Finger and Thumb Sucking in Children – Why Break the Habit? And How?


kid sucking thumbMany babies and toddlers suck their thumbs or fingers. In fact, it’s a completely normal, healthy way for small children to self-soothe and comfort themselves.  Finger-sucking serves a purpose at a very young age, but can cause problems if the habit lingers later in childhood.

The majority of young children who suck their thumbs or fingers stop by themselves before preschool age. However, not all do. For some, it can be a difficult habit to break. But it’s important for children to stop before their permanent teeth come in, because over time it can cause permanent damage.

Finger and thumb sucking can affect the teeth alignment, palate and proper growth of jaw bones. Prolonged sucking can push the upper front teeth outward. The degree of damage varies from child to child. Vigorous sucking is more damaging than if the thumb simply “rests” in the mouth, although it’s still important to break the habit. But how?

First of all, involve the child from the beginning. Talk and decide to together, setting goals and rewards for reaching them. Experts suggest positive reinforcement and gentle reminders to encourage. Often children thumb-suck when they are anxious or stressed, so if you notice those triggers try to talk with or comfort the child.

And don’t be afraid to ask your dentist for help. He or she can explain the importance of stopping the habit, and some children respond better to another adult rather than boring mom and dad.

Finally, if you’ve tried everything and your child still can’t break the habit, there are other alternatives such as a mouth guard or bitter tasting nail polish to put on nails. These work great for some children, and you know your child best. Choose the method that works best for him or her.

Remember, although it can seem silly to some adults finger sucking is a very hard habit for some children to break. They need patience, praise and support to reach their goal.

Whether or not children suck their thumb, they still need to visit the dentist every 6 months. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child.

AAPD Guideline on Adolescent Oral Health Care

Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has written a Guideline on Adolescent Oral Health Care? It was initially written in 1986, but it has been revised four times since then, most recently in 2010. Here’s a link to a copy of the 2010 version.

Here are some highlights that might interest you:

  • Adolescents (ages 10-18) are considered to have distinctive dental care needs because of certain factors including diet, independence to avoid dental care, low priority for oral hygiene, increased risk of traumatic injury, and additional social and psychological factors.
  • Adolescence marks a period of significant tooth decay and a critical period in periodontal status for many people.
  • Fluoride is the number one proven, most effective method for preventing tooth decay; it can be beneficial from childhood throughout the teenage years and even into adulthood. Good oral hygiene (personal and professional), diet management and application of sealants are the other main tooth decay prevention methods in adolescents.
  • Other common problems with adolescent teeth are misalignment, periodontal diseases, wisdom teeth impaction or malposition, TMJ, missing teeth, ectopic eruption, and discolored teeth. All of these conditions need to be diagnosed by a professional so that a personalized treatment plan can be created based on the individual patient’s needs.
  • Preventative measures, regular check-ups, early diagnosis and personalized treatment plans are the key factors to maintain good oral health.
  • And finally, when the time comes, transition from a pediatric dentist to an adult dentist is important, as an adult’s oral health needs may go beyond the scope of a pediatric dentist’s training.

Make sure to educate your adolescent on the importance of good oral hygiene and schedule them a dentist appointment every 6 months. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

Two minutes, Twice a day

Have you taken your children to the dentist recently only to be told that they aren’t brushing well enough? How long should they brush and how often? What IS well enough?

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that kids, as well as adults, brush their teeth in a soft, circular motion for two minutes, twice a day, and floss daily.

Most adults can handle a two minute tooth-brushing, but that can seem like a lifetime to a child. There are a couple of websites that are designed specifically to keep your child entertained in two minute increments each time they brush their teeth. is sponsored by the Children’s Oral Health campaign, the Ad Council and the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives. The website has a slew of 2 minute long videos to entertain your child while they brush. It’s also a good source of oral hygiene and dental health information. is another handy website that has a free toothbrush timer app that plays 2 minute clips of songs from your personal phone or tablet to promote brushing for a full two minutes. The site is interactive, so your kids can go online and vote for their favorite songs, as well as watch fun, informational dental hygiene video clips.

Have your kids give these two sites a try and brushing for 2 minutes should be a breeze.

Just how important are baby teeth?

“They’re just baby teeth, right? They’re gonna fall out anyway! Dental care is not necessary at this young… it’s just another way for dentists to make more money off of us.”

I have heard SO much debate about this topic. Here’s the deal, parents. Sure. They are baby teeth that will in fact fall out, but they also play a much larger role in your child’s oral health.

First of all, know that baby teeth are just as susceptible to cavities and deterioration as adult (aka permanent) teeth. If baby teeth are not properly taken care of they can get cavities, decay and fall out before they are ready to. Not only will this cause your child discomfort and pain, but it can also open the door for a lot of other problems.

Baby teeth help a child to speak clearly and learn the correct pronunciation of words. Without them it is difficult for them to do so. Children also need their baby teeth to chew food properly. If they are unable to adequately break down food it can affect their digestive system and cause problems for them.

Also, baby teeth are sort of reserving a seat for the later permanent teeth when they are ready to come in. They create a pathway for the permanent teeth to follow, which has a significant impact on the alignment and spacing of the permanent teeth. If a baby tooth falls out too early, the permanent teeth may start gravitating toward the empty space causing spacing issues.

But the last, possibly most important, roll of baby teeth is for parents to use them as a tool to teach children how to properly care for their teeth, so that they are ready and able to care for their permanent teeth when they come in. This will save them so much money and stress in their adult lives, as well as impress upon them the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

So parents brush your baby’s teeth and instill the value of good oral hygiene in them. Take them to the dentist regularly, so that they become comfortable with the dentist office, instead of afraid. Teach them to take care of themselves, because healthy habits build healthy lives.

Start ‘em young and raise ‘em right!

Don’t Let Halloween Candy Scare You this Year!

It’s that time of year again!

Your children are excited, but you are afraid…afraid of the sugary ghosts of candy that will stick around to haunt your kids teeth long after Halloween is over. By practicing proper dental care and following a few key tips, your little ones can enjoy this spookily sweet holiday without causing lasting damage to their teeth.

Here’s a guideline of the best and worst Halloween candy for your kids to eat.

Worst Choices:

  • Sticky, chewy candy – Gummies, taffy, caramel (anything that sticks to teeth) is too hard for saliva, and even toothbrushes, to remove. The longer sugar is stuck to your teeth, the more damage it will do.
  • Sour candy: Sour candy causes enamel erosion because it has high levels of acidity.
  • High sugar sweets: Anything with high sugar content, such as candy corn, can lead to tooth decay.

Best Choices:

  • Sugar-free hard candy and sugar-free suckers: These types of candy stimulate saliva production and saliva is our natural defense against bacteria in the mouth.
  • Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate melts fast and doesn’t stick to your teeth as much as other candies, plus it has the added benefit of antioxidants.
  • Sugar-free gum: Sugar-free gum is the best option of all. It stimulates saliva production and also helps dislodge remnants of previously eaten food and sweets from the teeth.

Now that we know what kinds of candy to avoid, we shouldn’t have any problem keeping our children from eating it, right? (I kid, I kid).  The truth is that most kids are going to want all the WORST kinds of candy available. If your kiddo’s favorite candy is a dentists’ worse nightmare, don’t panic! There are several ways to help reduce the impact of all that sugar on their teeth.

Make sure your little ones eat a healthy, filling meal before they head out for trick-or-treating. If their bellies are full they won’t be tempted to eat as much candy.

Have an assigned “candy time” for your kids, followed by a tooth brushing and flossing.  If they snack on candy over a prolonged period of time, the teeth are continuously being exposed to sugar. Giving them a designated time to eat candy allows you to ensure that their mouths are properly cared for afterward.

If brushing and flossing afterward is not a possibility, encourage them to drink a glass of water. Drinking water helps your mouth produce saliva, which will help to clean out any bacteria accumulating in the mouth.

It’s good to monitor your children’s oral health habits at Halloween, but don’t forget to monitor them the rest of the year as well. All kids should know and practice the three keys to good dental hygiene: brush twice a day for two minutes, floss daily and visit your dentist every six months.

6 Tips for Helping Your Child Overcome a Fear of the Dentist

Many kids are afraid of going to the dentist. Whether it’s the fear of the unknown, or perhaps a previous bad experience, the anxiety can make the experience uncomfortable for everyone involved. However, most of these fears are unfounded, and there are steps you can take to help your child overcome a fear of the dentist and ensure their next  visit goes as smoothly as possible.

1). Begin Good Oral Hygiene Early at Home – From the time they are infants, you should begin cleaning your child’s mouth and gums. Then as toddlers you can teach them to brush properly and consistently. They’ll get used to the idea of cleaning their mouth and learn that good dental habits are important.

2). Schedule First Dental Exam Early — The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children visit the dentist when they get their first tooth or by age one. The dentist will do a short exam and answer any questions, and most importantly it gets the child used to it so the dentist won’t seem so strange or scary down the line.

3). See a Pediatric Dentist – Pediatric dentists specialize in working with kids, so they know what to look for and are used to childhood anxiety. They’re experts at dealing with it, and will be as patient and gentle as possible. Also, many pediatric dentists have offices to make the visit fun including games, toys, prizes or even video games while they wait.

4). Prepare Beforehand – It often helps to talk about the visit beforehand – but remember to stay positive. It may help to read a book together (most local libraries have several children’s books on the topic). You can also role play, and let them practice on the “patient,” which can be a doll, stuffed animal, Buzz Lightyear or even you! Listen to your child and don’t dismiss their fears, but remain upbeat and use positive terms such as healthy teeth, happy smile, etc. Avoid scary sounding terms such as pain, hurt, shot or drill.

5). Set A Good Example – Children often follow their parent’s lead, so if you have fears or avoid the dentist that can easily rub off on them. However, if they see you placing a high importance on taking care of your teeth and talking positively about the dentist they’ll realize it’s not so scary after all.

6). Make Them Comfortable During the Visit – If your child has a favorite book or stuffed animal it doesn’t hurt to bring it along for comfort. Or if your son really wants to wear his Spiderman pajamas, why not let him?  I promise the dentist doesn’t care (at least ours doesn’t 🙂 – anything to help the child feel safe and familiar.

Remember that regular exams are important, and with time and patience children can learn to overcome their fears.  Come see us soon and continue having a great summer!

Mouth Guards in Sports – Does My Child Really Need One?

The short answer: yes.

Particularly in high contact sports, mouth guards are a necessary piece of equipment. They protect the teeth and can prevent injury to the lips, cheeks and gums.

Just as a helmet protects the brain and padding protects the bones, mouth guards play an important role in keeping children safe during sports. In fact, The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety states that an athlete is 60 more times likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouth guard.

Mouth guard use isn’t always enforced, but it should be. The Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouth guards for a variety of sports including football, basketball, boxing, hockey, gymnastics, volleyball, soccer, skateboarding and many others.

Not only are mouth injuries painful for children, but there are often accompanied by emotional or financial ramifications as well. A permanent tooth that gets knocked out doesn’t grow back. When a kid’s smile is forever altered it can be hard for him or her to accept and adjust. And the cost of dental repairs for broken or knocked out teeth far outweighs the cost of a mouth guard. It’s much better to prevent the injury in the first place.

There are several types of mouth guards available. Ready-made options can be purchased at sporting goods stores, while custom fit mouth guards can be made by dentists. The custom made versions provide the best fit and offer the best protection, because they are made from an impression of the mouth. They also tend to be more comfortable than the stock ones, so kids are more inclined to wear them.

Just like all sports equipment, mouth guards can wear out over time. Also, it’s important to remember that kids’ mouths are still growing and teeth shifting, so be sure to have his or her mouth guard checked regularly for proper fit

Most parents don’t think twice about enforcing a helmet or padding, but the mouth guard should be a necessary part of that uniform, too. Nobody wants to deal with mouth injuries that could have been prevented by wearing the proper equipment.

Now, get out and play!


Smart Snacking for Your Smile

Snacking is a part of life for kids, and it has many overall health and nutritional benefits. However, too much of the wrong types of snacks can damage their teeth. There are two important things to keep in mind when choosing snacks: type and frequency. It’s important to make smart choices to reduce the risk of tooth decay and promote a healthy smile.

Types of Snacks

Most people understand that certain foods are better for your teeth than others. Not surprisingly, most of the foods that are good for your dental health are good for your overall physical health as well. Fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products including milk and cheese, grains and meats such as chicken or turkey are smart choices for good oral hygiene. On the flip side, sugary treats such as candy, honey and caramel stick to the teeth and can lead to tooth decay. So whenever possible, it’s important to choose healthy, non-sugary snacks. Of course that’s not realistic all the time. Sweets are fine every now and then, but should be chosen selectively and always followed by a thorough tooth-brushing.


Just as the type of snacks you eat have an impact on your dental health, the frequency of eating these snacks also plays a major role. You may think you’re showing willpower by making that Snickers bar last all day long, but nibbling on a candy bar for hours is actually worse for your teeth than eating it all at once. The reason?  The sugar stays in your mouth longer, which produces acids that then sit on your teeth all day. The same concept applies to lollipops and other candies designed to last a long time. So if you just have to have that candy bar (no judgment here, we understand), just eat it, enjoy it, then brush your teeth and move on.

Making smart snacking choices not only benefits your teeth, but it can benefit your overall physical and emotional health as well. And that’s something to smile about.

The Importance of Smiling and Laughing for Overall Health

Most people, kids included, feel better when they smile – and rightfully so. Science proves that smiling or laughing provides multiple benefits to overall health at any age.

Here are four important reasons smiling is good for you:

Increases Confidence – A healthy smile can make you feel more confident. If a person isn’t happy with his or her smile, or is self-conscious about his teeth, he or she will often try to hide it. He may look down or away to avoid eye contact because he’s embarrassed. A healthy smile eliminates the need to hide and radiates confidence.

Makes You Happier – Smiling or laughing not only helps you appear happier, it actually makes you feel happier. There’s a lot of scientific research behind this, but the simple fact is that when you smile you release endorphins, which have many positive physical effects. The interesting thing is that you can actually trick your brain on this one. Even if you don’t feel happy, faking a smile can trick your brain into thinking that you are. It doesn’t know the difference. So go ahead, try it! Smile, even if you have to fake it. You’ll be happier for it.

Physical Benefits – Smiling has numerous physical benefits. In addition to the endorphins people released, studies show that smiling can also help lower blood sugar and blood pressure, reduced stress, boost immune systems, and release natural painkillers and serotonin.

Draws Others to You – A smile often puts others at ease. It makes you more approachable, and others feel they can easily more easily relate. This is a benefit at any ages, whether at school, work or social settings. People are drawn to those who smile and laugh. Louis Armstrong was on to something when he sang, “When you’re smiling the whole worlds smiles with you.”


What Is A Pediatric Dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a dentist that treats kids! That’s the simple explanation.

To be more formal, you could say the following: pediatric dentists are dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through the teen years.

Pediatric dentists have the experience and qualifications necessary to understand and care for a child’s teeth and gums through the various early stages of their life. Additionally, pediatric dentists are equipped to handle children who may not be cooperative during an oral exam.

Children start to get their teeth at different times, but it could be as early as six months. Children then start to lose their initial, baby teeth around 6 or 7 years of age. Those teeth are replaced by their permanent teeth.

If children do not receive proper dental care, they could face oral decay and possibly disease that can cause a lifetime of pain and complications. So, get your children checked out by a dentist regularly and if you want someone with specific experience and expertise for children, find a pediatric dentist!