue. Similarly, a lip tie, is caused by a frenum which restricts the lip movement.

What is a frenectomy?

Your pediatrician may recommend a frenectomy, or surgery to release a tongue and/or lip tie, if your baby is symptomatic.  One example may be if your baby is struggling to nurse and not gaining weight, after consultation with a lactation consultant.  There are several reasons for why a frenectomy may be recommended, and it is done on a case by case basis, taking into account the age of your child, the degree of the tie, the severity of your child's symptoms, and the desires of mom and baby.  A gap between the two front teeth is developmentally appropriate and is not a reason to complete a frenectomy.

Symptoms of Tongue & Lip Ties

The La Leche League cites the following as possible symptoms of a tongue or lip tie:

A baby may:

  • Be unable to latch on to the breast at all.
  • Be unable to latch on deeply, causing nipple pain and damage.
  • Have difficulties staying on the breast, making a clicking sound as he loses suction.
  • Splutter and choke when coping with fast flowing milk.
  • Breastfeed constantly to get enough milk.
  • Have poor weight gain or need supplementation to maintain adequate weight gain.
  • Develop jaundice that needs treating.
  • Be fussy at the breast when the milk flow slows.
  • Develop colic.

A mother may experience:

  • Pain during feeds, with damaged nipples. Her nipple may be compressed or distorted into a wedge shape like that of a new lipstick immediately after feeding, often with a stripe at its tip.
  • Engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis because of ineffective milk removal.
  • Low milk production because of ineffective milk removal.
  • Oversupply if her baby compensates for not being able to breastfeed well by nursing very frequently.
  • Tiredness, frustration and discouragement.
  • A premature end to breastfeeding.

If you have questions about tongue & lip ties, please contact our office so we can address your particular concerns. Visit these pages for additional information about cleaning your baby’s teeth & gums, preventative care for your child, or schedule an appointment.

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

October 21st, 2019

Baby's First Dental ExamTrips 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 that help make a visit to the dentist easier! A list of books can be found here. Dr. Jennison even wrote a children's book, A Sugarbug's Delight.

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! Some children are ready to sit in the dental chair at the first appointment. Others do better in a knee to knee position, where they lay on a board between a parent and the doctor. Tell your child that the team will count and shine their teeth. Thank you for trusting us to take care of your child in a specialized way.

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!

 

These Four Mistakes Are Causing Millions of Preventable Cavities in Kids

August 27th, 2015

mistakes with kids teeth

No parent wants their child to have cavities and the majority of us take special care to ensure that each dental visit ends cavity-free.  Yet, tooth decay remains the most common preventable childhood disease in the U.S. Here are a few simple mistakes that, if corrected, could save children from millions of cavities.

  1. Not Starting Prevention Early Enough

Many parents wait until children are almost school-age before setting the first dental appointment and before they begin focusing on good oral habits.  However, oral care should truly begin before primary teeth even appear.  For example, parents can use a soft, damp cloth to clean their baby’s gums after each feeding.  Scheduling the first dental appointment should also take place when the first tooth appears or before the age of one, whichever comes first.  Finding a dental home early in your child’s life is one of the most important preventative measures you can take for your child’s oral future.

  1. Baby bottles and Sippy Cups at Bedtime

Even though 80% of parents say they know that children should not be put to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, a surprising number of parents still do just that on a regular basis.  Regularly allowing your children’s teeth to be constantly bathed in liquids other than water is one of the most significant contributors of early tooth decay.  Even diluting juice with water can give bacteria the sugar they need to thrive inside your child’s mouth.

  1. Not Teaching Kids to Floss

Most parents do a fantastic job of teaching their kids to brush their teeth (two minutes, twice a day!) But recent studies have shown that 43% of school-aged children have never flossed their teeth…not even once.  Brushing alone only reaches a quarter of tooth surfaces and a large number of cavities are actually found where a toothbrush can’t go – between teeth.  It is important to floss for young children, who often don’t have the dexterity to floss on their own.  Older children should be taught the correct way to floss daily.  Here’s a great instructional sheet that provides some guidelines on flossing.

  1. Thinking Sports Drinks are Better than Sodas

These days, nearly all parents are vigilant about keeping sodas away from their children.  But one source of sugar may have simply been replaced by another.  Sports drinks often contain just as many calories and sugar as soft drinks.  Instead of serving kids sports drinks during sporting events and games, a better option is simply water.  The types of activities that kids are involved in are rarely strenuous enough to require anything else.

Are you looking for a dental home for your children?  Give us a call today!

Your Infant's Teeth: When Should Care Begin?

April 23rd, 2015

When to start caring for infant teeth

Establishing a healthy starting point for your child’s oral care start earlier than you may realize.  It’s amazing how quickly time passes and how fast children grow up.  We’ve put together a few guidelines to encourage you to make good dental habits a priority and to begin caring for your child’s teeth as soon as possible.

Start before teeth arrive.

First teeth generally appear around 6 months. (Don’t worry if your child is sooner or later than this.  All children are different.) Gently wiping the inside of your baby’s mouth with a soft cloth after meals or during bath time will help to reduce bacteria and give emerging teeth a great start.  It will also get you in the habit of caring for your child’s teeth until they are ready to take over themselves.

Begin brushing as soon as the first tooth appears.

Once the first tooth emerges, it’s time to begin brushing.  We recommend a tiny smear of toothpaste on a toothbrush that’s specifically designed for infants.  These usually have small brush heads and a special shape or handle that fits easily in your hand.  Stick to brushing twice a day and be sure to brush both the inside and outside of each tooth surface.  Flossing shouldn’t be a concern until tooth surfaces touch.

Establish a dental home early.

We encourage you to make the first visit to our practice more of a “meet and greet”.  We can give you and your child a mini-tour, and introduce you to our team.  It is our belief that a comfortable, caring environment is essential for a lifetime of healthy smiles.  We would love to see your child when their first tooth arrives or by age one.

Keep a routine for the whole family.

Children imitate what they see their parents do.  Chances are, if caring for your own teeth is a priority then you will pass those health habits along to your children.  Try making brushing and flossing something that everyone in your family does as part of your regular routine.

If you haven’t been following these guidelines, it’s not too late to start!  The best time to begin a lifetime of great dental habits is today.  We encourage you to share this blog post with your friends and family who have young children or may be expecting.  And don’t forget to call us if it’s time for a check-up!

Since Baby Teeth Are Temporary, Are They Important?

January 29th, 2015

Are baby teeth important

We often hear people downplay the importance of primary teeth (also called “baby” or “milk” teeth).  The front 4 primary teeth generally last until 6-7 years of age, while the back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren’t replaced until age 10-13.  People mistakenly believe that since these teeth are temporary, that they do not matter in the long run.  This will often lead to the neglect of primary teeth and can cause permanent damage.

In truth, it is very important to care for the health of the primary teeth. Untreated cavities frequently lead to problems which have long term effects on developing permanent teeth. Here are four reasons why caring for primary teeth is so important:

(1) Proper chewing and eating.  A cavity free mouth often means that it’s easier to enjoy healthy foods without pain or discomfort.  It also means that children are more likely to chew their food completely and are less likely to develop bad eating habits.

(2) Providing space for the permanent teeth.  Primary teeth reserve space for the permanent teeth.  They help in guiding primary teeth into the correct position.

(3) Permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles.  Like any muscle, your baby’s face and jaw muscles need exercise to help them develop; healthy primary teeth allow for proper chewing to build these muscles.  Without well-developed jaw muscles, your baby’s jawbones may not develop properly.

(4) Proper development of speech.  Missing teeth can affect the ability for a child to form words and learn to speak properly.  These speech problems can translate into difficulty later in life.

Aside from the reasons listed, there is a very practical reason for taking care of primary teeth: healthy smiles add to an overall attractive appearance which encourages a positive self esteem and good self image.

Thumbsucking: Bad For Little Mouths?

August 14th, 2014

Thumbsucking advice
Not all children suck their thumbs or fingers and for those that do, it’s not always problematic. For some children, however, the thumb sucking habit can be a hard one to break. This can have a negative impact on growing mouths and developing teeth, causing the front teeth to push forward over time. According the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, thumbsucking is generally not a concern until after the age of 4. By that time, most thumb and finger sucking habits have long since ceased.

If your child is a thumb or finger sucker past the age of 4, it’s important to understand why he/she is engaging in the behavior. The urge to root and suckle is an essential impulse for newborns, who depend on those instincts for food. As babies mature, some continue to find comfort through sucking behaviors and as they grow, that urge becomes more habitual than essential.

For some children, thumbsucking is an absent-minded habit not unlike fingernail biting, hair chewing or rolling a favorite blanket between the fingers. For those kids, giving gentle reminders when you observe the behavior can be enough to help them break the habit.

For others, the behavior can be an attempt to self-soothe when feeling anxious, scared or tired. For those children, the sucking behavior is more than simply a habit and changing the behavior should be handled carefully and conscientiously. It’s important to keep in mind that a child that is sucking on his/her fingers for comfort is not necessarily misbehaving, so be sure to offer encouragement and support instead of negative reinforcement.

If you think your child is sucking his/her fingers and thumb out of anxiety or when fearful, it’s important that you try to identify what is triggering that response. Once you know what those triggers are, you can move to reassure your child before, during and after those experiences. Perhaps offer small rewards or incentives that are aimed at stopping the behavior.

If you are concerned that your child’s prolonged thumb or finger sucking is causing dental issues that need attention, we encourage you to reach out for an evaluation. Be sure to ask for tips or advice on breaking or redirecting the thumb or finger sucking habit. Sometimes, a simple, friendly chat with the dentist is enough to convince an older child to break the habit completely.

Remember, we are your allies in keeping your child’s teeth healthy.

7 Tips for Teething Babies

July 31st, 2014

Help for teething infants
Teething can be an uncomfortable time for babies, with little gums experiencing tenderness and swelling as emerging teeth break through the surface.  In light of a recent FDA warning against using lidocaine for teething infants, we wanted to put together a few helpful tips for managing this sometimes-difficult time for your child.

Massage sore gums.

Gently rubbing your baby’s tender gums with a clean finger or soft cloth can help alleviate some teething pain.  Applying slight pressure to the gums offers temporary relief from soreness and is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make your child more comfortable.

Find a teething ring that your baby loves.

We recommend sticking to teething rings that are made of solid rubber because those filled with liquid can sometimes break.  Experiment with different types or sizes until your baby shows you which one he or she clearly prefers.

Stay cool, but not frozen.

While it’s fairly common to give babies cold washcloths or teething rings that have been in the freezer, it's best to use one that is simply cold.  Your baby’s gums are very sensitive and contact with frozen objects could actually harm them.  If you do use a frozen teething ring, you might consider giving it a few minutes to warm up or unthaw.

Consider cold foods.

If your baby is beginning to eat solid foods, you may try offering large chunks of vegetables for gnawing.  It’s important to always carefully watch your baby and remember that choking can occur easily, with babies being able to bite off small pieces.  A good solution is mesh feeders that allow children to taste foods without the fear of choking.

Keep a clean cloth nearby.

Teething often causes excessive drooling which can irritate your baby’s chin and neck if consistently left to dry. Instead, have a soft cloth handy to gently dab away saliva regularly.

Remember that teething isn’t sickness.

Teething is normal and natural that shouldn’t be accompanied by symptoms of illness outside of an occasional mild or low-grade temperature (under 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.3 degrees Celsius).  Your baby may be irritable or fussy during teething, but high fevers are caused by viral infections and not teething.  Contact your pediatrician if you sense your child may be getting ill.

Don’t forget to establish a Dental Home.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends establishing a dental home by age one or at the emergence of the first tooth, whichever comes first.  If your child is teething, and you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office!

Infant Oral Care: How Early is Too Early to Begin?

May 1st, 2014

when should i start brushing

Establishing a healthy starting point for your child’s oral care start earlier than you may realize.  It’s amazing how quickly time passes and how fast children grow up.  We’ve put together a few guidelines to encourage you to make good dental habits a priority and to begin caring for your child’s teeth as soon as possible.

Start before teeth arrive.

First teeth generally appear around 6 months. (Don’t worry if your child is sooner or later than this.  All children are different.) Gently wiping the inside of your baby’s mouth with a soft cloth after meals or during bath time will help to reduce bacteria and give emerging teeth a great start.  It will also get you in the habit of caring for your child’s teeth until they are ready to take over themselves.

Begin brushing as soon as the first tooth appears.

Once the first tooth emerges, it’s time to begin brushing.  We recommend a tiny smear of toothpaste on a toothbrush that’s specifically designed for infants.  These usually have small brush heads and a special shape or handle that fits easily in your hand.  Stick to brushing twice a day and be sure to brush both the inside and outside of each tooth surface.  Flossing shouldn’t be a concern until tooth surfaces touch.

Establish a dental home early.

We encourage you to make the first visit to our practice more of a “meet and greet”.  We can give you and your child a mini-tour, and introduce you to our team.  It is our belief that a comfortable, caring environment is essential for a lifetime of healthy smiles.  We would love to see your child when their first tooth arrives or by age one.

Keep a routine for the whole family.

Children imitate what they see their parents do.  Chances are, if caring for your own teeth is a priority then you will pass those health habits along to your children.  Try making brushing and flossing something that everyone in your family does as part of your regular routine.

If you haven’t been following these guidelines, it’s not too late to start!  The best time to begin a lifetime of great dental habits is today.  We encourage you to share this blog post with your friends and family who have young children or may be expecting.  And don’t forget to call us if it’s time for a check-up!

Thumbsucking and Your Child’s Teeth

January 9th, 2014

How to stop thumbsucking

 

Thumbsucking is a very common habit for young children and is usually nothing to worry about.  However, it can be a concern when the habit continues or when it begins to cause problems with normal oral development.  Here’s everything you need to know about thumbsucking and what can be done to help your child stop.

Is thumbsucking normal?

Thumbsucking is common and normal. In fact, it is such a natural behavior that ultrasounds often reveal it before birth.  Babies natural reflexes cause them to suck on any object placed in their mouths.  This behavior can provide comfort and soothe anxious nerves, which is why thumbsucking can develop into a habit long after infancy. It’s estimated that 1/3 of all children will suck their thumbs during infancy.  Positive emotional development and peer pressure generally end thumbsucking by kindergarten, but some children will continue the habit which can lead to dental problems.

 

When is it a problem?

If thumbsucking continues after permanent teeth come in or especially in cases of excessively hard sucking, dental problems can occur.  Your child’s palate (the roof of the mouth) may become arched causing what’s known as an “Open Bite”.  It may also cause front teeth to be pushed forward, causing bite and speech problems.  Many older children who still suck their thumbs may have trouble making “S” sounds or sounds requiring the tongue to touch the front teeth.  Some children develop chapped skin or nail problems on the thumb or finger being sucked.  After age 5, or when permanent teeth are starting to erupt, the child should be encouraged to stop.

 

How can I help my child stop thumbsucking?

Children usually stop sucking their thumb during their toddler years, but some will continue to use the behavior as a comfort mechanism.  We’ve found that the best methods to curb thumbsucking are based on positive reinforcement.  Here are a few ideas you might consider:

  • A first-step may be to simply ignore the behavior, especially if it is part of a power struggle with your child or it is being used to gain attention.  Some experts suggest a “one month moratorium” on discussing the subject before moving on to other methods.
  • Use praise when your child isn’t sucking his or her thumb, never scold them when they do.
  • Try positive reinforcement such as a sticker chart or other reward system.
  • Seek out the possible causes of anxiety and work to alleviate the reasons for thumbsucking.
  • Some children suck their thumbs from boredom.  Try engaging your child in a fun activity.
  • Allow older children to pick a reward for not sucking their thumb.
  • Mention the behavior at your child’s next appointment and allow us to offer some positive motivation.
  • As a last resort, place a bandage or sock on the child’s hand at night to discourage thumbsucking while sleeping.

Resolutions for a Cavity-Free Year

December 26th, 2013

Brushing teeth together 454x300

Did you know that the most common chronic childhood disease is tooth decay?  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one out of every five children in the US has an untreated cavity.  More than 51 million school hours are lost every year because of dental problems.  Moreover, nearly 100% of cavities are preventable.  Want a cavity free year?  Following these five simple steps can keep you and your kids on the right path to a healthy mouth:

1. Catch up on dental visits.

Start the year off right by setting up an appointment and taking care of issues you may have been avoiding.  Time or finances can result in missed checkups, but putting off needed exams or dental work often causes problems to become more costly, more time consuming and more painful.

2. Commit to brushing 2min2x.

Brushing for two minutes, twice each day is basic to staying cavity free.  Brushing at the same time each day, as part of your regular routine can help develop a daily habit of oral care.  Consider brushing with your children so they can see an example of good oral hygiene and will be motivated to care for their own teeth.  Because brushing for a full two minutes can be a challenge for young children, the ADA has created fun videos that are exactly two minutes long.  You can find them on the 2Min2X website.

3. Consider using mouthwash.

Studies continually show that mouthwash can dramatically reduce cavities when used alongside regular brushing. Choose a mouthwash with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of acceptance and make using it part of your daily routine.

4. Check that you are getting the proper amount of fluoride.

Fluoride is a natural mineral that has been shown to dramatically reduce cavities.  You may not realize it, but most of the water coming from faucets in the U.S. is fluoridated.  Unfortunately, bottled water usually doesn’t contain fluoride, so kids and adults that exclusively drink bottled water may be missing valuable anti-cavity benefits.  Switch to tap water this year. You could save a plastic bottle from the trash and possibly your teeth from a cavity.

5. Clean between teeth by flossing.

Surprisingly, a survey from Delta Dental revealed that 43 percent of parents said their children’s teeth are never flossed.  Additionally, the ADA reports that one in ten US adults neglect flossing as well.  Why not start a new habit this year and begin flossing regularly?  Flossing helps to reach the places that a toothbrush simply cannot go and it’s one of the best ways to prevent gum disease.

Cavities are preventable.  This could be a banner year for your teeth simply by following these simple steps.  Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or give us a call to set up an appointment today!

6 Essential Oral Care Tips for Infants & Toddlers

January 31st, 2013

Caaring for emerging teeth

 

The CDC reports that tooth decay is the most common disease in children.  More than 40% of children have cavities by the time they reach kindergarten.   While the cavity rate in children of older age groups has been slowly declining, the rise in cavities among those under 5 is actually increasing.   Unfortunately parents often wait too long to begin caring for emerging teeth.  Union Pediatric Dentistry helps educate parents on how to care for their children's teeth and build dental hygiene habits for a lifetime of good dental health. Here are six essential tips to get you started on the right path:

  • Toothpaste isn’t really needed before teeth emerge, but a soft wet washcloth gently wiped over gums twice a day is a great way to keep bacteria at bay and keep the gums healthy.
  • Make oral care a part of a daily routine.  Getting into the habit early will increase the likely-hood that you (and eventually your child) will keep up this healthy practice once teeth appear.
  • When the first teeth start to show up (usually around 6 months, but this can vary greatly from child to child), use a toothbrush specifically designed for babies.  These brushes have smaller heads for smaller mouths and very soft bristles to avoid damaging sensitive gums.
  • Use only a pea sized amount of toothpaste.  Young children have trouble not swallowing toothpaste, so keep the amount minimal and consider using fluoride free toothpaste until your child has learned not to swallow when brushing.
  • Brush your child’s teeth until he or she is able to hold the brush.
  • Be aware of the signs of baby tooth decay (spots or pits on teeth) and stay up to date on dental exams.
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