Toddler smiling while brushing her teeth as part of her daily dental hygiene routine

In October, dental offices across the nation celebrate dental hygienists’ hard work. Pediatric dental hygienists provide preventative oral care and dental hygiene practices. They examine and clean young patients’ teeth under a dentist’s supervision. Additionally, they educate young patients about their developing mouths in kid-friendly language. 

Good dental hygiene must happen in and outside of the dentist’s chair. Here are the answers to five commonly asked questions regarding dental hygiene: 

1. How do I remove plaque from my children’s teeth?

Did you know that the mouth is full of bacteria? Helpful bacterias create balance in your mouth’s ecosystem. However, an imbalance of oral bacteria can destroy teeth and supporting tissues. When harmful oral bacteria lingers on the surface of teeth, plaque develops. After bacterial plaque hardens into tartar, it can only be removed by a dental hygienist. If a dental hygienist does not remove the tartar, cavities and gum disease are likely to develop. 

A dental hygiene routine with flossing and twice-daily brushing can help prevent plaque and tartar development. Daily brushing keeps the mouth healthy by removing food particles and bacteria. In addition, the brushing motion also stimulates the gums (which helps keep them healthy). Also, choosing toothpaste with fluoride is a simple practice that prevents cavities.

2. Do my kids really need to floss?

Even though some children and adults consider flossing a chore, flossing is an essential habit. Brushing alone cannot remove the plaque and food particles lodged between teeth and near the gumline. We recommend flossing at least once per day.

With any dental floss, be mindful to avoid gum injury:

  1. Gently insert the floss between two adjacent teeth using a rocking back and forth motion.
  2. Carefully bring the floss to the gumline (but do not force it under the gums).
  3. Curve floss around the edge of the tooth in the shape of the letter “C.” 
  4. Slide it up and down the side of each tooth.
  5. Repeat the process between all teeth.

3. What’s the correct way to teach my children how to brush their teeth?

Brushing teeth in the morning and before bed helps prevent plaque build-up. Here are some tips to help teach your children to brush their teeth effectively:

  1. Use a timer or favorite tune to time children for two to three minutes.
  2. Hold the brush at a righchildren’skid’sWhat’st angle (45 degrees) against the gumline.
  3. Gently brush all inside and outside surfaces of the teeth in short strokes. Scrub the chewing surfaces, making sure to clean the pits and crevices.
  4. Gently brush the tongue to remove harmful breath-causing bacteria.

4. How does sugar affect my kid’s dental hygiene?

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that children and adults reduce their sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake. Sugar is a widely-known culprit of tooth decay because harmful oral bacteria thrive on high starch diets consisting of sugars and carbohydrates. When oral bacteria feast on sugar and carbohydrates, they create acids that can lead to bacterial infections. If left untreated, oral bacterial infection can turn into cavities.

An often overlooked component of maintaining good oral hygiene is cutting down on sugary, high-carbohydrate foods. This dietary change can decrease the likelihood of children developing cavities.

5. How often should my children visit the dentist for a dental hygiene visit?

Dental professionals encourage people of all ages to visit every six months. Consistent visits to the dental clinic can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, other oral health disorders. Our dental hygienists work diligently and patiently to keep your children’s teeth healthy by:

  • Removing cavity and gum-disease causing bacteria, plaque, and tartar
  • Cleaning and smoothing the surface of the teeth
  • Educating children to care for their teeth

Schedule a dental cleaning in Overland Park, KS, by calling (913) 685-9990 or messaging us online today.

little girl laying under grey blanket sucking her thumb

From their first teeth, to their first steps, and their first day of school, parents strive for healthy lives for their children. This includes promoting life-long oral health habits. Dental-related issues are prevalent among children, so preventative and proactive care is essential.

In this blog, we discuss six of the most common dental problems that affect young children and adolescents.

1. Cavities

According to the Center of Disease Control and prevention, about 1 in 5 children aged 5 to 11 years old have at least one untreated cavity. Why? In addition to sugar-heavy diets, most young children aren’t proficient at oral hygiene routines without supervision. Inconsistent and inadequate flossing and brushing often lead to dental decay.

When a sticky film of bacteria (plaque) isn’t removed from the tooth’s surface, the acid in the plaque erodes the enamel and eventually wears away at the tooth.

Dentists advise parents to supervise and help young children brush their teeth, ensuring that they remove plaque, bacteria, and debris twice a day to prevent cavities from forming. If tooth decay develops, dentists must treat it to prevent it from spreading to other areas of the mouth.

2. Dental Emergencies

Accidents happen, which means dental emergencies can happen at any time. As kids adjust to their growing bodies or are physically active, they are more prone to dental-related accidents. If teeth fracture or get knocked out completely, this is considered a dental emergency.

If a dental emergency happens (especially if the tooth is lost), immediately call the dentist and set up an emergency appointment. Early prevention, intervention, and treatment are vital to saving your child’s smile.

3. Excessive Thumb and Pacifier Sucking

Did you know that some babies suck their thumbs before they’re even born? Babies have innate sucking reflexes, which can cause them to place their thumbs or fingers in their mouths. Sucking thumbs and pacifiers is an appropriate and valuable self-soothing technique for very young children.

However, most medical professionals do not encourage children to suck their fingers past their fifth birthday. On top of relentless social difficulties, prolonged thumb-sucking can lead to abnormal bite and speech issues.

4. Gum Disease

Unfortunately, chronic gingivitis is common among children. Gingivitis is a reversible infection signified by red, swollen gums that may lightly bleed when your child brushes or flosses.

Generally, gum disease becomes more aggressive over time in children that do not practice adequate oral hygiene. Periodontitis (advanced gum disease) is irreversible and may involve gum recession, discomfort, and tooth loss if left untreated.  

5. Orthodontic Issues

Perfectly straight teeth without intervention are rare. Today, dentists expect up to 70% of American children to wear orthodontic devices to perfect their smiles. Orthodontic problems are typically genetic, with tooth and jaw size and shape playing a role in how teeth form and align.

Beyond aesthetic reasons, misaligned teeth can pose life-long health problems. It can be difficult for children to clean between crooked or crowded teeth, which may lead to the development of gum disease. Furthermore, overcrowded or misaligned teeth can cause jaw difficulties and fractured teeth.

The American Association of Orthodontists advocates that children receive their first orthodontic checkup at age seven to evaluate jaw and teeth development and create a treatment plan (if needed).

6. Dental Anxiety and Fear

Dental anxiety is a common worldwide phenomenon that affects 36% of children. Sadly, this often learned behavior can result in serious oral health consequences. Parents have the power to change the narrative and foster a more positive relationship with the dentist’s office for their children.

Schedule an Appointment

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt provides proven, kid-friendly dental care to help his young patients reach and sustain peak oral health. Contact our Overland Park, KS office today at (913) 685-9990 or message us online to schedule a consultation.

close up of toddler holding bottle

Oral health is a factor that all parents must consider from the time that their little one is born. Yes, even before his or her teeth have erupted!

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (aka Early Childhood Caries) mainly affects the upper front teeth but can have rippling effects throughout the mouth. Sugary drinks and milk turn into acid in the mouth when they encounter bacteria. This acid attacks the dental enamel and creates a cavity. If these drinks are paired with a meal, cavities are less likely. However, when children take a nap or go to bed for the night with a bottle in their mouths, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is likely to occur.

Symptoms of Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Tooth decay in babies and toddlers can be especially difficult to detect. Presumably, your little one won’t be able to express in words what is wrong with his teeth. Here are a few symptoms of early childhood caries to look for:  

  • White spots on the teeth
  • Light brown spots on the teeth
  • Brown or black spots on the teeth
  • Pain around the tooth
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold drinks and sweet foods

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a pediatric dentist near you as soon as possible.

How A Kid’s Dentist Treats Tooth Decay

When cavities first develop, and a baby has small white spots on her teeth, fluoride treatments may be able to reverse the decay by helping rebuild the dental enamel.

Darker spots on the teeth indicate more developed cavities that may require restorative treatments, such as fillings or dental crowns. Pediatric dentists make these procedures as comfortable and quick as possible. These are common dental treatments and should never be a source of anxiety for you or your little one!

Prepare your child for a dental crown with these helpful tips.

How To Prevent Early Childhood Caries

Prevention is always the best policy. There are several steps you can take to stop the development of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay in your child:

  1. Clean your child’s gums with a soft, damp cloth after a feeding.
  2. Don’t share eating utensils or straws that can transfer bacteria.
  3. After the teeth erupt, gently brush them twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a smudge of fluoride toothpaste.
  4. When two teeth erupt next to each other, floss between them daily.
  5. Avoid sending your little one to bed with a bottle in his mouth.
  6. Reduce the amount of juice and soft drinks your child drinks.
  7. Do not dip pacifiers in sugar or honey.
  8. Provide healthy, mouth-friendly meals and snacks.

Finally, be sure to schedule your child’s first dental visit by her first birthday or by the time her first tooth erupts (whichever comes first). These appointments give a pediatric dentist the chance to catch tooth decay in its earliest stages and offer tips for how to prevent more from developing.

During your child’s first visit, the dentist will mainly focus on reviewing you and your child’s dental and medical histories and evaluating his smile for oral health issues or developmental concerns.

When necessary, a dental assistant can clean and polish your little one’s teeth.

Call Smiles Dentistry for Kids Today

Our team at Smiles Dentistry for Kids is dedicated to reducing childhood tooth decay by offering high-quality, individualized oral health care in a comfortable environment. to schedule your child’s first visit with Dr. Matt, contact our Overland Park dental practice today at (913) 685-9990.

baby boy drinking water from a green cup

When it comes to staying hydrated and healthy, water is the best option. Juice, soda, tea, milk, and sports drinks all have benefits (well, maybe not soda), but they also have several negative effects. For example, children who drink milk right before bedtime are much more likely to develop cavities than children who drink water at nighttime. Sports drinks, sodas, and juices are also filled with sugars that interrupt the health of the oral microbiome.

While it may take some convincing, it’s worth it to get your little one to drink more water! Here are the benefits of water for oral health:

1. Water can strengthen dental enamel.

Since 1945, fluoride has been added to public water systems. Fluoridated water has proven itself as one of the best defenses against childhood tooth decay. When children drink water that contains fluoride, it mixes with saliva and remineralizes and strengthens dental enamel, lessening their chances of developing cavities.

If your child is drinking mostly bottled water, he probably isn’t experiencing these benefits! Be sure to find a bottled water that contains fluoride to reduce your child’s risk of tooth decay.

2. Water cleans the mouth.

Unlike sugary drinks, water rids the mouth of food particles and cavity-causing bacteria without leaving anything behind. Sports drinks, soda, juice, and even milk leave unwanted sugar and acids lingering on the teeth and gums that can cause cavities.

Water also removes stains that could cause your child’s teeth to become dull or yellow. Sugary, dark-colored drinks are one of the most common teeth-staining agents.

3. Water helps the mouth produce more saliva.

Did you know that saliva actually plays a very significant role in your child’s oral health? More concerning than your little one producing too much saliva is when he or she isn’t producing enough!

Saliva helps us break down and digest food properly and keeps us from experiencing dry mouth (which can be extremely uncomfortable!). The more water your little one drinks, the better she will digest food and avoid dry mouth.

Check out this blog to learn how to help your little one if he or she is experiencing dry mouth.

4. Water doesn’t contain any sugar.

Children over two years of age and older should consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day. Just one apple juice box can contain 23 grams of sugar!

Not only does sugar contribute to cavities, but it also contributes to childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes. By simply avoiding these drinks, your child’s oral and overall health could dramatically improve.

If you want to “spice up” your little one’s water to make it more appealing, try adding fruit, such as strawberries and blueberries to give it a little more flavor. Some parents add a small amount of juice to their child’s water too.

For more tips to improve your child’s oral health…

Contact our friendly dental team at Smiles Dentistry for Kids in Overland Park! Dr. Matt and his team of hygienists are passionate about helping children avoid childhood tooth decay. That’s why we offer preventive dentistry methods that are safe and effective and focus on educating our patients and their parents in easy-to-understand language.

Join our family! Call (913) 685-9990 to schedule your child’s first visit.

happy little girl brushing her teeth in bathroom

We hear over and over again how important fluoride is for our teeth, but many of us don’t understand why. Understanding the value of fluoride is especially important for parents who want to help their children avoid cavities and achieve optimal oral health (and we know you do!).

A Brief History Lesson

Fluoride is a natural mineral found in rocks, rivers, lakes, oceans, soil, and certain foods. In 1944, the City Commission of Grand Rapids, Michigan voted to add fluoride to its community water system. During the 15-year study, researchers monitored the effects of water fluoridation on the children in Grand Rapids. Their findings? The number of cavities in children who were born after 1944 dropped more than 60 percent.

Since this discovery, many cities have added fluoride to their community water systems, and it has been added to most oral hygiene products for children and adults. Got more questions? We’ve got answers! Continue reading to learn more about fluoride and its effects.

What does the ADA think about water fluoridation?

The American Dental Association fully supports the addition of fluoride into community water systems. Based on years of research and the obvious benefits, the ADA states that fluoridation is “the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.”

How does fluoride fight cavities?

Fluoride, the chemical ion of fluorine, strengthens dental enamel and prevents cavities from forming by combining with the calcium and phosphate in saliva.

Foods like bread, crackers, candy, and noodles trigger cavity-causing bacteria. These bacteria eat away and weaken dental enamel, making it vulnerable to developing cavities. Saliva on its own replaces the calcium and phosphate that these bacteria strip from the teeth, but it is not always strong enough to fight against the disease-causing bacteria.

Fluoride combined with saliva creates a substance called fluoroapatite. This combination of minerals strengthens and protects the dental enamel from decay.

Is there such a thing as too much fluoride?

Yes. Dental fluorosis is the greatest risk for children who consume too much fluoride. This condition is also known as mottled teeth. Children who swallow fluoride toothpaste or take fluoride supplements may develop streaks, spots, or pits on their teeth. Severe cases of dental fluorosis can cause brown, black, or gray spots on the teeth. While we hope this issue never occurs, the good news is that it is purely cosmetic.

When children with dental fluorosis are older, dentists may recommend teeth whitening to even out the surfaces of the teeth.

When should children start using fluoride toothpaste?

The ADA guidelines on fluoride toothpaste are as follows:

  • Infants receive appropriate amounts of fluoride through breast milk, ready-to-feed formula, and powdered formula. Mix powdered formula with water that is demineralized, purified, distilled, or de-ionized to ensure he or she isn’t consuming too much fluoride.
  • Parents of children younger than 3 should place a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) on the child’s toothbrush.
  • For children ages 3-6, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
  • The National Institutes of Health estimates that children ages 9-13 have a daily intake of no more than 2 mg of fluoride, and teens ages 14-18  have no more than 3 mg of fluoride daily.

Children are most at risk for dental fluorosis until age 8. As soon as your child is able, teach him or her to spit out the toothpaste and avoid swallowing it.

Talk to an experienced and trusted pediatric dentist about introducing your little one to fluoride.

Learn More from Dr. Matt, Overland Park Pediatric Dentist

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt’s goal is to educate children and their parents on how to avoid childhood tooth decay and achieve optimal oral health. He does this through kid-friendly teaching and easy-to-understand explanations for parents.

Call our friendly dental team today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule an initial consultation or dental check-up for your little one.

close up of little boy at the lake

If your little one needs a dental crown, the best thing you can do is prepare him or her for the appointment. No need to beat around the bush or keep it a secret! Kids do best when they know what to expect (as do many adults).

Placing a dental crown is a simple and common procedure for children with cavities, a broken tooth, or a primary tooth that hasn’t properly developed. Our job as pediatric dentists is to ensure our patients receive top-notch, gentle dental care. We just ask that the parents of our patients prepare them for the procedure as best they can!

Here are three tips for preparing your little one for a dental crown:

1. Explain the procedure in a kid-friendly way

One of the best ways to prepare your child is to let him or her know what’s coming. Of course, you don’t want to give all the details—leave out any that he might think are scary—but the basics of the procedure and what is expected of the patient are fair game.

You can explain the dental crown procedure like this:

“When we get to the dentist’s office, you and I will go into a room with the dentist and his helpers. Then while you’re lying very still and calm in the chair with your mouth open, he will give you a medicine that takes away pain. Finally, he will place the crown on your hurt tooth to make it better!”

The name “dental crown” opens the door for you to make this explanation as fun as possible. For example, you can tell your little one that after the crown is placed, he or she is officially a prince or a princess!

2. Act it out

Despite your fabulous explanation, your child may still feel uneasy about the procedure. In the days leading up to the appointment, take some time to act out the procedure on each other or stuffed animals.

Make a place for the patient to lie down, then pretend to perform the steps of the procedure. Let your little one be the dentist next! Be sure to acknowledge and praise good behaviors throughout the process. 

3. Be calm and patient

One of the best things you can do for your child on the day of the appointment is to stay cool, calm, and collected. It’s very likely that she will have more questions or anxiety on the day of the procedure. Answer these questions as best you can in a way that eases her worries.

Be sure to avoid making a big deal about the dental crown procedure and don’t tell or allow anyone else to tell your child horror stories about the dentist. Again, we promise to do our part to make sure your child’s dental experience is comfortable and relaxing.

Dental Crown for Kids in Overland Park, KS

Want to ensure your child receives the best dental care available? Our team at Smiles Dentistry for Kids wants the same thing! Our pediatric dentist, Dr. Matt, has worked hard to create an environment where kids (and their parents) feel welcomed, carefree, and comfortable from the time they walk in the doors to the time they walk out.

To learn if your child needs a dental crown, or to get a second opinion, contact our friendly dental team today at (913) 685-9990 to set up a consultation with Dr. Matt.

little girl brushing teeth

From the first moment we hold our babies, we make a promise to ourselves to do all we can to ensure they are loved and protected. It’s the reason we put locks on our cabinets, set curfews, and over-do it with gifts on their birthdays. Another way we, as dental professionals, encourage parents to protect their children is to start taking care of their child’s mouth from the day he or she is born.

Good oral hygiene practices like wiping a baby’s gums after feedings, brushing with fluoride toothpaste, and breaking thumb-sucking and pacifier habits protect infants and adolescents from all kinds of oral health problems.

When parents don’t abide by their pediatric dentist’s guidelines, children may suffer from the following oral health issues:

1. Cavities

Cavities, or caries, occur when sugar and other food particles remain on the chewing, front, or back surfaces of the teeth. These particles turn into plaque, then tartar, and eat away at the enamel. This creates a cavity, or hole. If left untreated, the cavity continues to form, affecting the softer, inner layer of the tooth.

Dental caries can be extremely painful for children and should be avoided at all costs! Be sure to talk to your child’s pediatric dentist about good oral hygiene practices to put in place at home.

2. Gingivitis

Like cavities, gingivitis begins with plaque that transforms into tartar. The difference is that this plaque is built up along the gum line. The longer it sits there, the more damage it does.

Signs of gingivitis include bleeding gums after brushing or flossing, swollen gums, or irritated gums. If you notice these symptoms in your child’s mouth, be sure to schedule a dental cleaning with his pediatric dentist as soon as possible. 

3. Baby bottle tooth decay

Bottle- and breast-fed babies are at risk for something called “baby bottle tooth decay.” Essentially, this is the same as cavities, but in infants and toddlers. Dental professionals have given it this name because these cavities are usually caused by frequent, long-lasting feedings, especially right before bedtime or naptime.

Breast milk and formula contain sugar that sticks to teeth immediately after a feeding. When babies eat right before sleeping, less saliva production allows the sugar to turn into acid and eat away at the enamel.

To prevent baby bottle tooth decay, clean his or her teeth after every feeding and try not to allow bottles to put her to sleep.

4. Bad breath

Persistent bad breath in children (and adults) can have a few different causes, such as:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Cavities
  • Gingivitis
  • Dehydration
  • Sinus or upper respiratory infection
  • ENT problems

Our first recommendation is to ensure your little one is brushing and flossing properly and consistently. If this doesn’t help, schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist or physician, based on his other symptoms.

5. Early tooth loss

Ultimately, all of these oral health issues could lead to tooth loss if they aren’t treated in time. While this may not seem like a big deal because “baby teeth fall out anyway,” early tooth loss comes with serious consequences, like:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Digestive issues
  • Inability to pronounce certain letters
  • Low self-esteem
  • Improper development of permanent teeth

As pediatric dental professionals, we strive to give parents the knowledge and tools help their children avoid these consequences through education and preventive care.

Dr. Matt at Smiles Dentistry for Kids is always prepared to educate parents on the proper oral hygiene practices for their children. We also provide necessary and preventive treatments that reduce oral health problems in kids of all ages.

Contact our friendly team today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule your initial consultation.

little girl holding toothbrush

Did you know that water was first fluoridated in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945? This began the study of how fluoride protects children’s teeth. After 11 years, the NIDR found that the cavities rate among children in Grand Rapids dropped more than 60 percent!

Because of this research, almost all community water sources, toothpastes, and mouthwashes today contain fluoride. Dental professionals continue to find ways to prevent cavities and other oral health problems among children and adults.

Although cavities for children may have been inevitable at one point in history, they don’t have to be part of your little one’s childhood! Continue reading to learn the most common reasons for cavities in children as well as tips to prevent them.

Causes of Cavities

Ultimately, cavities develop when sugars and starches cling to the teeth and aren’t removed by brushing, flossing, or rinsing. Bacteria turn these particles from food to acids that contribute to the formation of plaque that eats away at the dental enamel.

The following factors raise a child’s risk of tooth decay:

  1. High consumption of sugar and starches
  2. Low consumption of water
  3. Not drinking fluoridated water (tap water)
  4. Failing to brush and floss daily
  5. Dry mouth caused by medications

Tips to Prevent Tooth Decay

Along with encouraging your little one to drink more water, it’s entirely possible to prevent cavities. Check out these tips from our Overland Park pediatric dentist!

Encourage good oral hygiene

Children (and adults) should brush two times a day and floss once daily. These two practices fight against disease-causing bacteria that lead to cavities by ridding the mouth of sugars and starches that they feed off.

We know that teaching your little one to brush and floss properly and consistently can be challenging, but it is possible!

Start with taking your child to the store to pick out is oral hygiene tools like a cartoon-themed toothbrush and yummy-flavored toothpaste. Then, watch this kid-friendly video together to learn about the importance of oral hygiene and how to brush and floss properly.

Talk with your kid’s pediatric dentist for more helpful tips and tricks.

Offer healthy snacks

What your child eats affects her oral, physical, and mental health. Therefore, it is so important to offer healthy, mouth-friendly snacks for her to eat throughout the day! Protein, dairy, fruits, and veggies are the best food groups to stick to.

Check out this blog to learn about some of our favorite healthy snacks for kids!

Visit the dentist regularly

Dental cleanings and exams aren’t just for adults; children need them too! Children should begin visiting the dentist when their first tooth erupts and every six months after that. A dental cleaning is performed when appropriate, but an exam is completed every single time.

This way, the dentist can track your child’s oral development, check for cavities, and offer personalized tips for a healthy mouth. These appointments are also important because you (the parent) get access to an expert in kids’ oral health. Any and all questions are welcome!

Start Preventing Cavities Today

One of the best ways to put your little one’s oral health on track is to schedule a regular dental cleaning and exam appointment as soon as possible. At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, our goal is to help all children live cavity-free lives!

Call (913) 685-9990 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Matt.

We are excited to welcome Dr Tara Craven to the Smiles Dentistry for Kids team!Learn More