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 cute blond boy with toothbrush with pink toothpaste on a white background

The American Dental Association states that children should have their first dental visit either after their first tooth erupts or before their first birthday (whichever happens first). This first appointment is crucial to creating the foundation for life-long oral health.

Here are some key topics that a pediatric may go over during the first dental visit:

Growth and Development of Teeth and Jaws

Surprisingly to most people, genetics play a minimal role in jaw development. Jaw development is primarily a product of the environment in which they are growing.

The “big three” impacts on facial development and resting oral posture are:

  • Lips sealed with teeth lightly touching
  • Proper tongue posture on the roof of the mouth
  • Nasal breathing

Craniofacial imbalances happen when these three factors are not present during growth and development. This may create cosmetic and medical issues, such as midface deficiency and long-face syndrome.

Thumb and Pacifier Habits

Babies have a natural sucking reflex that encourages self-soothing. Sucking thumbs, pacifiers, and other objects may help babies feel more secure and content as they navigate the world around them and help them fall asleep.

The American Dental Association encourages children to stop sucking before the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt (typically between ages two and four). Sucking modifies the roof of the mouth. After the permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause issues with the proper growth and alignment of teeth.

Cavity Prevention

Unfortunately, cavities are a common occurrence in young children. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that 42% of children will develop at least one cavity before their 11th birthday. Cavities aren’t difficult to treat but diligently preventing cavities is the best way to treat them.

Here are some ways to keep tooth decay at bay in young children:

  • Engage in proper oral hygiene routines early: Parents should start cleaning their child’s teeth with water as soon as they erupt. A wet rag or baby toothbrush will work. When children become more active, turn teeth brushing into a fun game! Who can clean all their teeth the best? Child vs. parent, child vs. child, or both!
  • Avoid carbohydrate-rich foods: Bacteria love sugary and starchy foods as much as we do! Prolonged exposure to oral bacteria creates enamel erosion, which increases the risk of decaying baby teeth. After enjoying a sugary snack, have your child drink a glass of water. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing to protect his or her dental enamel.  
  • Never allow your child to go to bed with a baby bottle: As mentioned above, oral bacteria thrive on sugar (including lactose found in milk). Baby bottle tooth decay develops after long-lasting exposure to sugary liquids. If your child needs a drink during naps and bedtime, choose water.
  • Brush with a fluoridated toothpaste at two years old: Fluoride can help make the “terrible twos” better by protecting your toddler’s teeth against cavities. Talk to a pediatric dentist about how much fluoride toothpaste is appropriate for your little one.
  • Plan regular visits to the dentist: Like people of all ages, children should see the dentist every six months. Routine visits an experienced and friendly pediatric dentist can help monitor and preserve dental health.

Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Visit Today

Our Smiles Dentistry for Kids family is dedicated to protecting the smiles of your little one by offering personalized, detail-oriented check-ups in an easy-going environment. Schedule your child’s first dental appointment with Dr. Matt by calling (913) 685-9990.

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.

little girl holding backpack over shoulder

The back-to-school season is tough for many reasons, especially for parents. Along with getting themselves back into a routine, they have to teach their kids to do the same. If you’re a parent, oral hygiene may be on your mind especially if getting your child to brush this morning was a little more difficult than expected. This part of your morning shouldn’t be burdensome. Thankfully, we’ve got some tips that will make helping your child maintain a healthy mouth a breeze.

Follow these three tips to make this aspect of your child’s daily routine simpler and to help him maintain a healthy smile:

1. Stay consistent

If routines are important for adults, just imagine how important they are for children. Take time to sit down with your child to create a morning routine and stick with the plan. Allowing your little one some input will make it much easier! So, whether the two of you decide brushing takes place before or after breakfast, make it happen every day without exception (at least as much as possible).

According to an article in Psychology Today, it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. So don’t be surprised if your child is struggling to stay consistent three weeks in. Keep pushing forward! The author also explains that missing a day here and there shouldn’t completely derail the new routine, so don’t get discouraged on the difficult days.

2. Make brushing fun

A major way to encourage your child to stick with their oral hygiene routine is to make it fun (yes, brushing teeth CAN be fun)! This could be as simple as brushing your teeth together or providing positive reinforcement every time your child brushes.

We also recommend that parents let their children pick out a fun toothbrush with their favorite tv show character or color and choose their flavor of toothpaste. These will give him or her something to look forward to in the morning.

If these ideas aren’t enough, a distraction might be just the ticket. Allow your child to watch a two-minute video while brushing. He will enjoy the extra screen time and you’ll enjoy how easy it is to get him to brush!

For more ideas on how to make oral hygiene fun and effective, check out this blog.

3. Pack healthy lunches

Offering your child a healthy lunch or after-school snack may be one of the best things you can do for his or her oral health. Fruits and veggies, high protein foods, and high calcium foods are essential to keeping their teeth and gums healthy because the nutrients support strong bones, create a protective barrier around the teeth, and support gum health.

Try to avoid sugary foods and snacks as much as possible as these create an imbalance of bacteria in the mouth that leads to decay and disease. Your child’s teacher will also thank you for it!

We offer numerous mouth-healthy lunch and snack ideas in this blog!

Back-to-School Pro Tip: Visit a Pediatric Dentist

It’s never too late to take your child to the dentist. While it may be a little more inconvenient during the school year, if he or she hasn’t attended a regular dental cleaning and exam in the past six months, now is the time.

Our pediatric dentist, Dr. Matt, would love to visit with you and your little one at our Overland Park dentist’s office. Call us today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule an appointment.

mom feeding eggs to toddler

Along with practicing good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing, parents must encourage their children to eat a nutritious diet that promotes strong teeth and healthy gums. This process is much easier when parents focus on providing nutritious meals for their child at a young age because he or she will begin to crave nutritious foods instead of unhealthy ones. Just like with adults, children can become addicted to sugary foods that lead to cavities and gum disease. Because of this, it’s best to stay away from sugar-laden snacks, drinks, and candy.

If you’re having a hard time convincing your child to eat his fruits and veggies, we’re here to help! Our pediatric dentist knows what kids like and how parents can encourage healthy eating habits without all the drama.

Here are three categories of delicious and nutritious snack ideas that all (okay, most) kids love:

1. Fruits and veggies

Fruits and veggies aren’t just simple snacks, they promote mouth health in several ways. Oranges, broccoli, green and red peppers, leafy greens, and strawberries contain high levels of Vitamin C that protect the teeth and gums from disease-causing bacteria and cell damage. Crispy fruits and uncooked veggies also help clean plaque from teeth.

It may be difficult to get your little one to eat plain fruits and veggies. We recommend providing a yogurt fruit dip or ranch dressing for dipping that will make these foods irresistible!

Here are more ways to serve fruits and veggies:

  • Zucchini chips
  • Sweet potato chips
  • Kale chips
  • Guacamole with pita wedges
  • Pepper nachos
  • Hummus
  • Celery and apples with low-sugar peanut butter
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Fresh fruit smoothie

2. Protein

Many of the same foods that contain protein also contain phosphorous, both of which protect and rebuild tooth enamel. You’ll find these nutrients in red meats, chicken, fish, milk, and eggs.

Here are some high protein snacks your child will love:

  • Jerky, salami, and pepperoni
  • Sliced turkey or ham
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Hummus
  • Edamame
  • Oven-baked onion rings
  • Roasted chickpeas

Though protein bars are convenient—and let’s face it, all kids love them—they are usually very high in sugar.  It’s better for children and adults to get their protein from more natural sources like those we listed above.

3. Calcium

We all know that milk supports strong bones, but did you know that includes teeth? Furthermore, milk creates a protective barrier so that disease-causing bacteria can’t infiltrate the teeth and gums. So, while we recommend children drink mostly water throughout the day, a glass or two of milk is definitely beneficial.

In addition to milk, there are several other calcium-rich foods for your little one to snack on throughout the day, including:

  • String cheese
  • Almonds
  • Yogurt
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Apples and almond butter
  • Blueberries and cottage cheese
  • Yogurt and fruit parfaits
  • Scrambled eggs with cheese

Foods to Avoid

The key to helping your child maintain good oral health is to avoid sugar as much as possible. Eating too much sugar is one of the main causes of cavities, and contributes to childhood obesity and malnutrition.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to spot sugar on a food label. It may be disguised as “high fructose corn syrup”, “rice syrup”, “fructose”, “sucrose”, and several other names. To learn more about how sugar affects your child and its many names, check out this blog.

Learn More from Our Pediatric Dentist

If you’d like to know more about how to ensure your little one grows up with a healthy, beautiful smile, call our friendly dental team today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule an initial consultation with our pediatric dentist, Dr. Matt.

Little boy flossing teeth in bathroom mirror

Brushing and flossing are two of the first things we teach our children about hygiene. Parents begin this process as soon as their child’s first tooth emerges, and children learn by watching their parents care for their own teeth. Though brushing and flossing for adults are simple and sensible, children don’t always view them the same way.

The first step to helping children understand why oral hygiene is important is to explain why we do it. Of course, we know that brushing and flossing are two of the best defenses against tooth decay, bad breath, and gum disease. Tell that to your little one and he or she may not understand.

Find a way to describe the process that’s fun for your child. Describe the plaque in their mouth as the “bad guys” and the toothbrush and floss as the “good guys” and create a fun story for them to be a part of.

Continue reading for more helpful brushing and flossing tips from our children’s dentist!

Proper Techniques

It’s not enough for someone to just have a toothbrush or floss in their mouth two times a day; these tools must be used properly. Be sure to use the following guidelines when teaching your child how to brush and floss.

Brushing

To encourage brushing, we recommend allowing your child to pick out their toothbrush and toothpaste at the store. Just be sure to ask your dentist about the best toothpaste for your little one! Once he or she has the tools picked out, follow this technique:

  • Place a pea-sized dollop of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush
  • Brush the top, front, and back sides of each tooth in small circles
  • Don’t forget the tongue and roof!
  • Spit and rinse

Check out this video for a kid-friendly way to explain this technique!

Flossing

There are two types of floss: traditional and dental floss picks. For children, dental floss picks may be easier in the beginning, but we encourage parents to teach their children how to use traditional floss as it is more effective.

Here are the proper techniques for both types of floss.

Traditional:

  • Take about 18 inches of string
  • Wrap most of it around one finger (we recommend the pointer)
  • Wind the rest around the opposite finger—not too tightly!
  • Bring the floss up one side of a tooth and down the other
  • Be sure to reach all the way down to the gum lines
  • After cleaning each tooth, unwind the floss from one finger and collect it with the other

Floss picks:

  • Move the floss up and down the sides of each tooth, paying close attention to the gum line
  • Rinse the floss after cleaning each tooth
  • Replace the pick when the string looks worn

Make It Fun!

Many adults find oral hygiene to be boring and unnecessary. That’s why we aren’t surprised when parents tell us that their child refuses to practice good oral hygiene.

If that’s the case for you, try these three tips from our children’s dentist:

  1. Make it a family event. Invite your little one into the bathroom with you and other family members, put some music on, and make brushing and flossing a party!
  2. Use rewards. Create a brushing and flossing chart with stickers that show your child getting closer and closer to a reward. Once he or she reaches that mark, go for ice cream or to the store to pick out a toy—you know what your child likes best!
  3. Utilize technology. Sometimes a distraction is exactly what we need to get something done. Allow your little one to watch a video or listen to her favorite song while she brushes and flosses.

For More Brushing and Flossing Tips

Want to know more about your child’s oral health and hygiene? Call our friendly dental team today at (913) 685-9990 to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Matt.

kid dressed as superhero

We all desire for our children to grow up happy and healthy, and their mouths have so much to do with that! When a child or teen has a healthy, beautiful smile, they feel more confident and capable to do things that they may otherwise shy away from.

The key to helping your child create good oral hygiene habits is choosing a kids’ dentist (also called a pediatric dentist) that they love. Finding a great dentist for your child could be the difference between creating a positive, healthy view of oral hygiene and a negative, fearful one.

To find a great pediatric dentist, you must know what you’re looking for. When you ask friends or family members for recommendations, or when you search Google, be sure to choose a “kids’ dentist near me” with these five qualities:

1. Experience

Pediatric dentists are specialists. This means that a large part of their education was centered around working with children and learning how their mouths develop. It’s important to choose a kids’ dentist that knows and understands exactly what should be happening and when as it pertains to your child’s teeth.

Pediatric dentists also have years of experience in handling children of all ages (and attitudes). In fact, it’s what they sign up for! Choose a kids’ dentist so you know he won’t be surprised by anything your child throws at him (literally and figuratively).

2. A desire to educate

Kids’ dentists have a huge responsibility—teaching toddlers, adolescents, teens, and their parents the most effective oral hygiene habits. Your child’s dentist should be enthusiastic about teaching you and your child how to brush and floss properly. He should also do so in a way that’s easy for kids and adults to understand.

A pediatric dentist will be eager to answer any questions you have about your child’s oral health. After all, you two are working together to achieve the same goal!

3. A passion for children

Did you ever have a teacher in grade school that seemed to dislike his students? Unfortunately, that doesn’t just happen in the education field—it can happen in dentistry too. Make sure the kids’ dentist you choose actually enjoys children.

You’ll should be able to tell pretty quickly how much the dentist enjoys children by the office environment, the attention he gives your child, and his overall countenance. Truly, it’s not hard to tell when someone doesn’t enjoy their job. Just don’t let it affect you! Move on to the next pediatric dentist until you find one who cares about your child’s oral health as much as you do.

4. Knowledge of children

In addition to knowing how children’s teeth work, pediatric dentists must understand how children are wired in order to work with them. Your child’s dentist should know how to keep your child’s attention, distract him from uncomfortable moments, and help him relax in fun ways.

5. A friendly spirit

Taking your child to the dentist for the first time can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. A great pediatric dentist will ensure you and your child feel welcome and valued during the first visit and each time after by doing the following:

  • Getting to know you
  • Getting to know your child
  • Providing a comfortable, fun environment
  • Offering a tour
  • Having a kind, welcoming dental team

Our Kids’ Dentist

Looking for a kids’ dentist in Overland Park? Look no further! Dr. Matt at Smiles Dentistry for Kids has all of these qualities and more. Our desire is to create a fun, comfortable environment for kids of all ages to enjoy.

To meet with our friendly and experienced pediatric dentist, call (913) 685-9990 today.

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