Not many things smell sweeter than a freshly bathed baby, so how in the world does that baby grow into a toddler or child with bad breath? We usually associate bad breath, aka halitosis, in scientific terms and more commonly with adults.
Surprisingly, bad breath arises fairly often in children for a number of reasons that can almost always be successfully addressed. An affinity for traditionally stinky foods such as garlic, onions, hard cheeses, spicy meats, etc. needs to be ruled out first.
The next most likely culprit with bad breath is oral hygiene. If too many bacteria exist in the mouth, living on leftover proteins and sugars that weren’t brushed away, they emit sulfur compounds that, well…smell pretty bad.
Get your child on a regular schedule of brushing, possibly even more than twice a day if necessary, and flossing every day. Be sure your child’s toothbrush is no more than a few months old; it needs bristles that are up to the task. Do not neglect brushing the tongue, as it tends to harbor bacteria. Mouthwashes and sugar-free gums may cover some odors and provide moisture, but they are no substitute for flossing and brushing.
If adjusting diet and oral hygiene habits, it may be time to consider these other causes of bad breath:
Dry mouth. Is your child a mouth-breather or taking certain medications with “dry mouth” warnings? When saliva production decreases, bacteria cannot be cleared away as effectively.
Sinus trouble. You probably know already (from a history of infections) if your child has sinus problems. That can result in bad breath.
Gum disease. If your child’s oral health habits are better now but were not effective in the past, he or she may have developed gum disease (periodontitis) from the presence of plaque, a condition that will, if untreated, cause odor.
If you’ve noticed that your child has persistent bad breath that you can’t seem to conquer, please call us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Sjostrom. He will do his best to diagnose the issue and help you take care of your child’s bad breath. Luckily we stock plenty of masks in the office, so there’s no need to worry about scaring anyone off.
As parents, we find joy in seeing our children smile. When you notice one or more discolored teeth in your child’s smile, that joy can quickly turn to concern. Tooth discoloration can happen to both primary and permanent teeth. Usually it’s only a cosmetic issue, but sometimes discolored teeth indicate a more serious problem. These are some of the most common reasons for discolored teeth in children:
Medications taken during pregnancy. Children of mothers who took tetracycline (an antibiotic) during pregnancy are more prone to having dark stains on their baby teeth.
Newborn jaundice. When babies who have suffered from hyperbilirubinemia—the condition that causes jaundice—start teething, parents might notice a greenish-blue or brownish-red hue on newly erupted teeth.
Too much fluoride or iron. Consuming excessive amounts of iron or fluoride can cause dark hues (iron) or white streaks (fluoride) on teeth.
Injuries. An injury to the teeth or gums may cause your child’s teeth to look a bit pink or gray.
Weak enamel. Your child’s discolored teeth may be blamed on your genetics. Some people are simply prone to weak enamel, which can manifest as discoloration when new teeth are developing.
High fevers or illness. A high fever, infection or other serious illness as a baby can cause staining or discoloration in permanent teeth.
Poor oral hygiene or consuming too many sugary drinks. Tooth decay can cause discoloration or staining.
While many of the causes of tooth discoloration are out of your control, you can help improve the health and appearance of your child’s teeth by making sure he or she brushes twice a day and flosses every day. Regular check-ups and professional dental cleanings in our office are important steps to keeping your child’s smile healthy.
If you notice a new discoloration on your child’s tooth, call us at 505-200-3516 for an appointment. Dr. Sjostrom can determine whether the staining indicates something more serious. Even if it is just a cosmetic concern, Dr. Sjostrom can suggest recommendations for how to correct or manage the discoloration. Don’t let discolored teeth get in the way of your child’s beautiful smile.
Is it a battle to get your children to brush their teeth? Do brushing and flossing happen only when you remember to tell them to do it? Do you ever skip it for the sake of some peace and quiet? If you are reading this, you probably have experienced at least one of these three scenarios. It is a part of the learning process parents and their children go through.
Regular tooth-brushing and flossing require guidance, discipline and a nightly commitment. Even keeping your own tooth-brushing routine can sometimes be difficult without someone looking over your shoulder to give that gentle push you need. Luckily for your children, you can provide the discipline and commitment that helps create healthy nighttime habits.
Having an established routine makes it easier for children to predict and accept what is next, thus alleviating some of the added stress of the dreaded nighttime parenting challenges. In a child’s world, predictability equals stability.
First, instill proper oral health care in your very young children by having them brush their teeth before bed. They may not necessarily understand why they are doing it, but you are training your children that this is a “must do” operation, something that is a part of their evening routine. As they grow, they will learn to appreciate the toothbrushing routine as a healthy habit. This small nightly ritual will be a building block toward the lifetime goal of a healthy mouth.
Second, reward your child (and yourself) by reading a book together afterward. Whether your child is reading to you or vice versa, as a parent you are fostering a healthy cognitive activity that will pay dividends throughout your child’s school years. Plus, it reinforces the special bond between you and your child.
Finally, insist on a set bedtime. By doing so, you foster a normal sleep cycle, which helps ensure your child gets enough rest. Sleep is a vital component of a healthy mind and body; without it your child will be groggy and less willing to follow your directions.
Call us for an appointment or let us know at your next visit if you need help establishing a dental-friendly nighttime routine for your child. Dr. Sjostrom can provide guidance and answers to many questions, like when kids are old enough to brush without help, and whether or not your child is ready for a fluoride rinse.
In the late teen years and long after most of your child’s permanent teeth have come in, the third molar, AKA wisdom teeth, will begin to emerge. While the wisdom teeth may fit neatly into place for some people, in other people they are either misaligned or impacted. If that occurs, it is usually recommend that they be extracted.
Wisdom teeth are considered impacted when they remain enclosed within the gum or jawbone, or only partially break through the gums. In most cases, an impacted wisdom tooth is painless. In fact, most people do not realize the teeth are there. However, if impacted wisdom teeth are not removed, they can lead to the following problems:
The flap of gum above the wisdom tooth can become infected and painful; if left untreated, the infection can spread.
Because they are in areas difficult to reach with a toothbrush and floss, impacted wisdom teeth can develop cavities.
Impacted wisdom teeth can exert pressure on neighboring molars, leading to pain, tooth decay or crowding.
The good news is that these potential problems can be prevented or alleviated by removing the wisdom teeth, a routine procedure. In fact, the earlier the wisdom teeth are removed, the simpler the procedure is. In many cases, wisdom teeth are removed before they begin to erupt, when the roots are not yet fully developed, the bone is less dense and the tissues in the mouth can heal faster. Dr. Sjostrom will be able to advise you as to if and when a referral to the Oral Surgeon is recommended for extraction of wisdom teeth. They are best equipped and trained to make this a safe and positive experience.
Dental hygiene and regular visits to our office are important at every age. As your child approaches their late teen years (or sometimes earlier), we will begin to monitor the wisdom teeth more closely. If your child has not been in for an appointment recently, call us to schedule one. Dr. Sjostrom can assess your child’s oral health and, if appropriate, discuss the wisdom of removing the wisdom teeth.
As a new or expectant parent, you may have heard the term “bottle rot” or “baby bottle tooth decay.” We typically think of babies’ bottles as a source of nourishment and growth however, they can also be the source of serious tooth decay if not used properly―or if your baby clings to the bottle beyond the time when he or she should have outgrown it.
Baby bottle tooth decay refers to early childhood caries, usually in the front teeth, caused by prolonged exposure to sugars, usually from a bottle or breast feeding. The good news is that these cavities can often be prevented by following a few precautions:
Do not let your child take a bottle to bed, which can lead to prolonged exposure to sugars.
Fill bottles only with formula, breast milk, or plain water. Never give your child a bottle of sugar water, juice or soft drinks. Diluted juice is just as harmful as 100% juice.
Do not share saliva with your child via utensils or pacifiers, as this can transmit harmful bacteria.
Always use a clean pacifier. Do not sweeten it with sugar or honey.
Encourage your child to start drinking from a cup by his or her first birthday. Unlike a bottle, a cup will not cause liquid to collect around the teeth. And your child won’t take a cup to bed.
Limit the frequency of exposures to drinks other than water. Encourage your child to fill their belly in one sitting rather than sipping throughout the day or night.
Make sure you bring your child in for a dental appointment before his or her first birthday. Even though primary (baby) teeth are temporary, they need diligent care because they provide the foundation for the permanent teeth. Early childhood is the best time to build good dental hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.
If you haven’t seen us lately, call our office for an appointment. We will review the best hygiene practices with you―practices that will prevent cavities and gum disease and give your child a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Flossing is an important tool for children as much as it is with adults for preventing cavities between teeth, removing plaque between teeth, and keeping things clean below the gum line. Children may need to begin flossing as early as two or three years of age.
Primary (baby) teeth often have space between them in which case flossing is not routinely necessary, although we don’t discourage beginning good oral habits such as flossing early. Eventually, as the spacing between your child’s teeth decreases, you will notice two or more of your child’s teeth touching―or at least close enough that simply brushing teeth is not enough. That’s when you need to start flossing your child’s teeth if you have not already done so. Remember the goal is complete dental hygiene; it is important to get all sides of the tooth clean―including those you can’t reach with a brush.
Your child does not and will not have the fine motor skills necessary for flossing for quite some time (usually not until age 10 or 11), so the job is up to you as a parent or guardian. Make flossing a pleasant experience and emphasize that it is part of a healthy dental routine. Use the simplest motions possible to dislodge whatever food or plaque might be stuck between the teeth.
Sometimes it is easiest to have your child lie flat with his or her head on a pillow or in your lap and say, “Open wide!” Take a piece of floss and wrap it between your middle fingers until you have about two inches of floss to work with. Place the floss around the base of the tooth near the gum in a “C” shape. Move from bottom to top two to three times, using a fresh part of the floss as you go from tooth to tooth.
As a parent, you need to set the groundwork for a healthy dental routine. Remember, including flossing in this routine is vital to your child’s oral health―you don’t want to risk any long-term dental issues. Call our office with any questions you may have about flossing, or bring them up at your child’s next appointment.
The coming of the New Year brings resolving to break bad habits. Is your child’s thumb-sucking habit on that list?
If only it were that easy!
Most children who suck their thumbs (or fingers) as infants stop on their own by the time they turn 5 years old. Generally, thumb-sucking’s impact on mouth growth and tooth alignment, or a child’s bite, arises only if the habit continues after permanent teeth have begun to come in.
If your child’s fifth birthday is approaching (or has passed) and he or she continues thumb-sucking, consider these strategies:
Ask your child for ideas about how he or she can learn to stop thumb-sucking. If your child is not ready, let them know that you’ll be there to help when the time is right.
“Catch” your child when not sucking, and offer praise. Conversely, if your child seems at times to be unaware of sucking, gently point it out to promote self-awareness of the habit, but be careful with scolding.
If your child’s anxiety in particular situations fosters sucking, offer alternatives, such as a stuffed animal or blanket to snuggle with instead of sucking. Be careful that such alternatives do not backfire and trigger thumb sucking.
Set goals with your child to reduce the amount of time he or she sucks their thumb little by little, such as only at nap time but not while awake. Once your child has met the goal, move on to a more lofty goal of quitting all together.
Use rewards such as sticker charts, prizes, and praise.
Two products are marketed for breaking the thumb-sucking habit, but some doctors and psychologists have suggested that they may cause more harm than good:
Nasty-tasting liquids. Sold over-the-counter just for this purpose, these bitter or sour preparations are applied to the favored thumb or finger. This method works in some children, but not all.
Plastic thumb guard. Used mostly at night and held in place with a wristband your child can’t remove, the thumb guard can be quite effective, although can create anxiety in the child.
There are also ‘home remedies’ which can be used to break thumb sucking such as placing a sock or glove over the hand, taping the thumb, or using a band-aide during the daytime to remind your child not to suck their thumb.
As a last resort, we can fit your child with an intraoral appliance. This device physically prevents the sucking motion. It usually remains in place for three to six months, after which the habit should be broken.
If you need help deciding on a course of action, come see us. Dr. Sjostrom can explain to your child why thumb-sucking can cause trouble for his or her future teeth. Then we can work together to develop an individualized plan to break the habit.
Have you ever wished you could bottle up some of your child’s energy and save it for yourself? If so, you are not alone. Kids are full of energy and like to try new things. They also don’t know the dangers associated with combining their energy and trying new things. We’ve all heard stories about children who chipped or lost permanent teeth because they weren’t properly prepared for the risks that come with athletic or dangerous activities. You want to protect your children from everything bad, but it’s always a challenge to know what they’re up to, and it’s impossible to watch their every move. Fortunately, parents can take a few simple steps to keep their children’s teeth in their mouths and off the sidewalk or field.
Mouthguards―Sports such as hockey and football are major causes of dislodged teeth among children, right? Wrong. Mouthguards have been mandatory equipment in these sports for decades and fortunately have reduced the number of dental injuries for players, but other sports pose risks that you might not expect. Baseball, basketball and even gymnastics can be a danger to your child’s smile if you don’t make sure he or she uses a mouthguard. Equestrian activities are another commonly overlooked activity when it comes to using a mouthguard.
Helmets―While mouthguards protect the lips, gums and teeth from direct impact, a well-designed helmet can make sure that the threat―be it the sidewalk, a hockey puck or an errant kick from a careless teammate―never even reaches your child’s mouth. The right helmet also reduces the risk of concussion or worse, traumatic brain injury, something that can have severe and far-reaching consequences.
Make sure your child’s protective equipment is effective and up-to-date.
Ask about how to protect your child’s teeth from traumatic injuries. Dr. Sjostrom’s specialty residency training and experience have given him the opportunity to treat many dental injuries and he can help you make informed choices to minimize your child’s risk.
Primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, have more purpose than just milking the Tooth Fairy of her hard-earned money. In addition to aiding chewing and speaking, the presence of primary teeth helps guide the permanent teeth into place, as long as the timing is right.
In cases where the primary tooth falls out earlier than expected and the permanent tooth is not yet ready to take its place, there is a chance that spacing for it can shrink. The simple reason is that the neighboring primary teeth begin to shift inward to close up the space left by the missing tooth. Without enough space to grow up and into, the permanent tooth may come in at an angle.
How can this be prevented? The answer is simple: We keep the space open with an appliance called a space maintainer. These devices maintain the width of the space which was occupied by the primary tooth. A simple type of space maintainer is made of a fixed or removable metal band and wire. The band is attached to the base teeth, and the wire is extended between the two, thus preserving the space. There are several other variations of the space maintainer, and the complexity of the one used is often dictated by the location of the tooth, shape of the jaw and the patient’s age.
Not all cases of premature primary tooth loss require space maintainers. Usually, the four front top and bottom teeth will have enough space to grow in by themselves. Dr. Sjostrom can help make the call on whether or not a space maintainer is necessary.
Regular visits to our office are important for monitoring the space for incoming teeth and the health of the gum tissue around them. Be careful with assuming that your child’s permanent teeth will grow in correctly because they are “supposed to.” We can ensure that your child’s permanent teeth will come in properly so that he or she has a healthy smile.
Could your child’s asthma medication be causing cavities? The answer is somewhat unclear. Some scientific studies have suggested that anti-asthmatic medications may increase the risk of tooth decay and erosion, while others claim that there’s no link at all. Unfortunately, these conflicting studies don’t offer much reassurance when your child’s teeth and lungs are in question.
What we do know is that inhaled asthma medications can create conditions in the mouth that may increase the risk of dental problems. When your child inhales the medication, a powdery substance washes over the teeth, reducing the level of saliva and increasing the amount of acid in the mouth. These two factors can contribute to tooth erosion and decay.
In addition, many asthmatic children breathe through their mouths, which also reduces the level of saliva, resulting in dry mouth (xerostomia). Saliva is the body’s natural defense against decay, diluting the acids in the mouth that break down the tooth enamel; anything that reduces saliva encourages cavities.
Nebulizers utilize a type of sugar called fructose; other oral anti-asthma medications use sugars to make them more palatable to children. Frequent use of these types of medications creates more exposure to sugar, which we all know can lead to decay. However, there is no conclusive proof that taking these medications puts your child at increased risk.
The best solution is to pay special attention to the dental health of a child who takes asthma medications. Be extra vigilant with brushing and flossing, and have your child chew sugarless gum, rinse with water, or brush after taking his or her medication. See us regularly, and discuss your child’s asthma medications at each appointment. This way, we can watch for signs of acid erosion or decay, catching any problems before they become more serious. Together, we can ensure that your child’s teeth stay healthy―that will allow everyone to breathe a little easier!