Three laughing children lying on the grass

While it’s never pleasant to be told your child must lose a tooth that’s not supposed to come out, the reality is that dental extraction is much less scary than most people think. Indeed, myths abound surrounding tooth extraction. But when you know the truth about this procedure, it can make the prospect much less daunting both for you and for your child.

Dr. Matt offers conservative and compassionate pediatric dentistry in Overland Park, KS. He only recommends dental extraction when it is absolutely necessary, using our advanced technology to evaluate your child’s tooth and overall dental health. When it is required, he and the team at Smiles Dentistry for Kids do everything in their power to make the procedure easy, quick, and comfortable. 

Have you been told your child needs a dental extraction? Wondering about your teen’s wisdom teeth? Contact us to learn more!

Myth #1: Wisdom Teeth Always Need to Come Out.

In the past, wisdom tooth extraction was almost a rite of passage, along with getting your driver’s license and graduating from high school. Today, dentists are much more discerning as they evaluate each individual patient.

Dr. Matt only recommends wisdom tooth extraction if the third molars are causing problems or are likely to do so in the future. If there is not enough room for the teeth to come in, they can cause significant discomfort, and they can upset overall tooth alignment. Wisdom teeth can also become impacted, meaning they are trapped beneath the gums or jawbone.

Myth #2: When Kids Have an Extraction, They Don’t Need a Replacement.

Since your child’s baby teeth will eventually come out anyway, it seems odd to replace an extracted tooth. But those baby teeth serve an important function as placeholders. If the teeth come out too early, it can cause the other teeth to shift, leading to a lifetime of orthodontic problems.

Myth #3: Dental Extraction Will Affect Your Child’s Appearance.

Extraction does not have to affect your child’s appearance at all! Just as there are for adults, a number of highly realistic dental restorations can replace missing teeth. A dental bridge is the most common option, especially for pediatric patients. Bridges are made from porcelain and similar substances, which match both the color and sparkle of dental enamel.

In recent years, dental implants have become a popular method of tooth replacement. But implants are not typically appropriate for pediatric patients since bone growth and development can affect the stability of implants. Typically, boys have a final growth spurt between the ages of 11 and 17, while girls stop growing between the ages of 9 and 15. An oral surgeon can assess whether growth has stopped and whether implants may be suitable.

Of course, if your child has lost a baby tooth, you may not want the hassle and expense of a permanent dental restoration. In these cases, Dr. Matt will usually recommend a spacer. As the name implies, a spacer simply maintains the space left by the extracted tooth. Although it will not blend in like a bridge, it will keep the other teeth from shifting. 

Learn More about Tooth Extraction from Your Pediatric Dentist

For more information about dental extraction and other kids’ procedures, contact our office today.

Reach us online or call us directly at (913) 685-9990.

Young boy in blue robe brushing teeth with toothpaste with fluoride

Most dentists attach great importance to fluoride and brag about how it is good for the teeth. However, many people do not understand why it’s such a popular ingredient in many toothpaste tubes, mouthwash, and other dental products. In this blog, we explain what fluoride is and how to use it safely.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral expelled from rocks into the soil, water, and air. It is an essential element for dental development that also defends against harmful bacteria and plaque. After our enamel is exposed to dangerous bacteria, the bacteria produce acids that seep into enamel (the outermost layer of the teeth) and break it down. This destruction is what causes cavities (or holes in the teeth) over time.

Where bacteria and plaque work hard to disintegrate the tooth, fluoride builds it up through remineralization. Thankfully, the essential mineral is widely available in many forms.

Why is fluoride added to drinking water and toothpaste?

Almost all water contains trace amounts of fluoride but is not adequate to prevent cavities. For this reason, it is often added to drinking water supplies as a public health measure but is a decision at the local or state government level. Also, many dental products contain added fluoride to ensure that people are getting enough to prevent dental decay.

The primary sources of fluoride are:

  • Drinking water and processed beverages (75% of daily intake)
  • Dental products (including toothpaste, mouthwash, and more)
  • Sometimes, a prescription supplement (tablets or drops)

How can my child safely incorporate it into their daily routine?

Fluoride intake is essential for people of all ages but is especially beneficial for the developing mouths of infants and children. Preparing your child for optimal oral wellness includes:

  • Brushing teeth twice a day with an appropriate amount of fluoridated toothpaste
  • Encouraging children not to swallow toothpaste 
  • Flossing teeth daily to remove food particles and bacteria hidden between teeth and below the gumline
  • Maintaining hydration and proper nutrition by drinking plenty of water and having a balanced diet
  • Attending routine dental exams with your child’s dentist every six months
  • Asking your child’s dentist about fluoride treatments

Most people concur that too much of anything can present itself as dangerous. Despite the beneficial nature of fluoride, it’s important to note that excessive amounts can cause fluorosis, which can weaken bones, joints, and teeth and also discolor enamel. Therefore, it’s imperative to maintain a healthy balance when supplementing. Children under the age of eight are at the highest risk of developing fluorosis. 

What are the advantages of fluoride treatments?

According to researchers, young people treated with a fluoride varnish experienced a 43% reduction in decayed, missing, and filled tooth surfaces. In the same study, baby teeth with a fluoride varnish suggested a 37% less likely to develop tooth decay and cavities.

While not all children require fluoride treatment, here are four advantages of professional fluoride treatments:

  • Prevents tooth decay
  • Strengthens enamel
  • Remineralizes the teeth

Learn More About Cavity Prevention with Dr. Matt

In summary, fluoride is a highly beneficial mineral often added to treatments and toothpastes to help prevent tooth decay when used in moderation. At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt and his compassionate staff educate children and their parents about how fluoride can be used safely as a method to reduce the risk of cavities. Schedule a child’s dental visit in Overland Park, KS, by calling (913) 685-9990 or messaging us online at your earliest convenience.

Young male pediatric dentist examining a little girl's mouth

A family dentist and a pediatric dentist can both provide quality care for your children. Before moving forward and selecting a dentist for your children, it’s essential to know the difference between family and pediatric dentists. The chief distinction between these two types of dentists is the types of patients that they treat:

  • Family dentists see both adults and children.
  • Pediatric dentists specialize in treating children exclusively.

While this isn’t the only thing that distinguishes the two types of dentists, here are three factors that you may not have considered before:

Education and Training

Family Dentist

Family dentists (or general dentists) must complete these tasks to secure licensing:

  • A four-year degree
  • A post-graduate degree
  • Hands-on training
  • Exams with passing scores

After accomplishing these goals, dentists usually have DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry) or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) after their name.

After graduation, both family and pediatric dentists must learn a state-specific amount of continuing education hours to stay up-to-date with dentistry’s latest trends and technology. All dentists must acquire 60 hours of continuing education credit in their specialty every other year in Kansas.

Pediatric Dentist

After receiving the same educational training as a general dentist, pediatric dentists (or children’s dentists) undergo further training. Typically, pediatric dentists complete a two-year residency after graduation from dental school. During this time, pediatric dentists study advanced material for their specialty, including (but not limited to):

  • Child development and psychology
  • Advanced diagnostic and evaluation procedures for children
  • Dental care for special needs patients
  • Advanced surgical procedures for child anatomy
  • Conscious sedation and general anesthesia
  • Management and treatments of oral and facial trauma and injuries

The additional study, as mentioned earlier, helps children’s dentists treat the developing bodies of infants, children, and adolescents.

Types of Treatments

Family Dentist

Family dentists typically offer an array of services, including:

  • Preventative care: Primary focus is keeping the teeth and gums clean and healthy to impede the development of tooth decay and gum disease
  • Restorative Dentistry: Keeping the mouth healthy and fully functioning
  • Cosmetic Dentistry: Improving aesthetics of the smile

Pediatric Dentist

Pediatric dentists have more experience and understanding of the anatomy of primary (or baby) teeth and developing mouths and jaws. Furthermore, children’s dentists have experience dealing with medical conditions not typically observed in adults (including tongue ties and cleft palates). Often, general dentists recommend young children to pediatric dentists if they experience these childhood health problems. Developing teeth, mouths, and jaws help children speak and eat properly, so they must receive adequate care.

Office Atmosphere and Language

Family Dentist

Because family dentists serve both adults and children, they typically have an office environment and faculty that accommodates adult tastes and expectations.

Pediatric Dentist

Most pediatric dentists add special, child-centric touches to their physical offices, such as bright colors or kid-friendly decor. Also, children’s dentists and their team have special training for: 

  • Understanding children’s behavior
  • Speaking with simple vocabulary to educate young children
  • Easing anxiety and fear in young children

Choose a Pediatric Dentist in Overland Park, Kansas

Although family dentists can treat the entire family, pediatric dentists cater to children’s growth, development, and needs. At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt specializes in treating the smallest patients, whether a baby with his or her first tooth or a teenager ready to set sail to college. To find out more information about our practice, call (913) 685-9990 or contact us online at your earliest convenience.

young boy with a toothache

Is your kid complaining about hurting teeth? Toothaches are a common oral health problem among children, and they can sometimes feel unbearable. Dr. Matt, an Overland Park Pediatric Dentist, educates parents on everything they need to know about childhood toothaches.

Causes of Toothache

If your child has a tooth, they can feel the wrath of a toothache. Most babies experience the painful process of a tooth emerging by six months of age. However, toothaches are most common in children between the ages of 6 to 12 years old. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 1 in 7 children aged between 6 to 12 years experience toothaches. Depending on how intense the pain is, a toothache can be a symptom of any of the following dental problems:

  • Emerging teeth
  • Food accidentally wedged between the teeth (can aggravate the tooth roots and gum line)
  • Dental decay, damage, or erosion
  • Chipped or cracked enamel (surface of the tooth)
  • Detached or missing dental fillings

Signs of Toothache

Toothaches can affect your child’s eating and sleeping habits, which directly impact their growth and development. Even if your child cannot verbally communicate that they are experiencing dental pain, here are five signs to look out for:

  1. Eating less
  2. Fussiness before bed and frequently waking throughout the night
  3. An ongoing need to chew (“cutting teeth” for babies and toddlers)
  4. Sinus infection symptoms
  5. Rubbing their jawlines and in or around their ears

Home Remedies

Here are four actions that you take at home if your child is suffering from a toothache:

  • Ice: Applying a cold compress on the cheek for 15 minutes can reduce swelling and numb the area. Also, babies enjoy gnawing on frozen rags.
  • Over-the-counter medication: NSAIDs and numbing gels can relieve toothaches temporarily.
  • Saltwater rinse: By mixing ½ a teaspoon of salt with warm water, you can compose a saltwater solution that may dislodge substances between teeth and naturally disinfect the mouth. (Do not swallow.)
  • Teabag compress: Applying a warm or cold tea bag can soothe a toothache. However, do not use this method often because tea can stain the teeth.

In-Office Treatment

When is it time for your child to visit the dentist for his or her toothache? Dentists consider toothaches a dental emergency if the toothache:

  • Causes severe pain
  • Lasts for more than two days
  • Prompts swelling in the face or mouth
  • Triggers earache, fever, or discomfort (when the child opens their mouth widely).

Pediatric dentists identify and treat toothaches in two steps:

  • Step 1: The dentist determines the source and severity. This may constitute an x-ray, a physical exam, and the dental team calmly asking your child questions about their dental pain. 
  • Step 2: The dentist solidifies a treatment plan. Dependent on the source of your child’s toothache, the dentist will come up with the next step for treatment. Typical treatment plans for toothache include cavity treatment, fillings, root canals, and extraction.


While some toothaches (such as those caused by emerging teeth) are unavoidable, cavities, gum disease, and dental trauma are preventable. Keep your children’s teeth safe and healthy by:

  • Brushing and flossing twice daily
  • Going to the dentist for a routine clean and check-up at least every six months
  • Wearing a mouthguard during contact sports

Contact Our Five-Star Overland Park Pediatric Dentist

If you notice that your child is expressing toothache symptoms, it may be time to reach out to your child’s dentist. At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt treats toothaches in a kid-centered, comfortable environment. Schedule an appointment at our Overland Park, KS office by calling (913) 685-9990 or contacting us online today.

Anxious young boy hiding behind table with with red glasses

What causes dental anxiety and stress? Is it the sound of dental tools or the clinical smell? Is it the rumors and misconceptions spread about dental treatments? While no conclusive research pinpoints the exact source of dental anxiety, 3 in 4 children suffer from it.

Pediatric dentists and parents can help children overcome this common inconvenience. Although there are many actions that parents can take to prepare their children before the dental visit, here are five techniques that pediatric dentists apply to ease dental anxiety in children:

1.     Create a Positive Environment

Despite popular belief, visiting the dentist can be an exciting moment in a child’s life! Bare walls can cause patients to feel anxious. Hence, pediatric dentists often decorate their clinics with bright colors and cheerful décor. Also, supplying child-centric media and video games can make trips to the dentist awesome.

In addition to choosing offices with a kid-friendly atmosphere, parents can encourage children to bring a positive attitude to their dental visits. Children can cope before and during the appointment by bringing comfort items from home—such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.

2.     Speak in a Friendly Tone

As parents, we often analyze how we speak to our children because it influences the relationship between child and parent. Usually, how something is said impacts children more than what is said. Children are more likely to listen to adults with a reasonable, nice tone instead of a harsh, aggressive one. Our entire dental team is trained to speak with children respectfully so that our young patients can feel confident in being themselves and placing trust in our staff.

3.     Keep the Child Engaged

The charm of young people is that they are often full of energy and life. However, it’s no secret that most children get restless without hesitation. A helpful technique that pediatric dentists implement is asking children easygoing questions to build a rapport, distract them from treatment, and just for fun. Constant, clear communication with easy-to-comprehend terminology can help reduce the anxiety of patients of any age.

4.     Remain Calm and Patient

When young children feel wound up at a dental appointment, it’s important not to “poke the bear.” Pediatric dentists remain calm and try not to rush procedures because this can add to a child’s existing anxiety. Instead, our dentist takes extra time and attention with each child because it gives both the dentist and patient a sense of control in a perceived high-stress situation.

5.     Use of Nitrous Oxide

Regardless of how inviting the team or practice is, some young patients may still feel anxiety, especially if their main concern is discomfort. A pediatric dentist may suggest nitrous oxide (commonly referred to as “laughing gas”) in these instances. This mild form of sedation is safe and effective for children.

Book Your Child’s Next Appointment with Dr. Matt

Dr. Matt and his dedicated team focus on forming positive bonds and nurturing experiences to help younger children feel more comfortable at the dentist’s office. By creating rewarding dental experiences early, children can take this optimistic oral health outlook with them into adulthood.

To learn more about how to help children overcome their dental anxiety in Overland Park, KS, contact Smiles Dentistry for Kids by calling (913) 685-9990 or requesting an appointment online today.

nervous young girl standing in front of green background

Bright colors. Toys and games in the waiting room. Smiling and happy team members. A gentle, kid-friendly dentist. All of these should add up to a comfortable and fun dental experience for a child. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

Dental fear and anxiety are real issues for children (and adults). While most adults can attribute theirs to a bad dental experience, children often can’t. Most of the time, children fear what they don’t know, or they’ve heard horror stories from the adults in their lives.

If your little one is preparing for his first visit to the dentist and is feeling a little anxious, check out these five tips to help him overcome his dental fear.

1. Tell a story about a positive experience you’ve had at the dentist.

Many children fear the dentist because of stories they’ve heard from friends and family members. Change the narrative by sharing a story about a good experience you’ve had at the dentist.

This could be something as simple as dental cleaning and exam appointment that went smoothly. Tell the story in a kid-friendly way. If sharing a story about another dental procedure, try to leave out specific details that might scare your little one.

2. Play dentist at home.

Rather than playing house, school, or doctor, offer to play dentist! This will ensure her first dental experience is a good one. All you need is a comfy chair and a toothbrush. Have your little one lean back so you can brush or count her teeth, then have her do the same for you.

3. Watch a TV show or read a book about a kid who visits the dentist.

SpongeBob, Dora, Arthur, and Peppa Pig all have TV shows about visiting the dentist. This provides an idea of what a dentist’s office looks and sounds like. In many of these episodes, the character feels afraid of the dentist, then realizes it isn’t scary after all. We hope this is true for your child, too!

4. Have her pick out a comfort item to bring to her appointment.

Does she have a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or toy? Be sure to bring it to the appointment! we want all our patients to feel as safe and comfortable as possible; sometimes that means bringing an item from home to help ease any anxiety, and that’s more than okay.

5. Choose the right pediatric dentist.

One of the most important aspects of a good dental experience is choosing the right dentist for your child. this may require some research on your behalf, but it will definitely be worth it!

Not all pediatric dentists are equal, and we know you want the best for your little one. When searching for a pediatric dentist, look for these qualities:

  • Experience
  • A passion for helping children achieve optimal oral health
  • Excellent patient reviews
  • An up-to-date, detailed, and fun website
  • A priority of patient comfort

We’re sure that a dentist with these qualities won’t let you or your child down.

Eliminating Dental Fear in Overland Park

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt and the rest of our team prioritize the patient experience and providing excellent dental care so that dental fear is never an issue.

Here’s a review from one of our most recent patients:

“Our kids had been to many dentist office and it was always a scary experience for them (yes even pediatric ones). We found Smiles from a friend and we LOVE them! They’re so amazing with kids, and scared adults when our kiddos needed some work done. Quick schedule dates and they follow up after every appointment with hand written cards to the kids in the mail-my kids love getting their own mail. They just truly care.”

Malarie C.

Contact our office today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule a first visit for your child.

smiling children

A healthy, happy child—it’s what we all desire for our kids, right? Many times, health and happiness are intertwined. This is especially true when it comes to oral health.

When a child’s mouth health declines, their smile usually fades away as well. Our pediatric dental team aims to help parents help their children achieve and maintain optimal oral health through preventive treatments.

Some of the most common preventive treatments for children include:

  • Dental cleanings
  • Fluoride treatments
  • Dental sealants
  • Space maintainers
  • Mouthguards

Of course, there are so many things parents can do at home to give their child the best chance at a healthy smile. Creating a consistent oral hygiene routine, offering healthy meals and snacks, and ensuring their child drinks plenty of water.

Here are three reasons why preventive dentistry is so important for children:

1. Better overall health

The link between oral and overall health is extremely evident. When our mouths aren’t healthy, our body suffers and vice versa.

For example, children who experience early tooth loss because of poor oral hygiene often suffer from poor nutrition which can affect their ability to function well at home and school. Cavities and gum disease are caused by disease-causing bacteria that the body must fight against. This bacterium can cause inflammation all throughout the body, including the brain. Gum disease has also been connected to pancreatic and kidney diseases.

Teaching your little one proper oral hygiene techniques and bringing him to the dentist every six months doesn’t just ensure he avoids smelly breath and cavities, it also attributes to a healthier body and mind. That’s an investment worth making!

2. Proper dental and oral development

When a child experiences early tooth loss, the adjacent teeth will likely shift into the open space, causing serious alignment issues. These children will need braces in the future to correct the problem. Unfortunately, alignment problems can also lead to cavities and gum disease because of an inability to thoroughly clean the teeth.

As far as oral development goes, children with an unhealthy mouth or who have missing teeth may struggle to pronounce certain words and sounds. Children don’t typically begin to lose their primary (or baby) teeth until six years old, so their permanent teeth won’t be ready to erupt until then as well.

3. Good self-esteem

Something as small as persistent bad breath can negatively affect a child’s self-esteem and mental health. On the other hand, a healthy smile can add to a confident, happy, and self-assured life.

As an adult, it isn’t hard to imagine what it would be like to live with an incomplete or imperfect smile. Low self-confidence can make our social lives nearly nonexistent, hinder our job prospects, and negatively affect our overall happiness and success.

The impact is the same for children, except instead of work, it’s school. Children with good self-esteem are more likely to do well in school, try new things, and lead a more fulfilling life. Preventive dentistry helps get them there! 

Preventive Dentistry for Kids in Overland Park

The first step towards helping your child achieve optimal oral health is to find an experienced and compassionate pediatric dentist. Dr. Matt at Smiles Dentistry for Kids is living his dream of helping children gain and maintain healthy smiles. We are conveniently located and excited to serve your family!

Call our office today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule an appointment.

little girl blowing bubble with gum on peach background

It’s probably pretty rare that you have a conversation with anyone about oral health. Unfortunately, it’s not a hot topic except for those who work in the dental field. Since it is our profession, we find it very interesting, and we’ve discovered quite a few fun facts that you and your child will be interested to learn about!

Whether you’re trying to teach your little one how to take good care of his or her teeth or are trying to hype him up for his first dental appointment, these fun facts about dentistry and oral health should certainly make that process easier.

1. Dental enamel is the strongest substance in the human body.

It’s true! Although dental enamel is also one of the smallest substances in the body, it can withstand an immense amount of pressure and regular wear and tear.

Enamel is made up of two essential proteins: dentin sialophosphoprotein (DSP) and dentin phosphoprotein (DPP). These play two different roles but together create a strong and healthy surface. Click here to learn more about these proteins.

2. Chewing sugarless gum helps prevent cavities.

Many children grow up believing that gum is bad for your teeth. Although some types of gum are, many are actually good for oral health! Sugarless gum helps remove food from between the teeth and clean the surfaces of the teeth. It also contains xylitol which inhibits the growth of bacteria that leads to cavities.

Another fun fact: Santa Anna helped introduce gum to America!

Why this is, we don’t know! But if you or your child have a blue toothbrush, you’re a part of the minority of people who prefer blue over other toothbrush colors. Can you come up with any ideas about why this is true?

4. No mouth is exactly the same.

Forensic dentists use dental records to identify people all the time. Teeth can tell us how old a person is, their ethnicity, and information about a person’s lifestyle and diet. Additionally, the shape, size, and placement of a person’s teeth are unique, like fingerprints.

5. Ida Gray was the first African-American woman to earn a dental degree.

Ida Gray was orphaned as a teenager and faced many challenges growing up. Despite her difficult life, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 1890 with a Doctorate of Dental Surgery, becoming the first African- American woman dentist in the United States.

6. “Bacon” is a toothpaste flavor.

We don’t recommend using bacon toothpaste, but it is available to try! Other bizarre toothpaste flavors include:

  • Mint chocolate
  • Cupcake
  • Wasabi
  • Pumpkin pudding
  • Curry
  • Octopus
  • Eggplant

For the sake of your family and friends, we suggest sticking to mint and cinnamon.

7. Brushing is only 70% effective at cleaning teeth.

Brushing only cleaning the chewing surfaces, fronts, and backs of the teeth. To effectively reduce the risk of cavities, flossing is essential! Be sure your little one is flossing at least once a day to remove the food and bacteria from between the teeth.

Visiting the dentist every six months is another essential part of oral health care. These visits ensure that your child isn’t suffering from tooth decay that could lead to pain, discomfort, and early tooth loss.

To schedule an appointment with our experienced and highly recommended pediatric dentist, Dr. Matt, call (913) 685-9990 today.

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