Dental Education for Parents & Children
Dr. Mayes frequently takes time to write about important issues related to oral health, especially as it impacts a child’s development. This page contains her most recent written works, as well as a list of downloadable, archived articles. Check back here often as Dr. Mayes continues to add articles important to the continuation of your child’s dental health.
Antibiotic Use Linked to Poor Tooth Development In Children
Consequently, doctors write millions of antibiotic prescriptions for colds and flu every year, often under pressure from worried parents. If a child has a complication from a cold or flu that might involve bacteria — such as an ear infection or sinus infection—antibiotics are necessary. Antibiotics are also appropriate to treat bacterial infections in the mouth. However, antibiotics do only one thing: kill bacteria. No antibiotic — from Amoxicillin to Zithromax — will help cure a cold or flu since both are caused by viruses. Viruses are a class of germs different from bacteria.
You might think that taking antibiotics can’t hurt, even if they don’t help with a cold or flu. Not so, especially with children. Not only are antibiotics useless against a cold or flu, they can actually interfere with the complete development of tooth enamel according to a longitudinal study recently released. In the October issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, researchers highlighted the need to be cautious about the use of antibiotics, especially with infants. The impact is called enamel hypoplasia, or dental fluorosis.
What is enamel hypoplasia?
Enamel hypoplasia is a broad term to describe abnormal tooth enamel (the hard, visible part of a tooth), especially when it has surface defects and irregularities. Enamel hypoplasia may be due to nutritional deficiencies while in the womb and after birth, allergies, infections, medications, trauma, rubella, and many other medical problems. Enamel hypoplasia is the contemporary term used to described in general abnormal tooth enamel.
What is dental fluorosis?
Dental fluorosis is the incomplete development of tooth enamel caused by high doses of fluoride. However, dental fluorosis is also an old term still used by some dentists to describe enamel defects that are caused by factors other than too much fluoride.
In the end, the recent study may do nothing more than underline the increasing trend to limit the use of antibiotics among children. Thankfully, if your child has been diagnosed with enamel hypoplasia and/or fluorosis, she can be cavity free with good oral hygiene, a proper diet, and regular visits to your pediatric dentist.
Seal Out Decay
The best dental gift is to be cavity-free. Approximately 90 percent of the decay in the teeth of children occur in tooth surfaces with pits and fissures, and almost two-thirds are found on the chewing surfaces alone. During growth, a child’s teeth frequently develop imperfections. These imperfections are called pits and fissures. Sealants are a safe, painless, and low-cost way to help protect your child’s back teeth from decay. Sealants have been used on children’s teeth for more than 30 years.
What is a Sealant?
A sealant is a thin, plastic, tooth-colored or clear coating that is painted to the chewing surfaces of a back tooth. This special plastic forms a hard shield that keeps food and bacteria from getting into the tiny grooves of a tooth.
Why Should Children Have Sealants?
Pits and fissures fill with bacteria and food when the child eats. The bristles of a toothbrush are too thick to reach into these imperfections and remove the food and bacteria that get trapped there. Bacteria immediately act on the food and form acids strong enough to weaken and destroy the enamel of the tooth. Destruction of the tooth continues, forming a cavity.
How Are Sealants Applied?
Applying sealants is quick and easy. There’s no numbing and no pain. The tooth is cleaned first. It is then conditioned and dried. The sealant material is then brushed onto the tooth’s grooves and allowed to set with a special light. It only takes a few minutes per tooth, only takes one visit, and the child can eat normally right away.
Which Teeth Should Be Sealed?
Usually the permanent molars and premolars are sealed. Fluoride helps protect the smooth surfaces on the front teeth and on the sides of the back teeth. But only sealants can protect the chewing surfaces. It is best to apply sealants soon after the permanent molars erupt. Many times baby molars may benefit from the protection of sealants. Talk to your pediatric dentist, as each child’s situation is unique.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
Sealants can last for 3 to 5 years. Due to chewing and the abrasive nature of some foods, such as crunchy candy, sticky foods, or ice cubes, sealants may be dislodged or damaged. Grinding can also affect the longevity of sealants. If they chip or come off, they can be easily replaced. Any problems can be detected and corrected at a child’s six month dental checkup.
Milk’s Benefits for Oral Health in Children
Got milk? Thanks to high-profile marketing, there is widespread recognition of the benefits of milk for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. However, with the current abundance of beverage choices labeled with vitamins added and their benefits, it is not surprising that such a familiar item as plain milk can be taken for granted. This has not been the case for the scientific community. In fact, it is actually quite extraordinary to consider the scope and diversity of research conducted over the past fifty years on this everyday drink.
There is a good deal of current research on the benefits of milk on oral health for children. Of course, it is well-known that milk includes calcium and added vitamin D, both of which together are critical to the development of strong bones and teeth. However, recent studies also show that milk and other dairy products contain many other compounds that prevent cavities when combined with good oral hygiene. The results of those studies can be organized into three important factors: milk can help (1) rebuild teeth, (2) prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth, and (3) inhibit plaque formation.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when infant formulas, juices, sweetened drinks, and plain milk are compared, plain milk emerges as the best drink for preventing cavities. However, even milk cannot be relied upon to prevent cavities without good oral hygiene. Indeed, milk has lactose. Since lactose is a type of fermentable sugar, cavities can still be formed from milk consumption if the lactose is allowed to remain in the mouth. This is especially true for nursing, sippy-cup drinking, or bottle-feeding children who drink continuously throughout the day, at night, or right before going to sleep. Therefore, it is generally advised that any infant or child should have their gums and teeth brushed twice per day, and certainly before going to sleep.
Regular milk drinkers enjoy other oral health benefits. They seem to have less gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontitis (bone loss) than children that do not drink milk regularly. Other properties of milk have prompted some suggestions for its use as artificial saliva for those suffering from dry mouth. In some parts of the world, fluoride is added to milk. Where this is done, studies show a great reduction of cavities in children.
In the end, milk is just one part of a total approach to oral hygiene in children.
For more information on oral health care needs, please visit the website for the
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.