Does your child need space maintainers?

One of the primary purposes of a child’s “baby teeth” is to reserve space for the adult teeth growing underneath. Typically, baby teeth fall out once the adult tooth begins pushing its way through the surface and is ready to emerge. However, in some cases, children may have a baby tooth removed early if they get it knocked out in an accident or have it removed due to dental decay. When this happens, there is a chance that the tooth underneath is not yet ready to emerge, causing a gap to be present in the tooth line.

Unfortunately, some adult teeth do not grow in until the child is 12-14 years old, and your pediatrician may be concerned about later problems with the permanent teeth that could be caused by the gap. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, when baby teeth are lost too soon, adjacent teeth may try to fill the space by tilting or drifting toward the gap. This is a problem because baby teeth often guide the permanent teeth into place, meaning a child may end up with a crowded or crooked smile once their adult teeth have emerged. To avoid this scenario, a pediatric dentist on your True Dental Discounts dental plan will likely suggest space maintainers. Space maintainers are made out of either metal or plastic and are custom-made to fit into a child’s mouth. The purpose of a space maintainer is to keep the gap left by a baby tooth open and to prevent movement of the other teeth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that it is much easier to correct the problem in advance with space maintainers than to fix it afterward with extensive orthodontic treatment.

Once a child’s adult tooth has successfully emerged and taken its natural place, the space maintainer is removed. Until then, it is important that the child: avoids gum and sticky foods; keeps the space maintainer clean with regular brushing and flossing; does not pull or try to adjust the space maintainer; and continues visiting the dentist regularly. That way, your pediatric dentist can monitor the progress of the child’s tooth growth and ensure he or she has a beautiful – and permanent – smile!

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Protect your child’s teeth by monitoring their diet

It is common knowledge that too many sweets can lead to tooth decay, but research points to another food group that parents should watch out for: starches. Starch can be found in a wide variety of foods – even so-called “healthy” ones like crackers, bread, pasta and pretzels. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests checking food labels for the presence of sugars and starches and then limiting those foods to mealtimes instead of as a snack. When consumed with other foods and drinks, sugars and starches are more easily washed away and removed from around a child’s teeth.

For the same reason, sticky-sweet foods like dried fruit are more likely to damage your child’s teeth because they often get stuck in the crevices. One common trap that many parents fall into is giving their child access to sugar-laden condiments, like many kinds of ketchup and salad dressings. These types of foods are not always associated with being sweet, but they often have lots of added sugar and can cause problems for kids who like to dip everything from chicken nuggets to apples. Finally, for very young children, experts recommend never putting them to bed with any liquid other than water. Juices and even milk are full of sugars that can sit on your child’s teeth while they’re sleeping and produce cavity-causing bacteria. To be safe, ask your discount pediatric dentist for her input on your children’s diet. She can recommend healthy foods that are good for their bodies and their teeth.

Ways to Drink your way to healthier teeth

June is National Dairy Month, and what better time is there to be reminded of the benefits of dairy for your teeth? Calcium is essential for healthy teeth, particularly during childhood when children’s teeth are still forming. Studies have shown that drinking milk and consuming other dairy products help teeth stay strong throughout adolescence and adulthood. It is also thought that eating dairy products – especially cheese – may help prevent cavities because it prevents bacteria on the teeth from turning sugar into harmful acids.

This is important because it stops the acids from eating into the teeth and forming cavities. In addition, studies show that dairy products can also add minerals back into teeth and prevent further mineral loss, which is essential to healthy, strong teeth. By incorporating dairy products into your children’s diet now, you can start a lifelong habit of good nutrition and healthy teeth. Drink up!

Regular dental visits prevent advancement of oral cancer

You already know that avoiding tobacco products is one key to preventing oral cancer. But according to the American Dental Association, there is a second strategy that is equally important: scheduling regular visits with your dentist. If not detected early, only about 50 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer will survive after five years. That is why it is so vital that you have your mouth examined every six months by a trusted dentist. He or she will identify anything out of the ordinary that may be signs of cancer or pre-cancer and advise you on the smartest steps to take next. The American Dental Association suggests that oral cancer is often preceded by the presence of “clinically identifiable pre-malignant changes” that may appear as white or red spots in the mouth.

If caught early and removed by a dentist, these spots never have the opportunity to become cancerous – or deadly. Visiting a dentist on your dental plan on a regular basis will help ensure that any changes in your mouth are caught at the earliest possible stage. Also, remember that even if you do not smoke or use other tobacco products, you are still at risk for oral cancer. Research discovered by the American Dental Association shows that up to one quarter of all oral cancer patients did not use tobacco. African-Americans also face higher risk factors, so talk to your dentist and develop a plan to prevent oral cancer. It could save your life!

Should I get my tongue or lip pierced?

A surprising number of people, particularly teenagers, express an interest in getting an oral piercing. The tongue, lips, and cheeks are all common piercing sites in the mouth. But how does such a piercing affect your oral health? The American Dental Association discourages oral piercings not only because of the physical pain they cause, but also because of the extensive healing time of open sores in the mouth. It can take weeks, and sometimes even months, for these wounds to heal, particularly for more complicated procedures like getting the tongue split into a fork.

These procedures can also be very dangerous, as there are lots of blood vessels in the mouth, and sensitive areas are prone to infection. Swelling, increased salivary production, scars, and speech interference are all possible following an oral piercing. Finally, the ADA has also expressed concerns about foreign objects in the mouth and their tendency to obstruct X-rays. This could be critical to a person’s health in the case of a misdiagnosis. However, even so, it is recognized that oral piercings are a common occurrence. If you are considering getting your tongue, lips, or cheeks pierced, talk to your dentist first. He or she may be able to discuss this topic in more depth and advise you on the best course of action.