Eating disorders can be devastating, both to those who suffer from them and to their families. But many are surprised to learn that eating disorders can compromise dental health, as well as overall physical wellness. Here your pediatric dentist in Overland Park explores the oral effects of these mental illnesses.

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt treats children of all ages, including preteens and teens. He is committed to their holistic wellness and recognizes the unique challenges of today’s kids. For adolescents facing the heartbreak of an eating disorder, he can partner with their whole treatment team to ensure that their oral health does not go overlooked. 

Contact Smiles Dentistry for Kids to schedule an appointment with an experienced and understanding dentist in Overland Park

Eating Disorders: An Overview

Eating disorders are sadly all too common, affecting almost ten percent of Americans. Although they are most frequent among teens, a growing number of eating disorders have been reported among children. They are divided into three primary types:

  • Anorexia nervosa: Individuals who suffer from anorexia significantly restrict their caloric intake. Symptoms can include heart damage, low blood pressure, loss of menstrual periods, osteoporosis, and organ failure, among many others.
  • Bulimia nervosa: Those with bulimia eat large quantities of food and follow their binges with a cycle of purging, typically through vomiting, laxative use, over-exercise, and/or fasting. Bulimia symptoms include gastrointestinal discomfort and dysfunction, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance, which could even lead to stroke.
  • Binge eating disorder: Patients with binge eating disorder eat large amounts of food in a relatively brief period, but there are no episodes of purging. Those who suffer from binge eating disorder often experience intense guilt and are frequently overweight or obese.

Eating Disorders and Dental Damage

Patients with severe anorexia are so nutrient deficient that their bones may start to thin. When the jawbone shrinks, this can eventually lead to tooth loss

Those with binge eating disorders often consume high amounts of sugar and refined carbs, which can greatly increase the risk of tooth decay.

And while all eating disorders are serious, bulimia has perhaps the most impact on oral health. Vomit contains high levels of stomach acid so repeated episodes of induced vomiting can lead to significant enamel erosion. Therefore, these patients are prone to pronounced dental sensitivity and an increased risk for decay. Furthermore, the longer someone suffers from an eating disorder, the more severe their tooth erosion.

Can a dentist diagnose an eating disorder?

Although dentists are certainly not mental health experts, they are trained to recognize the signs of dental damage due to disordered eating. Plus, they typically see their patients more often than the standard physician. As such, they are in a unique position to diagnose eating disorders early on.

Often, when patients are questioned by a non-judgmental dentist, they are willing to share their struggles, perhaps for the first time. As a result, a knowledgeable and understanding dentist in Overland Park, like Dr. Matt, can help to prevent the serious, life-threatening effects of eating disorders.

Contact Your Pediatric Dentist in Overland Park Today

If you are seeking quality dental care for your child or teen, contact Smiles Dentistry for Kids. 

You can make an appointment online or call (913) 685-9990.l

Baby with Older Brother

As a parent, it seems you worry about everything, but your child’s oral hygiene doesn’t have to be one of the things that keeps you up at night. We know it’s easy to fret, especially when nearly 20% of children between ages 5 and 11 have untreated cavities. However, when you take basic steps to protect your little one’s dental health, you can help lay the groundwork for a healthy smile well into adulthood. 

Dr. Matt and the team at Smiles Dentistry for Kids provide tips and guidance for maintaining children’s oral hygiene. And, of course, scheduling biannual dental exams and cleanings will further help to ensure your child’s dental wellness.

Dental Care for Infants

Many parents don’t realize that infant oral hygiene actually begins before any teeth erupt. But milk and formulas contain sugars, a leading culprit in the development of cavities. To protect those developing teeth, be sure to wipe your baby’s gums with a soft cloth after nursing or feeding. After your baby is finished, don’t let her sleep with the bottle in her mouth or keep sucking on it while it is empty. Long-term exposure to the sugars in the formula could increase the risk of dental decay.

Oral Hygiene for Older Babies and Toddlers

Once your baby starts teething, you should start brushing. Use a toothbrush with very soft bristles and special non-fluoridated toothpaste. A dollop the size of a pea is enough. As soon as your little one has two or more teeth that touch, it’s time to start flossing. You should also schedule your baby’s first dental visit when his teeth start to come in or by his first birthday, whichever comes first. 

By the time your child is two, you can begin using fluoride toothpaste. At this point, it is good for children to start learning to brush themselves, but you should continue to monitor them until you know they are capable of doing it completely on their own. Many children need adult supervision until they are school aged. 

Tips for School Aged Children and Teens

Older kids are likely brushing and flossing on their own, but it is good to check in with them to make sure they are maintaining proper dental care. In addition, make sure that your kitchen is stocked with healthy foods that will promote good oral (and physical) health. Limit sugar consumption and have kids fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Nuts, lean proteins, and calcium-rich cheese and yogurt also make great snacks. (Just make sure you are buying low or sugar-free yogurts.) Whatever your kids are noshing on, it should be accompanied by a glass of water! This will help to wash away sugars and bits of food left on teeth. 

Schedule an Oral Hygiene Visit with a Pediatric Dentist 

Of course, whatever the age of your child, regular trips to the dentist are an essential part of good oral hygiene. Dr. Matt specializes in pediatric dentistry, and his advanced training gives him a detailed knowledge of the unique needs of children. Plus, the upbeat cheerful demeanor of our team means that every office visit is a reason to smile! 

To schedule an appointment for your little one at our Overland Park, KS, office, give us a call at (913) 685-9990 or send us a message online

young boy and girl carving pumpkins which is a healthy snack

The air feels crisper, the leaves are changing colors, and the aroma and taste of pumpkin spice are everywhere—which means one thing: Fall is finally here! While it may be tempting to fill up on candies, caramel apples, and other sugar-filled treats, there are different ways to celebrate the season. Hidden in pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and other autumnal events, there are plenty of goodies that improve and support the wellness of teeth, gums, and supporting jawbone:  

Pumpkin

Did you know that Fall’s favorite fruit is pumped with nutrients that support overall wellness?

  • Beta carotene promotes healing and connective tissue health.
  • Zinc deficiency is linked to bleeding gums, weak bones, and poor dental health. Thankfully, pumpkins are packed with zinc.
  • Magnesium and calcium work together to strengthen the surface of the teeth (enamel), which helps prevent decay.
  • Vitamin C supports the immune system by reducing gingival inflammation.

Pumpkin Seeds

After carving a pumpkin, don’t throw away the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are an ideal snack because they are high in protein and fiber but low in sugar. Roasted pumpkin seeds are not only delicious but a marvelous source of minerals:

  • Phosphorus and calcium both help keep the teeth strong and are found in most nuts and seeds.
  • Iron helps the body create red blood cells, avoiding anemia tongue.

Apples

Traditionally, many people pick apples with their families and friends during the fall season. When enjoying this fruit, skip the high-sugar candy apples, cider, and pies. Apples are in optimal form when in their raw state with the skin and contain:

  • High water content fruits dilute the effects of natural sugar that they contain.
  • High-fiber, crunchy foods help fight cavities in two ways: (1) Crunchy foods naturally scrub away plaque and leftover food particles. (2) As a consequence of chewing, the salivary glands are stimulated. Saliva contains bacteria-neutralizing properties that protect teeth from plaque buildup.

Cranberries

Cranberries are a popular superfood and also a Thanksgiving staple. Berries are full of vitamins and antioxidants:

  • Polyphenol is a compound found in specific plant-based foods that are packed with antioxidants. This compound repels harmful oral bacteria so that the good bacteria can thrive.
  • B vitamins keep gum inflammation and oral sores at bay.
  • Vitamin C may help prevent periodontal disease, the leading cause of permanent tooth loss.

Because cranberries are tart, many companies add sugar, which cancels out cranberry’s benefits. Enjoy unprocessed cranberries or 100% juice without added sugar in moderation.

Nuts

Before the squirrels hide most of the nuts for the winter, enjoy some of them. Fall is prime harvest time for pecans, walnuts, and other tree nuts. When you chew on nuts, the chewing forces strengthen the teeth and jaws. However, do not bite the shell of a nut to crack it. Your teeth are not a nutcracker.

Make Healthy Choices

Very few things are scarier than cavities, gingivitis, and other childhood dental issues, but that doesn’t mean that your children should miss out on the Fall fun. After trick-or-treating, enjoying one or two pieces of candy is fair (as long as you brush and floss your teeth afterward). However, don’t miss out on all the healthy snacks that this season has to offer.

Dr. Matt educates parents and their children on how to balance fun and oral health. Schedule your child’s next oral health exam in Overland Park, KS, by calling (913) 685-9990 or messaging us online.

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.

kids playing soccer

As parents, we love to see our children having fun and trying new things! There’s hardly anything sweeter than watching your child run around the bases during their first tee-ball game or run up and down the soccer field. Not only is it exciting for us to watch, it’s both fun and healthy for them. Sports help kids develop physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.

Unfortunately, participation in athletics also comes with some risks to your child’s physical wellbeing—including their teeth. This shouldn’t stop you from allowing them to play! In this blog, Dr. Matt suggests practical ways to protect your child’s teeth during sporting events.

Tooth Injuries in Sports

Before we get to the “how,” let’s talk about why injury prevention is so important. Here are the most common types of tooth injuries in sports:

Knocked-out tooth

If your child loses a baby tooth during a sports game, it may seem like no big deal, but there could be serious consequences. The impact that made your child’s tooth fall out could also cause damage to the underlying nerves, tissue, or permanent tooth.

Cracked tooth

A cracked or fractured tooth could be a simple fix, but it can also lead to serious dental problems. You should take your child to the dentist immediately if he or she experiences these symptoms:

  • Sharp pain when biting
  • Tooth pain that comes and goes
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods

These symptoms arise because cracks and chips can expose the innermost part of the tooth. This requires immediate professional care.

Fractured Root

When the root of the tooth is cracked, it often spreads to the chewing surface of the tooth. This is usually not visible to the eye, and sometimes there aren’t any symptoms, until an infection develops. If this is the case, your child may need root canal therapy.

Prevention

Here are two of the best ways to protect your child’s teeth during an athletic event:

Get a custom mouthguard

The American Dental Association reported that of the 5 million teeth that are knocked out each year, 13-39% of them are a result of sports-related injuries. Mouthguards can help lower that percentage because they are essential to protecting your child’s teeth, mouth, and jaw during contact sports.

Most children don’t want to wear mouthguards because they are uncomfortable. To combat this, your dentist can create a custom mouthguard that fits your child’s mouth perfectly.

Another reason to have a mouthguard made is to prevent concussions. According to Science Daily, a custom-made mouthguard reduces an athlete’s risk of concussion by half.

Put on a helmet

Helmets help absorb the brunt of any sort of impact to the head. As a result, wearing a helmet protects children from head, jaw, and teeth injuries.

Your kid is most likely wearing a helmet during football or baseball games, but make sure he is wearing a helmet during practice too. While practice may not be as intense as games, there are still many chances for your child to be injured.

Encourage your child to wear a helmet while skateboarding, skiing, or snowboarding as well.

While helmets will help protect your child’s head and teeth, they aren’t nearly as beneficial as mouthguards. It’s best to give your child both a mouthguard and helmet to ensure he is as safe as possible.

Treatment

If your child does experience a dental injury, follow this protocol:

  • Call a pediatric dentist, like Dr. Matt, immediately
  • Place the tooth (whole or part) in a Ziplock bag with milk
  • Keep the milk and tooth cold
  • Bring to the dentist

Protect Your Child’s Teeth Every Day

Children’s teeth need to be protected and cared for every day through good oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and regular dental cleanings. Our pediatric dentist and dental team are passionate about helping your child achieve a healthy mouth because we love seeing happy children!  

Contact our friendly dental team today at 913-685-9990 to schedule your child’s cleaning and exam with Dr. Matt.

smiling children

For healthy teeth and gums, regular dental visits are essential—especially for children! Using proper brushing and flossing techniques at home is great, but nothing beats the thorough cleaning that only happens at the dentist’s office. Keeping your child’s mouth clean is important for their overall health.

So, if you’re getting ready to take your child in for a regular dental cleaning and exam, check out these common questions parents have for their child’s pediatric dentist.

For more detailed information, ask our team at Smiles Dentistry 4 Kids during your child’s appointment.

1. Why do baby teeth matter?

Even though baby teeth don’t last forever, they serve some pretty important purposes. Baby teeth help your child move from mushy baby food to solid foods that supports good nutrition. They help your child speak clearly and support their jawbone until the permanent teeth develop.

2. How often should my child visit the dentist?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should have their first dental visit as soon as their first tooth erupts and every six months after that. These visits will help track your child’s dental development, prevent tooth decay, and inform you about ways to best care for your child’s teeth.

By attending these regular dental appointments, you will be setting your child up for oral health success when he or she gets older!

3. Should I brush my baby’s teeth?

Absolutely! As soon as your baby’s first tooth erupts, you can use a soft-bristled, child-sized toothbrush and toothpaste to clean his or her tooth. Use toothpaste that is recommended by your pediatric dentist, follow the instructions, and make sure your child does not swallow excess toothpaste.

4. Will thumb-sucking hurt my baby’s dental development?

Before age three, thumb-sucking shouldn’t be a problem. However, it can become a problem if your child continues to suck on his or her thumb after their third birthday.

Talk to your dentist about the best ways to wean your child off thumb-sucking (or using a pacifier).

5. How much fluoride is safe for my child?

Fluoride can be found in most tap water sources and toothpaste. As long as these are your child’s only sources of fluoride, there shouldn’t be a problem.

In fact, as soon as your child’s first tooth erupts, you should use fluoride toothpaste (albeit, an amount the size of a grain of rice) to brush it.

Stay away from fluoridated mouthwash until your dentist recommends it or your child is more than six years old.

As long as you follow these guidelines (and recommendations from your dentist) your child shouldn’t experience any negative effects of fluoride. However, if you notice a change in the appearance ofyour child’s teeth, talk to your dentist or healthcare provider.

6. How do I keep my child from being afraid of the dentist?

The best thing you can do is talk about the dentist in a positive way. Many adults are afraid of the dentist and pass that fear on to their child. This can make pediatric dental appointments difficult for both of you.

You can also find books or tv shows about the character’s first dental appointment, promise your child a treat after the appointment, or tell him or her a positive story about a time you went to the dentist.

Hopefully, the pediatric dentist and dental team you’ve chosen also help make going to the dentist fun for your little one.

7. Are dental x-rays safe?

X-rays are one of the most important parts of the diagnosis process. To keep your child safe, and lower the risk of radiation exposure, your dentist will use protective gear, keep up with the latest technology, and follow American Dental Association guidelines.

These things make the risk of radiation exposure almost nonexistent. It is actually much riskier to leave a dental problem undetected than it is to have an x-ray.

8. Are dental sealants worth it?

Dental sealants are a thin coating that protects your child’s back teeth from cavities for up to four years. This will save you time and money in the long run. We’d say that’s worth it!

9. How is a pediatric dentist different from a family dentist?

Pediatric dentists are specially trained to treat and care for children from infancy to adolescence. Family dentists typically receive a more general education so that they can treat patients of all ages.

In addition, pediatric dentists design their offices specifically for children to feel comfortable. Their goal is to create a fun and educational environment that children enjoy coming to.

10. How can I help my child avoid baby bottle tooth decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay is the leading cause of tooth loss in infants. To protect your baby’s teeth, follow these guidelines:

  • Clean your baby’s gums with a washcloth or gauze pad after feeding
  • Make sure he or she is getting enough fluoride
  • Brush the baby’s new teeth
  • Schedule regular dental visits

Ready to meet with your pediatric dentist? Call today to schedule an appointment for your little one!

To meet with Dr. Matt at Smiles Dentistry 4 Kids, contact our friendly team today at 913-685-9990.

preteen with toothbrush curlers and alarm clock

Does your little one have a meltdown when it’s time to brush his teeth? When it comes to teens’ dental care, is your kiddo “so over it?” All you need are these awesome tips to help make brushing and flossing fun for kids of all ages (and for parents, too)!

No More Tantrums from Preschoolers when It’s Time to Brush

Those tiny preschoolers have BIG personalities and BIGGER opinions about personal hygiene.

Parents can make life a lot easier by implementing these tips into the morning and evening dental hygiene routine.

  • Allow your child to pick his or her toothbrush. Having a bright toothbrush with a favorite character can help a preschooler look forward to brushing “with a friend.” 
  • Let your child choose her toothpaste. While you may not appreciate bubblegum-flavored toothpaste, your child might love it – and that’s okay. Start with a tiny blip of paste. When your child has begun to spit, you can increase the amount of toothpaste to the size of a green pea.
  • Sing the alphabet while brushing. Not only will your child enjoy the attention, but you’ll teach good oral habits as well as the ABCs. Kids (and adults) should brush for two minutes.
  • A brushing chart like this one can provide just the incentive your little one needs. Once a chart is filled with great results, go on a family outing as a reward.
  • Read fun books to your child about the benefits of brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist.
  • In regards to flossing, don’t skip it! Use a threaded flosser if it’s easier for you. This activity helps preschoolers understand the importance of flossing.

School Kids Still Need Mom or Dad to Oversee Brushing and Flossing

As children grow, their dental hygiene habits should grow with them. Adults should continue to be the primary brushers until children reach the age of 7.

After that, however, it is important to continue to monitor them and make sure they are properly flossing and brushing all teeth, especially the back ones. Kids tend to get a little sloppy, with cleaning their room, feeding the pets, and brushing and flossing. Do a breath-check and smile inspection before leaving the house in the morning!

To ensure that your child brushes for a full two minutes, set a timer or play a song they enjoy that lasts for two minutes.

Let’s talk about electric toothbrushes. Studies show that the aren’t more effective than a manual brush but, and this is a big BUT, people tend to brush longer when using electric toothbrushes. So, if your kiddo isn’t brushing thoroughly, it may be time to go electric.

Ways that a parent can help their kids reduce the risk of cavities:

  • Brush twice a day
  • Add an antibacterial mouthwash
  • Floss daily
  • Dental sealants
  • Fluoride treatment at the dentist
  • Visit the dentist every six months for checkups and cleanings
  • Eat a healthy diet, limiting sugars and other starches
  • Drink WATER – all day long, drink, drink, drink!
  • No sodas, sports drinks, or energy drinks

Hormones Make Teens’ Dental Care Imperative

Preteens and teenagers seem to care little oral health, and yet it can be the most important time for diligence in dental hygiene. This is especially true for kids who wear braces.

Keep your older children interested in dental hygiene by utilizing ideas important to them.

For instance, most pre-teens and teenagers are overly interested in their appearance. Help them understand how good oral care helps them look and feel better.

  • Send them to soccer practice with a pack of sugar-free gum.
  • Pack their camp bag with threaded flossers and sugar-free mints.
  • You can also help them appreciate the importance of fresh breath. In other words, their friends will enjoy being around them and talking with them more if their breath is fresh and minty.
  • Be creative. Find ways to keep oral health important for your teenager. Even if it means offering rewards.
  • Continue routine visits with the dentist every six months.
  • Check those smiles daily to make sure they’re brushing and flossing!
  • If the mouthwash bottle isn’t getting lighter, then they aren’t using the mouthwash.

For athletic children and teens, a custom-made mouthguard will help protect them from traumatic injuries to the mouth and teeth. Ask Dr. Hillman about a mouthguard at your next visit.

How to Encourage Good Dental Hygiene Practices

Led by Dr. Matt Hillman, our caring, energy-filled team loves catering to the special, unique needs of children and providing teens’ dental care. Located in Overland Park, SmilesDentistry4Kids is accepting new patients. Call (913) 685-9990 today to schedule your appointment.

HAPPY BRUSHING! (And flossing).

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