Dental Awareness

Young boy eating a watermelon.

At Children’s Dentistry of Amarillo, we are committed to providing great dental care to children of all ages. We know going to the dentist can be stressful for some kids, so our goal is to make sure your child has an enjoyable visit at every turn. Dr. Metcalf and his staff work hard to ensure that each child who walks into our Amarillo office feels safe and comfortable while receiving the highest quality of care.

To learn how to keep your child’s smile healthy and bright, read below and find out more about the importance of dental health and how to best protect your child’s teeth and gums.

What’s at Stake

According to research, the most common chronic childhood disease in America is tooth decay, affecting 50% of first-graders and 80% of 17-year-olds. The National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research also estimates that children will miss 52 million hours of school each year due to oral health problems and will experience about 12.5 million days of restricted activity each year from dental symptoms.

These numbers can have a serious impact on your child’s development and academic performance. As a result, the Surgeon General has made children’s oral health a priority.

A Parent’s Role

While your local Amarillo children’s dentist is a crucial part of your child’s smile development, parents are responsible for ensuring their children practice good dental hygiene from the very beginning. It is vital that you, as a parent, introduce proper early dental care into your child's life – beginning as early as infancy.

The American Dental Hygiene Association states that a good oral hygiene routine for parents to abide by consists of the following:

  • Thoroughly cleaning your infant’s gums after each feeding with a water-soaked infant cloth. This stimulates the gum tissue and removes food.
  • Teaching your child at age three about proper brushing techniques with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Then later, when your child is seven or eight years old, have them brushing and gently flossing on their own.
  • Scheduling regular visits with your Amarillo children’s dentist to check for cavities in the primary teeth and for possible developmental problems.
  • Encouraging your child to discuss any fears they may have about visits to a pediatric dentist. All the while avoid mentioning words like “pain” or “hurt,” since this may influence your child’s thought process.
  • Determining if the water supply in your home is fluoridated. If not, discussing supplement options with your pediatric dentist or dental hygienist.
  • Asking your dental hygienist or pediatric dentist about sealant applications to protect your child’s teeth-chewing surfaces, and about bottle tooth decay, which occurs when teeth are frequently exposed to sugared liquids.

Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene

In addition to coming in for regularly scheduled visits with your Amarillo children’s dentist, it is vital that kids retain good oral hygiene at home. There are two main components to maintaining good oral hygiene: brushing and flossing. Please continue reading to learn Dr. Metcalf’s recommended best practices for both.

Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small strip of fluoride toothpaste, unless your child is under the age of 3. If a child is younger than age 3, parents should clean their child’s teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. After age 3, parents should supervise brushing. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste during brushing, and make sure your child does not swallow excess toothpaste.

  • The Process

    When brushing teeth, move the brush in small circular motions to reach food particles that may be trapped under the gum line. Hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush slowly and carefully, covering all areas between teeth and the surface of each tooth.

    Make sure to brush up on the lower teeth, down on the upper teeth and the outside of teeth, inside the teeth, and on the chewing surfaces of all front and back teeth. Also, be sure to brush the tongue and the roof of the mouth before rinsing. It will take several minutes to thoroughly brush teeth.

  • When to Brush
    Brush teeth four times daily to avoid the accumulation of food particles and plaque. Our Amarillo children’s dentist recommends brushing:
    • In the morning after breakfast
    • After lunch or right after school
    • After dinner
    • At bedtime

  • Keep in Mind
    • Replace toothbrush with a new one as soon as the bristles start to wear down or fray.
    • Don’t swallow toothpaste; rinse mouth out thoroughly with water after brushing.
    • It is important to carefully brush daily for optimal oral hygiene.

For areas between the teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach, dental floss is used to remove food particles and plaque. Dental floss is a thin thread of waxed nylon that is used to reach below the gum line and clean between teeth. It is very important to floss between teeth each and every day.

  • The Process
    Pull a small length of floss from the dispenser. Wrap the ends of the floss tightly around the middle fingers. Guide the floss between all teeth to the gum line, pulling out any food particles or plaque. Unwrap clean floss from around the fingers as you go so that floss has been used from beginning to end by the time you finish. Remember to floss behind all back teeth.

  • When to Floss
    Floss at night to make sure the teeth are squeaky clean before going to bed. When your child first begins flossing, the gums may bleed a little. If the bleeding does not go away after the first few times, let a staff member know at your next appointment with our Amarillo, TX office.

Problems to Look For

Dental and oral issues can develop early in life. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant and be on the lookout for potential problems.

Tooth Decay
Dental caries, or tooth decay, is a preventable disease. This kind of decay forms when acids eat away at tooth enamel, which occurs when teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars.

It works like this: carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks, and even fruit juices leave deposits on your teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive in your mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth, thus resulting in tooth decay.

Sensitive Teeth
Your teeth expand and contract in reaction to changes in temperature. Very hot and very cold food and beverages can cause pain or irritation to people with sensitive teeth. Over time, tooth enamel can be worn down as a result of this exposure. Additionally, gums may recede and teeth may develop microscopic cracks, exposing the interior of the tooth and irritating nerve endings. If even breathing really cold air causes you pain, it is a sign of sensitive teeth.

Gum Disease
Periodontal disease, or gum disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss, and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease (gingivitis) can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist.

Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by properly brushing and flossing your teeth on a daily basis. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a consistent bad taste in the mouth.

Canker Sores
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small, recurring sores inside the mouth. These sores have a white or gray base surrounded by a red border. Generally, they last one or two weeks, but their duration can be reduced through the use of antimicrobial mouthwashes or topical agents.

Orthodontic Problems
A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or can be acquired over time. Some causes of malocclusions include: missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth, or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking over an extended period of time, may also cause malocclusions.

Schedule an Appointment

At Children’s Dentistry of Amarillo, we pride ourselves on strong patient communication. If you have any questions about your child’s dental health, or would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Metcalf, please contact our Amarillo pediatric dental office today. Our friendly staff is always happy to help you in any way that we can!