Dental Awareness

Pediatric Dentistry in Amarillo, TX

Every child deserves to grow up with a beautiful, healthy smile – and the first step to achieving that goal is education. As a leading pediatric dentist serving the Amarillo, TX area, we've worked with countless children to help them develop a healthy smile, and we offer a wide range of pediatric dental services to help our patients improve their smiles. But in addition to the care, we provide in-office, there's plenty you can do as a parent to help give your child the best possible smile. Read on to learn about the importance of dental health and how you can help your child develop a beautiful, healthy smile.

Why Is Childhood Dental Health Important?

Preventable tooth decay is the most common chronic condition affecting children in America today, with research showing up to 50% of first-graders and 80% of 17-year-olds suffering. The National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research estimates that problems from dental health will cause US kids to miss 52 million hours of school and have 12.5 million days of restricted activity each year – which means preventing dental health issues is serious business. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has made childhood dental health a major priority for public health.

How to Promote Childhood Dental Health as a Parent

As a parent, you play a crucial role in helping your child develop a healthy smile. You'll be indoctrinating your child with healthy habits, teaching them the foundations of good dental hygiene, and setting them up for a lifetime of healthy smiles. In keeping with the American Dental Hygiene Association, we offer the following recommendations for parents to take care of their child's dental health:

  • 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 sugary liquids.

Pediatric Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene is the foundation of dental health, and in addition to maintaining regularly-schedule appointments with your Amarillo pediatric dentist, it's critical that you keep up a strong at-home oral hygiene regimen with your child. And the most important aspect of that is brushing and flossing.

Brushing for Children

Brushing is vital to your child's dental health, so it's important to establish good brushing habits at an early age. If your child is under age 3, you should simply clean their teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush, but after age 3, you can supervise your child's brushing.

How Kids Should Brush Teeth

Using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, have your child move their brush in small circular motions over the chewing surfaces of their teeth. They should hold the brush at an angle and work slowly and carefully, ensuring they cover every exposed tooth surface. In addition to all exposed tooth surface, your child should brush the tongue and the roof of the mouth as well. Done right, this process should take several minutes.

When to Brush Teeth

For ideal oral health, we recommend brushing teeth four times per day:

  • After breakfast
  • After lunch or right after school
  • After dinner
  • Before bed

Tips for Brushing Teeth

In addition to proper technique, here are a few other things to keep in mind for your child's oral health:

  • Replace their toothbrush every few months or whenever bristles start to fray
  • Ensure your child doesn't swallow toothbrush and have them rinse their mouth out with water after brushing
  • Brush every day for optimal oral hygiene

Flossing for Children

The other cornerstone of oral hygiene is flossing. Flossing helps to clean the surfaces between the teeth, dislodging food particles and preventing bacteria from damaging the teeth.

How Kids Should Floss

Have your child pull out a length of floss from the dispenser and tightly wrap the ends around the middle fingers. Your child should carefully glide the floss down between the teeth from the top of the teeth to below the gumline, rubbing it up and down the sides of the teeth to clear away food and bacteria. Next, unwrap and rewrap the floss so that a new section is used to floss the next set of teeth. Continue this process for all teeth such that by the end, the entire length of floss has been used from beginning to end.

When to Floss

Flossing doesn't need to be as frequent as brushing. We recommend flossing once per day, right before bed. Your child's gums may bleed the first few times, and this is completely normal – but if bleeding continues to be sure to let us know.

Common Childhood Dental Problems

Dental health is vital even in early childhood, so you should be vigilant for any dental health issues you might notice in your child. Here are a few of the most common dental health problems that children experience.

  • Tooth Decay: Tooth decay, also called cavities or caries, is the most common preventable disease and can severely damage teeth. Cavities form when bacteria break down foods and release acids that eat away at tooth enamel, eventually forming a hole called a cavity. Cavities may be visible as a dark spot or hole in the teeth, but the best way to prevent them is through oral hygiene and regular dental checkups.
  • Sensitive Teeth: Tooth sensitivity can develop due to the erosion of dental enamel, which can be caused by certain foods, receding gums, or dental decay. Patients with sensitive teeth may experience pain when exposed to hot or cold temperatures, and even breathing cold air can be painful in extreme cases.
  • Gum Disease: Periodontal disease, more commonly called gum disease, is another common dental problem. This occurs when bacteria infect the gums, causing them to grow swollen and inflamed. Gum disease starts as a relatively minor problem called gingivitis, but it can progress into a severe condition and even cause tooth or bone loss. As with dental decay, the best way to fight gum disease is through oral hygiene and regular dental checkups and cleanings.
  • Canker Sores: Also called aphthous ulcers, these are small sores on the inside of the mouth that usually come and go. They appear as a white or gray spot with a red border and are caused by bacteria. They're generally harmless, aren't contagious, and usually aren't a problem, but we can recommend antibacterial mouthwashes if they're uncomfortable.
  • Orthodontic Issues: Most people develop an orthodontic problem (malocclusion) at some point in their lifetime, which can range from crooked teeth to misaligned jaws. If your child shows signs of malocclusion, we can recommend an orthodontic specialist for them to visit.

Contact Your Amarillo Kids Dentist

Awareness and education are the first steps to helping your child achieve a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime, and if you have more questions about how to support your child's dental health, we'd be happy to answer them. Feel free to contact us today with any questions or to schedule an appointment at our Amarillo, TX office. We can't wait to hear from you!