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Posts for category: Dental Procedures

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
March 04, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
TreatingDecayedBabyTeethProtectsFuturePermanentTeeth

Primary ("baby") teeth may look cute and adorable, but they're a big player in your child's dental health. A primary tooth lost prematurely could eventually lead to a major bite problem.

Primary teeth fulfill a number of functions, most notably enabling young children to eat solid foods, speak and relate to people with a normal smile. But they also serve as placeholders and guides for future permanent teeth developing within the gums.

Problems arise, though, when a child loses a primary tooth early due to disease or trauma, leaving an open space on the jaw. Nearby teeth tend to drift in to fill the space intended for the permanent tooth, leaving little to no room for it when it's time to erupt. This can cause it to erupt out of position, which in turn could force other teeth out of alignment. The end result is a poor bite.

You can, however, avoid this costly outcome by either treating and preserving a decayed baby tooth, or preventing other teeth from drifting into a vacancy left by a lost primary tooth until the permanent tooth comes in.

Depending on the level of decay, treating a diseased primary tooth can include fillings, crowns or modified root canal therapy. For children at high risk for decay, a dentist may also apply sealant to the teeth to inhibit plaque buildup. Although some of these procedures can be extensive, they're often worth the time and effort to prevent a poor bite.

If, on the other hand, we eventually lose the tooth, we can still intervene by installing a space maintainer. This is essentially a loop of wire securely attached to a tooth on one side of a gap, while the other end of the loop butts up against the tooth on the other side. This prevents either tooth from migrating into the space until the permanent tooth is ready to come in.

Primary teeth may not seem all that important, but in the greater picture, they truly are. By taking care of them, you'll be doing your child's soon arriving permanent teeth a favor.

If you would like more information on pediatric dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Importance of Baby Teeth.”

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
December 13, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
SealantsCanPreventChildhoodCavitiesNowandaBiteProblemLater

Even with dedicated daily home care and regular dental cleanings, some children still have problems with cavities. And, that could morph into an even more serious problem in the future: Primary teeth lost prematurely to the disease could cause incoming permanent teeth to erupt out of position and form a poor bite.

To avoid this, parents often need a little extra help protecting their children's teeth from cavities. One way is with a dental sealant applied to larger teeth by their dentist.

A dental sealant is a protective coating of plastic or glass-like material that partially fills in the pits and crevices of the biting surfaces of larger teeth like molars. Even with diligent brushing it can be difficult to clean these surfaces of plaque, thus allowing bacteria to hide out in deep crevices. By "smoothing" out these areas with a sealant, they're easier to rid the teeth of decay-causing plaque.

Your child can undergo a quick and painless sealant application during a routine visit. After applying the liquid form of the sealant to the teeth with a brush, the dentist uses a curing light to harden the coating into a durable defense against decay.

Dentists have been applying sealants for several years now, which begs the question—do they work? At least two major studies say yes.

These independent studies both surveyed thousands of pediatric patients over several years. And, they both concluded that children with sealants experienced significantly fewer cavities than those without sealants. Furthermore, the protection appeared to last at least four years after the application.

A sealant application does involve a modest cost per tooth. But compared to what you'll spend to treat cavities, or even expensive orthodontic treatment later, sealants are well worth the cost.

If your child continues to develop cavities regardless of home and dental care, then talk with your dentist about sealants and other ways to minimize cavities. Taking these extra steps could help prevent a problem now, and a bigger problem in the future.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children.”

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
October 09, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
5SignsYourChildMayBeDevelopingaPoorBite

A Malocclusion—better known as a poor bite—can have far-ranging consequences that could follow a child into adulthood. Bite abnormalities make it more difficult to chew and digest food. And, misaligned teeth are also harder to keep clean, increasing the risk of dental disease.

But the good news is that we can often curb these long-term effects by discovering and treating a malocclusion early. A poor bite generally develops slowly with signs emerging as early as age 6. If you can pick up on such a sign, interventional treatment might even prevent a malocclusion altogether.

Here are 5 possible signs that might indicate your child is developing a poor bite.

Excessive spacing or crowding. A poor bite may be developing if the gaps between teeth seem unusually wide or, at the opposite spectrum, the teeth appear crooked or "bunched up" from crowding.

Underbite. In a normal bite the teeth on the upper jaw arch slightly cover the lower. If the opposite is true—the lower teeth are in front of the upper—then an underbite could be forming.

Open bite. Normally, when the jaws are shut, there is no open space between them. But if you notice a space still present between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are shut, it may indicate an open bite.

Crossbite. This abnormal bite occurs when some of the lower teeth bite in front of the upper, while the remaining lower teeth are properly aligned behind the upper. Crossbites can occur with either the front or the back teeth.

Front teeth abnormalities. Front teeth especially can indicate a number of problems. In a deep bite, the upper front teeth extend too far over the lower teeth. Protrusion occurs when the upper teeth jut too far forward; in retrusion, the lower teeth seem to be farther back than normal.

See your dentist if you notice these signs or anything else unusual with your child's bite. Better yet, schedule a bite evaluation with an orthodontist when your child reaches age 6. Getting a head start on treating an emerging malocclusion can save them bigger problems down the road.

If you would like more information on malocclusions and their impact on your child's oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Problems to Watch For in Children Ages 6 to 8.”

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
July 14, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
SavingPrimaryTeethFromDecayIsTotallyWorthIt-HeresHow

The few teeth your one or two year old has will eventually fall out in a few years—so, why be concerned about tooth decay this early? Actually, you should: Fighting tooth decay should always be a priority, even at this early age.

Even though primary teeth are short-lived, they make a huge impact on future dental health. These early teeth help guide the eruption of permanent teeth—if lost prematurely to decay, the later teeth may come in misaligned and create a poor bite. Preserving them could help you avoid later orthodontic treatment.

Fortunately, you can help prevent decay in your child's primary teeth. Here's how.

Practice oral hygiene even before teeth. You should begin daily oral hygiene, the principal defense against tooth decay, even before their first teeth emerge. You can reduce harmful bacteria in their mouths by wiping their gums with a clean cloth after nursing. When teeth appear, begin brushing with just a smear of toothpaste.

Limit sugar consumption. Because decay-causing bacteria thrive on sugar, reduce your child's intake in snacks and beverages. For example, don't put them down for bed with a bottle filled with a sugary liquid like juice, sweetened drinks or even formula or breast milk. If you do give them a night-time bottle, fill it only with water.

Avoid bacterial transfer. Your child's immature immune system can't handle the same level of bacteria as in your mouth. So, reduce the chances of bacterial transfer that may cause tooth decay by avoiding kissing on the mouth or sharing eating or drinking utensils with your infant.

Begin dental visits early. Even though they may have few teeth by their first birthday, it's still a good time to begin your child's regular dental visits. Your dentist may be able to diagnose decay early (and treat for maximum effectiveness), as well as provide sealants, topical fluoride and other measures for preventing decay.

Tooth decay at an early age could impact your child's future dental health. Taking steps now to reduce it could help ensure they have healthy teeth and gums later in life.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Do Babies Get Tooth Decay?

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
May 07, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: sedation dentistry  
SedationCanHelpanAnxiousChildRelaxDuringDentalTreatment

There are different ways to ease a child's potential nervousness with dental visits, like starting those visits around their first birthday or seeing a pediatric dentist who specializes in children. But even doing those things won't guarantee your child won't develop some form of dental anxiety, which could complicate their dental care.

To help make appointments easier for anxious children, many dentists use conscious sedation as a means of helping them relax. With this technique, the dentist administers a mild sedative to the child to take the edge off their nervousness, while allowing them to remain awake during treatment.

Sedation isn't anesthesia, the means we use to stop pain during treatment (although sedation may be used with anesthesia). Rather, sedation reduces emotional fear and anxiety. And unlike general anesthesia, a sedated child can still breathe without assistance and, depending on the depth of the sedation, respond to physical and verbal stimuli.

In most cases, children are administered sedation medications by mouth, usually as a syrup, although on occasion it might be delivered intravenously with an IV. The dose is usually given some time before their treatment session after the dentist has evaluated them. Dentists mostly use mild sedatives like Midazolam or Hydroxyzine with very little risk of side effects for children.

During the procedure, a designated staff member continually monitors the child's vital signs. Besides heart rate, pulse and respirations, they may also check the child's exhaled carbon dioxide levels to ensure they're breathing normally.

After the treatment session is over, staff will continue to monitor the child until their vital signs return to pre-sedation levels. If the child is of driving age, they'll need someone to drive them home. Children who've been sedated should remain home for the rest of the day, but they can usually return to school the next day depending on what kind of dental work they've undergone.

Dentists follow strict protocols for pediatric sedation adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Society, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. In addition, many states have also established processes for administering sedation therapy. It's a safe and effective method to ease a child's anxiety over their dental visit.

If you would like more information on making dental visits easier for kids, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sedation Dentistry For Kids.”