Dr. Dudenbostel is a member of the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry. She is also a member of the staff at Muhlenberg-Lehigh Valley Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is associated with the Grand View Hospital in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. She has also participated in volunteer work in Guatemala for 15 years.
Does your child need a root canal treatment, called a pulpotomy, to save a damaged primary tooth? Are you wondering why children even get root canals? The truth is root canals – which save teeth that have a bacterial infection or inflammation in the tooth pulp – prevent primary teeth from being lost prematurely.
The early loss of a baby tooth can cause issues with speech development, chewing and the alignment of the permanent teeth still developing. Primary teeth are essential space holders for the emerging adult teeth coming in. When a tooth is lost, the surrounding teeth will shift to fill in this space and cause problems with bite alignment.
Signs of Tooth Damage
If your child displays any of the following signs, they may need treatment:
– Sudden toothache
– Throbbing, constant or intermittent tooth pain
– Sensitivity to hot or cold liquids, or certain foods (sweet, tart, spicy, etc.)
– Pain when chewing or speaking
If a primary tooth has pulpal (nerve) damage or a newly erupted adult tooth has nerve damage, your child may require a root canal treatment (a pulpotomy). Whether the pulp has been damaged because of trauma or cavities, the tooth still needs to be addressed. Aside from being space holders that allow the emerging teeth to come in properly, a bad bite or malocclusion may arise since the teeth and jaw bone are still growing into place.
A pulpotomy works by removing only part of the nerve, unlike an adult root canal where all of the pulp tissue is taken out. The good news is when working with a baby tooth, the treatment is quicker and not as invasive as adult treatment. Only the diseased tissue is taken out, and the healthy tissue is protected. A baby crown will be placed afterward so the tooth can still hold space for the adult tooth.
Our endodontist will evaluate your child’s medical history and take dental X-rays to see the inside of the tooth so an accurate diagnosis can be made. After the area has been numbed using local anesthesia, miniature dental instruments will be used to remove the decayed tissue. To protect the healthy pulp tissue, antibacterial material will be applied and then sealed to prevent additional infection. A biocompatible medicated filling is applied to offer comfort and facilitate healing. The filling will be absorbed by the body (just like the roots of a primary tooth would do), so the adult tooth can take its place. Often a tiny stainless steel crown will be used to restore the tooth’s design.
Preparing Your Child
You can prepare your child before the appointment to ease them into the treatment. Remind them how much better they will feel once the tooth is taken care of and their pain is relieved! When talking to them about the pulpotomy, stay upbeat and use calming language. Focus on the benefits they will receive, reassuring they will comfortable throughout the treatment, and you will be by their side. With the help of in-office pain management and over-the-counter pain relievers, it will help soothe any soreness afterward.
If your child has tooth pain or needs a pulpotomy for an infected tooth, please reach out to our team for an evaluation. We can help your child relieve their pain and make sure they keep their baby teeth until their adult teeth are ready to come in!
February brings National Children’s Dental Health Month! This is brought to you by the American Dental Association to create child awareness of the benefits of good oral health. This year’s month-long campaign is, “Brush and clean in between to build a healthy smile.”
First Dental Visit
Around their first birthday, or within six months after their first tooth emerges, visit our dentist to make sure the teeth of your child are developing properly. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, over 50 percent of children will have some kind of tooth decay before they turn five, so it is important for your child to attend early dental visits. We can address any oral hygiene questions you have and let you know when it is time to start using a toothbrush.
Let them see you brushing and flossing, and help them brush and floss their teeth. By following the 2-2-2 Rule (seeing the dentist twice a year and brushing and flossing twice a day for two minutes), you will develop healthy oral hygiene habits.
-Hold the toothbrush at a 45° angle and brush along the gum line.
-Brush each tooth in a back and forth, up and down motion.
-Clean the inside, outside, back and top surfaces of each tooth.
-Gently wipe the tongue to remove bacteria.
Brush twice a day for two minutes each, giving the molars some extra attention. If your little one wants to help, you can take turns brushing or let them start and you finish. Don not let them share their toothbrush, and replace it when the bristles start to fray.
When your child’s teeth touch, it is time to start flossing the areas that the toothbrush can’t clean. Whether it is dental floss, floss sticks/picks or oral irrigators, find a flossing tool that works best and use it!
-Using about 18 inches of floss, you can wrap an end around each of your middle fingers.
-Slide the floss between two teeth gently
-At the gum line, create a C-shape around each tooth
-Pull the floss tight to scrape against each tooth and repeat until all have been cleaned.
When your child’s manual dexterity and coordination is developed around six or seven years old, you can let them start brushing on their own. At this time, our dentist can also speak with you about fluoride and dental sealants to prevent cavities. Your child can usually floss by themselves by the time they are nine or ten.
High schoolers are often busy with school, sports and extracurricular activities, work and socializing, so you want to help them stick to their daily oral hygiene habits. They may be wearing braces, having wisdom teeth removed and feeling self-conscious about their smile (and their breath), so good oral hygiene habits can support their goals.
-Encourage them to use a timer, listen to their favorite song while brushing and flossing for two minutes, or switch to an electric toothbrush with a timer.
-Keep plenty of dental hygiene supplies in stock such as soft toothbrushes, flavored flosses, toothpaste and a toothbrush for their backpack when they are on the go.
-Keep fruits and vegetables handy instead of junk food for healthier snacking.
-If they are active in sports, supply them with an athletic guard to protect teeth from being chipped, cracked or lost.
-Talk to your teen about peer-pressure activities that can damage his or her smile like smoking, drinking or getting an oral piercing.
Your teens want to look and feel their best, so support their efforts for maintaining those oral habits instilled in their childhood. This month is a good time to reinforce good habits and provide your children and teens with the tools and support they need for a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Babies sucking their thumb, finger, or pacifier is a natural reflex that helps them feel secure and happy. This is often used to help them relax and fall asleep, and they even do this in the womb! If your child is still doing this, the hope is they lose interest and stop this behavior between the ages of 2 to 4 (according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry®), or when their front permanent teeth are ready to come in. You don’t have much to worry about before this occurs.
However, once your child’s adult teeth erupt, the sucking action can cause issues with the healthy growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. So, if your child continues to suck on their thumb, finger or a pacifier to soothe themselves after the age of 4, you may need to help them stop this habit. At this stage, constant and intense sucking can lead to dental issues. This may include interfering with the upper front teeth coming in properly, how the jaws and teeth-supporting bone are developing and aligning, and even a narrowing of the roof of the mouth. However, passive finger sucking is not the same as aggressive thumb sucking, which can cause issues with your child’s primary teeth.
During following checkups, our pediatric dentist will keep an eye out on how your child’s teeth are coming in and how their jaws are developing. If your child is older, their jaw may require orthodontic treatment to fix because of an open bite or crossbite. We want to make sure your child’s teeth align properly, so they can eat and speak effectively. Helping your child overcome this habit can prevent bite misalignment, saving them from needing orthodontic treatment or oral surgery down the road.
It’s easy to help your child wean off of their pacifier habit, so you can easily dispose of it. It helps to do this when they are still a baby versus when they become a toddler. Other strategies include placing a bad tasting object/paste that is safe for them, trading it in for something else or giving it to the Binky Fairy (same idea as the Tooth Fairy).
Thumb and finger sucking is a little trickier. For those children who are still dependent on their sucking habits, you can remove their thumb or finger from their mouth after they fall asleep. Another hopeful idea is when your child is of school age, and their peers will pressure them to stop. There are also dental appliances that can help remind your child not to suck their thumbs or fingers.
The most effective ways to help your child wean off of this habit is to offer positive reinforcement in the form of praise or a reward when they don’t suck on their thumb or fingers. Another option is to distract them and redirect their focus to something else.
If your child is sucking because of insecurity, you might focus your efforts on addressing the reason for the anxiety, so you can give your child the comfort they need. You can also place a bandage over the thumb or finger or a sock over their hand while they sleep. Our pediatric dental team is also happy to help you prevent this habit for your child. If you would like help or to schedule a visit, please give our team a call today!
Santa and his elves aren’t the only ones giving gifts to children to reward good behavior throughout the year. The Tooth Fairy is another children’s favorite as she bestows gifts in exchange for their lost teeth year-round. Considering they can lose up to 20 baby teeth, children can get to know the Tooth Fairy very well in your journey to help them develop dental awareness!
Motivating your children to brush and floss their teeth takes daily effort, and you can enlist not only our dentist and dental team to help but the Tooth Fairy as well to make your job easier. Even though your child won’t start losing their chompers until five or six, you can talk about the Tooth Fairy much earlier. We encourage using the idea of the Tooth Fairy to help your child learn about their oral health and develop good oral hygiene habits along the way. You can enlist this character’s help in reinforcing good oral health practices by letting them know she places a higher premium on a healthy tooth over a decaying one. In fact, she uses the nice teeth for her special projects!
Reinforce Good Oral Health Habits With These Gifts
And while an older child, say eight or nine, appreciates a monetary gift in exchange for their tooth, a younger child may be more responsive with a special treat:
– Children’s book or movie about Tooth Fairy adventures or an adventure to the dentist’s office
– A small toy that is dental health-related, like a tooth-shaped pencil box or plushie
– Tooth-friendly snack packet or gum
– Light up or musical toothbrush or even one with their favorite superhero
– Cute kid’s floss dispenser
– Fun-flavored toothpaste
Just remember, your gift for the first lost tooth will set your child’s expectations for the ones to come, so you might want to plan ahead as to how you want to encourage and reward your child.
Tooth Fairy as a Dental Health Teaching Tool
Encourage your child to learn and practice good oral health habits by having the Tooth Fairy leave personalized notes that reinforce healthy habits. She can encourage brushing twice every day, flossing once a day, eating more vegetables, and going on regular trips to our dentist and Tooth Fairy “assistants.”
Along with oral health tips, Tooth Fairy notes can reinforce good habits like how well your child is doing with their oral hygiene practices, or that they need to brush a little longer or focus on the back teeth more. Notes can be printed using online sources with cute artwork or handwritten and sprinkled with glittery fairy dust. Use Tooth Fairy notes to encourage your child’s good habits and to motivate them to keep up their good work. Reinforcing good behavior is an excellent motivational tool and can even be used it to set new oral health goals!
If your child is old enough, you can enlist the help of a mobile app to create enthusiasm, such as Tiny Dentist or Brusheez Tooth Brushing Timer. Thinking that the tooth fairy might be watching can help your child get excited about spending time caring for their chompers every day. To start the new year with your child well on their way to good oral health, be sure to include our dental team in your Tooth Fairy game and get them excited about their healthy smile!
Do you have questions about your child’s developing smile? If so, today we’re going to talk about their teeth. Your infant’s primary teeth can appear as early as five months, and by the time they are one year old, they usually have sprouted six baby teeth (typically the top four teeth in the front and the bottom two). Their first teeth are mostly used for biting food and not for actual chewing, that is, until the molars show up, often during their second year. By the time your little one is three, all 20 of their baby teeth (10 on top and 10 on bottom) erupt in pairs – one on each side of the jaws – and stay put until your child turns six or seven.
When their teeth start to erupt, you can help soothe sore gums by rubbing gently with a cool, moist cloth or gauze, or have them bite on a cooled teething ring. If you are concerned about your child sucking their thumb or pacifier, just be sure they stop by the time they are two (or even earlier) as this can affect their bite by altering the position of the front teeth.
It’s important to remember that though they are temporary teeth, primary teeth are still essential for your child’s dental health as they are living tissues. Like their later permanent teeth to come, baby teeth have enamel, dentin, dental pulp with nerves and blood vessels, and tooth roots which anchor the tooth in the bone.
This means that primary teeth aren’t just temporary space holders for their permanent teeth, they actually play a crucial role in the development of your child’s smile. Losing baby teeth too soon can allow the surrounding teeth to shift and interfere with adult teeth trying to erupt. Primary teeth also help your child develop proper speech as their tongue and lips touch the teeth to enable them to pronounce words clearly. Primary teeth also allow good nutrition as they chew food and break it down for proper digestion.
You can take good care of their primary teeth to prevent decay by doing the following:
– Brush or clean teeth daily. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cleaning your child’s teeth with a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to protect erupting teeth.
– Provide a nutritious diet for developing teeth and limit sugary foods and beverages.
– Take your baby to the dentist by the time they are one. Brush your child’s teeth until they are between six and eight years old as then they will have developed the manual dexterity necessary to brush teeth correctly. You can teach them healthy habits by letting them start the brushing process and you finish it.
Primary teeth start to fall out around the age of six as permanent molars erupt in the back of the mouth. By the time they are eight, your child’s permanent teeth may erupt in the front and by the time they are 13 their remaining adult teeth come in, the last being their third molars or wisdom teeth.
If you have any questions about your child’s developing oral health or want to make an appointment for them with our caring dentist, please give our friendly team a call. We look forward to helping you build a healthy foundation for your child’s smile!
Are you having a hard time getting your child to take care of their smile? With the holidays fast approaching, you want them to take even better care of their pearly whites with so many sweets and treats coming at them. We want your children to have great dental care, and some great ways to help your child in their dental care include:
– Showing them how to brush and floss
– Being a good example by brushing and flossing with them.
– Practice going to the dentist office. Use a popsicle stick and light to play “pretend dentist” so they get used to having an object in their mouth.
– Set goals and reward them with a small toy or fun new toothbrush. You can set up a calendar with fun stickers so they can see their progression.
– Read a fun story (like the one below!) to get them excited to brush and floss.
Monsters Need Dental Care, Too!
Wesley the Werewolf woke up one morning with a toothache, thinking to himself, “I don’t want my tooth to break!” So he hurried and made a dental appointment, hoping for a cure or some type of ointment.
He knew Halloween was fast approaching with all kinds of tricks and monsters, sweets and treats. Wesley was determined to be prepared for all kinds of scares out there on the streets.
Dr. Vernon the Vampire greeted him with a hello and smile, explaining everything and making jokes all the while. All of a sudden with a twist and a flick, Dr. Vernon pulled out an old toothpick.
“There’s your toothache problem! A toothpick where it shouldn’t have been! The rest of your smile looks healthy, here’s your gold star. Now go enjoy your Halloween!”
With a thank you and a toothy grin, Wesley went on his wolfy way, determined to enjoy the best day of the year and to not let another toothpick stray.
Wesley met with his monster friends, Gina the Goblin and Frankenstein’s son, Frankie. Gina looked excited to greet the night, but Frankie had a scowl and seemed a bit cranky.
Gina asked, “Frankie, why the long face? It’s the best scary day of the year!”
He sadly replied, “I think I’m losing a tooth, that is what I fear!”
“Not to worry!” said Wesley with a grin. “Dr. Vernon will take you in!”
With some extra courage, they rushed over to Dr. Vernon’s cave. He pulled the tooth with ease, telling Frankie, “You were very brave!”
Dr. Vernon gave Frankie a pat on the head and told him while putting his tooth in a jar, “Put this under your pillow for Harry the Tooth Fairy, he’s the best fairy by far.”
With a reminder to brush and floss each day, the monsters went on their happy, frightful way. Ready for Halloween with their best smile in place, they disappeared into the night without a trace.
Our team will be happy to set up an appointment for your child’s biannual exam and cleaning. Feel free to give us a call today, and we’ll do everything we can to help your child with their smile as well as help them feel comfortable in our office.
With so many concerns surrounding your teen’s healthy development, one important factor to manage is their oral health. During this time in their life, they are exposed to new situations and fads with their peers. You can help them navigate this stage to build healthy habits for a lifetime of healthy smiles. So, let’s take a look at what’s in your teen’s mouth.
Increasingly popular, mouth jewelry increases susceptibility to infection. Not only does the mouth already harbor bacteria, but when they are combined with oral piercings, it can result in infections and swelling of the tongue. This can interfere with breathing not to mention your overall oral health. If an infection arises from the use of unclean equipment by the person performing the piercing, your teen can contract a bloodborne form of hepatitis. Both tongue and mouth piercings can damage the teeth when they eat, talk, chew or sleep. It can also chip or fracture teeth, necessitating a dental filling. With extensive damage, damage can even require a root canal or tooth extraction.
Using tobacco in any form is bad for your teen’s health, especially their oral health. Along with bad breath, it can stain their teeth and tongue, and slow healing if a tooth is damaged, extracted or another oral treatment is done. Tobacco use leads to gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancer. Helping your teen avoid tobacco products is the best way to prevent these problems, and if they already use, help them quit to prevent further or future harm (look at cessation programs for help).
Teens, particularly young women, are vulnerable to adopting an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. These disorders are particularly harmful to the mouth because they cause poor nutrition which harms the gums and other soft oral tissues. If the salivary glands swell from a disorder, your teen could end up with a chronic dry mouth. If they are regularly throwing up, the stomach acids bathing the teeth erode precious tooth enamel and damage the teeth. Talk to your teen about eating disorders so they are aware of the damage and seek treatment for them if they do have a problem.
When your teen’s third molars come in, they don’t always have sufficient space to erupt straight up from the root. If the teeth become impacted, it can harm abutting teeth and even cause infection. Regular dental visits can help determine if your teen needs to have a wisdom tooth extracted. Along with infection, signs that a wisdom tooth might need extracting include pain, a cyst, a tumor, gum disease or tooth decay. A wisdom tooth may also need to be extracted if your teen is going to wear braces.
Teen Oral Health Tips
– Brush twice a day, floss at least once daily and use an antibacterial mouthwash if needed. Carrying a travel size toothbrush, bottled water and even sugarless gum in a backpack can help them stay on top of oral hygiene on the go.
– Maintain routine six-month dental visits to look for problems, remove tartar, polish their pearly whites and answer any questions or concerns about their oral health.
– Eat a healthy diet. Tempting as it is to eat on the run or skip meals to get to school, attend extracurricular activities, or work part-time jobs, it will eventually take a toll on their oral health. Make sure they have access to balanced meals and healthy snacks like apples, carrot sticks and cheese, water and low-sugar drinks.
– If your teen engages in sports or high impact recreational activities, they are at increased risk for oral injury. Equipping them with a mouthguard is their best bet for protecting their mouth from harm.
We are happy to meet with your teen and explain how their habits can affect their oral health now and in the future. If you have further questions about helping your teen protect their smile, please give us a call. We are happy to help you and your child achieve a healthy, happy smile!