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Thumb Sucking

September 28th, 2022

Learning to suck their thumbs is one of the first physical skills babies acquire. In fact, ultrasound images have revealed babies sucking their thumbs in the womb! Babies have a natural sucking reflex, and this activity is a normal way for your baby to soothe herself.

If your toddler still turns to her thumb for comfort, no need to worry. Most children give up this habit as they grow, and generally stop completely between the ages of two and four. But what of the child who doesn’t? Should you encourage your child to stop? And when?

When Thumb Sucking Becomes a Problem

After your child turns five, and certainly when her permanent teeth start to arrive, aggressive thumb sucking is something to watch for. This type of vigorous sucking, which puts pressure on the teeth and gums, can lead to a number of problems.

  • Open Bite

Our bites are considered normal when the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower where they touch in the front of the mouth. But with aggressive thumb sucking, teeth are pushed out of alignment. Sometimes this results in a condition called “open bite,” where the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact at all. An open bite almost always requires orthodontic treatment.

  • Jaw Problems

Your child’s palate and jaw are still growing. Aggressive thumb sucking can actually change the shape of the palate and jaw, and even affect facial structure. Again, orthodontic treatment can help, but prevention is always the better option!

  • Speech Difficulties

Prolonged thumb sucking has been suggested as a risk factor for speech disorders such as lisping, the inability to pronounce certain letters, or tongue thrusting.

The consequences from aggressive thumb sucking can be prevented with early intervention. What to do if you are worried?

Talk to Us

First, let us reassure you that most children stop thumb sucking on their own, and with no negative dental effects at all. But if your child is still aggressively sucking her thumb once her permanent teeth have started erupting, or if we see changes in her baby teeth, let’s talk about solutions during an appointment at our Lake Mary office. We can offer suggestions to help your child break the habit at home. There are also dental appliances available that can discourage thumb sucking if your child finds it especially hard to stop.

Work with your Child

  • Be Positive

Positive reinforcement is always best. Praise her when she remembers not to suck her thumb. Make a chart with stickers to reward every thumb-free day. Pick out a favorite book to read or activity you can share.

  • Identify Triggers

Children associate thumb sucking with comfort and security.  If your child turns to her thumb when she’s anxious, try to discover what is bothering her and how to reassure her. If she automatically sucks her thumb when she is bored, find an activity that will engage her. If she’s hungry, offer a healthy snack.

  • Talk about It!

Depending on her age, it might help your child to understand why stopping this habit is important. We are happy to explain, in a positive, age-appropriate way, just how breaking the thumb sucking habit will help her teeth and her smile.

Again, most children leave thumb sucking behind naturally and easily. But if what is a comfort for your child has become a concern for you, please give us a call. Dr. White will work with you and your child to prevent future orthodontic problems and begin her lifetime of beautiful smiles.

 

Non-Nutritive Sucking Behavior

September 21st, 2022

“Non-nutritive sucking behavior”? That’s a mouthful—literally! This term describes behaviors such as thumb sucking and pacifier use, which are generally healthy, self-soothing activities for infants and toddlers. But, if followed too long, this comforting habit can have uncomfortable consequences for your child’s dental health.

When children are nursed or bottle-fed, placing a nipple in the mouth helps trigger the sucking reflex, enabling the flow of milk or formula. This is called nutritive sucking, because nourishment is the goal. The sucking reflex is so essential that it develops even before birth. And while the purpose of this reflex is nourishment, it provides other benefits as well.

For small children, sucking can be a comfort mechanism to help them cope with stressful situations and calm themselves. That’s why you often see your child sucking on a pacifier, toy, thumb, or fingers when feeling overwhelmed or tired. Non-nutritive sucking behavior, or NNSB, refers to these habits: sucking without nutritional benefit.

Such habits are extremely common in young children. Most children stop sucking their thumbs or pacifiers between the ages of two and four, and often even earlier. But if your child hasn’t, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. White about easing your child away from this familiar habit before the permanent teeth start to arrive.

Why? Because when sucking behavior lasts too long, it can have orthodontic consequences. Just as the gentle pressure of braces or aligners can help shift teeth and jaws into the proper alignment, the pressure from sucking thumb and pacifier can push growing teeth and jaws out of alignment.

  • Studies have shown a clear link between NNSB and malocclusions, or bite problems. These include overjets (protruding upper teeth), open bites (where the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact when biting down), and crossbites (where one or more upper fit teeth inside lower teeth).
  • As young bones are still growing, prolonged, vigorous sucking can affect the shape and size of a child’s palate and jaw.
  • When the teeth are pushed out of alignment, difficulties with pronunciation, such as lisps, can develop.

Sucking habits can be difficult to give up. If your child is still self-comforting with the help of thumb or pacifier past age three, and certainly if you’ve noticed any changes in teeth or speech, there are several gentle, positive steps you can take to protect your child’s dental health.

  • Talk to Dr. White about strategies for weaning your child from pacifier and thumb, as well as possible comforting substitutes. Your healthcare team can offer suggestions for making this transition as easy as possible for your child—and for you!
  • Discuss recommendations you’ve found in books or online which might be a good match for your child’s personality. Whatever you decide on, whether it’s a gradual phasing out, small rewards, a goals chart, or any other method, use positive reinforcement and plenty of encouragement.
  • Set easy goals at the beginning, such as going thumb-free while playing a game, or enjoying a favorite video, or any stress-free activity, to give your child a feeling of accomplishment to build on.
  • Be proactive with orthodontic health. One good idea is to schedule an orthodontic visit when your child is around the age of seven—or earlier if you notice problems with tooth alignment, speech, or bite.

Thumb sucking and pacifier use can be important, instinctive sources of comfort for very young children. And, of course, NNSB is not the only cause of childhood malocclusions. Many bite problems are genetically based and/or affected by the size and shape of your child’s teeth and jaws.

But eliminating the preventable oral health problems caused by prolonged non-nutritive sucking behaviors—that’s an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up. After all, wanting to ensure healthy, confident smiles for our children is instinctive parental behavior!

Five Nutrition Tips for Healthy Kids' Smiles

September 14th, 2022

If your child could have it his way, chances are he would eat Lucky Charms for breakfast, a peanut butter and fluff sandwich for lunch, and chicken fingers slathered in ketchup for dinner.

Kids will be kids, and maintaining a healthy diet is often the farthest thing from their minds. Do you remember the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, that folksy wisdom can be applied to oral health, too. Think of it like this: an apple a day keeps the dentist at bay. Here are five nutrition tips Dr. White and our team at Lake Mary Pediatric Dentistry wanted to pass along that will give your child a healthy, bright smile.

  1. Eat a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables. We weren't joking about the apple. An apple naturally scrubs and cleans your teeth. The nutrients and antioxidants in vegetables are good for the entire body.
  2. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calcium is a mineral needed by the body for healthy bones and teeth, and proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of calcium. Dark leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods like orange juice and tofu are also healthy options.
  3. Keep snacking to a minimum. Sticky and gummy snacks can increase a child’s risk of tooth decay. Unless a child brushes after every snack (and what child does?), sticky snacks can easily get lodged between the teeth.
  4. Limit soda intake. Drinking large amounts of soda has been linked to childhood obesity. Soda is loaded with sugars and acids, and these ingredients also damage the teeth. Soft drinks have long been one of the most prominent sources of tooth decay. Have your child drink water throughout the day or juice that’s low in sugar concentrate.
  5. Chew sugarless gum. After all those fruits and vegetables, sooner or later your child is going to want a treat. Chewing gum stimulates saliva, which in turn helps keep teeth clean and bacteria-free. Sugarless gum contains xylitol. The combination of excess saliva and xylitol reduces plaque, fights cavities, and prevents the growth of oral bacteria.

For more information on keeping your child’s smile looking its very best, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. White, please give us a call at our convenient Lake Mary office!

September is National Childhood Injury Prevention Month!

September 7th, 2022

September is National Childhood Injury Prevention Month, and Dr. White and our team at Lake Mary Pediatric Dentistry are excited to share some tips to keep your child safe. Childhood is a time when dental injuries are common. Even a simple fall on the playground at recess can lead to a lost or broken tooth. What can you do as a parent to protect your child’s teeth in addition to his or her head and bones? These tips will help you prevent mouth and dental injuries to your kids.

First, use common sense when your children play sports. An estimated 13 to 39 percent of oral-facial injuries occur when children are playing sports. Make sure your child wears a face guard, mouthguard, and helmet as appropriate. Contact sports, such as football, require this gear, so insist that it gets worn.

Next, teach your children not to walk or run with things in their mouths. This is particularly difficult for toddlers and preschoolers, who love to explore the world orally. Insist that items are removed from the mouth whenever the child is in motion, and try to redirect the child to softer items for oral stimulation.

For small children, be careful when you put a spoon or fork in the mouth. While this won’t damage teeth, it can damage the delicate skin between the lips and gums or under the tongue. Allow your child to direct his or her own feeding; never shove a spoon in your child’s mouth if he or she is not interested, to avoid this type of injury.

Finally, make sure your children are seen regularly by Dr. White. Regular dental checkups will keep the teeth clean, strong, and healthy, and limit the risk of injuries.

If your child is injured in spite of your best efforts, contact our Lake Mary office right away. Quick action may be able to save a missing tooth, and a quick response on your part will limit the long-term effects of the injury.

Celebrate Labor Day by Getting Away

August 31st, 2022

Labor Day honors the contributions that workers have made to this country, and for many Americans, the holiday is a great time to relax at home with family and friends. But there are quite a few people who celebrate the holiday by getting out of town, with an estimated 33 million people traveling more than 50 miles over Labor Day weekend each year. If you’re dreaming of a great Labor Day escape but you’re not quite sure where to go, here are a few ideas from our team at Lake Mary Pediatric Dentistry to give you some travel inspiration.

Explore a National Park

On a national holiday like Labor Day, it’s only fitting to experience the beauty of America’s landscapes by heading to the nearest national park. If you’re confined to an office most days of the year, national parks can provide a relaxing and scenic escape, whether you’re by yourself, traveling with a group of friends, or bringing the whole family along. Depending on how close you live to the nearest park, you can stay for an afternoon or for longer than a week. With 58 parks located in 27 states, there are plenty of beautiful areas to choose from.

Chow Down in a BBQ Haven

Barbecuing is a popular Labor Day activity, but instead of sweating over your own grill or oven, try visiting one of the country’s BBQ capitals. U.S. News and World Report names Memphis as the top BBQ destination, with more than 80 BBQ restaurants in the city, most notably Corky’s BBQ and Central BBQ. Kansas City is also known for the sweet taste of its sauces, while central Texas is said to have perfected the technique of smoking tender and flavorful brisket.

Relax on the Beach

Many people think of Labor Day as the unofficial start of fall, which brings cooler temperatures, more rain, and for many people, an end to lazy days at the beach. End your beach days with a bang by taking a trip to one of the coasts or to a lakeside beach. For an added dose of festivity, find a city or town that celebrates the occasion with a fireworks display over the water.

Whether you’re looking to turn your getaway into a full week affair or you simply want to experience a quick escape, make the most of your holiday by changing your surrounding scenery. Happy Labor Day from the Pediatric Dentistry practice of Dr. White!