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What should I do if my child has a toothache?

February 28th, 2024

Toothaches in children can be tricky ordeals that cause distress for both the child and the parent. You may feel helpless and frustrated because you cannot pinpoint the location of the pain. It is so hard to see your little one experience discomfort and feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But there are ways you can help. Try these tips the next time your child has a toothache.

Zero in on the Painful Area

The first thing you need to do is find out where the pain is coming from. If your child is old enough, ask him or her to point to the painful area. In younger children, look for swelling and redness on the gums and cheek, dental caries (discolorations on the tooth), or broken teeth. Try to get as close to the location of the pain as possible so you can determine an effective course of action to relieve it.

Try to Find the Cause

Not all toothaches are actually toothaches. A child can bite his or her tongue or cheek, have sore gums, or develop ulcers in the mouth. Teeth that are coming in can also be quite painful. If a tooth is discolored, broken, loose, or has spots that are either darker or lighter than the rest of the tooth, those could be causes of pain.

Five-Step Approach to Dental Pain Relief

  1. Floss. Help your child floss to remove any food particles that may be wedged between the teeth and could be causing pain.
  2. Rinse with warm salt water. Use a warm salt-water solution and have your child rinse well by swishing or holding the salt water over the painful area.
  3. Use a cold compress. This can relieve pain and swelling. If there is no swelling, you can try it anyway to subdue the pain. Try it on for about 15 minutes, then off for 20.
  4. Give the child ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Use the appropriate dosage for your child’s age and administer it regularly as directed.
  5. See Drs. Joanne Oppenheim, Marilia Montero, and Mary J. Hayes. If you determine that the tooth or gum is damaged, or if the pain simply cannot be relieved, call our Chicago office.

If your child is experiencing throbbing pain, fatigue, or fever, you should call your pediatrician as soon as possible. If your child is experiencing mouth pain accompanied by trouble breathing or swallowing, it can indicate a more serious situation and you should take your son or daughter to the emergency room.

Most mouth pain in children can be remedied with the simple steps here. The important thing is that you remain calm, no matter what. You child is taking cues from you and if you panic, he or she will panic.

Healthy Teeth and Healthy Gums Make a Great Team

February 21st, 2024

You know a lot about taking care of your teeth. You brush carefully twice each day, you floss, you (mostly!) eat healthy foods, and you see Drs. Joanne Oppenheim, Marilia Montero, and Mary J. Hayes for checkups and cleanings. Good for you! These are some of the very best ways to make sure you don’t get cavities.

But it takes more than taking care of your teeth for good oral health. It also means taking care of your gums, because your teeth and gums are a team.

Clean and healthy gums and teeth work together. Our gums fit snugly around our teeth to help protect them from bacteria and other germs. And clean, plaque-free teeth are important for healthy gums. How? Let’s take a look.

Plaque forms all day long, and sticks to our teeth unless we brush and floss it away. The bacteria in plaque create acids. These acids make our tooth enamel weaker, which can lead to cavities. We don’t want cavities, and so we brush and floss to get rid of plaque.

But that’s not the only reason we clean our teeth well. Plaque is double trouble, because the bacteria in plaque also irritate our gums.

How do our gums react when they’re irritated? They turn darker pink or red, or they get swollen or sore, or they even bleed a bit when you brush. All these signs are symptoms of gingivitis, which is how gum disease begins. (And sometimes people can have gingivitis without any big symptoms at all.)

So, how do you make sure you keep your gums healthy? Just remember to include your gums while you’re doing all the things you already do to take care of your teeth!

  • Brush Well

Lots of people, including kids, get gingivitis, because it doesn’t take long for plaque to build up when we don’t brush often enough or carefully enough. Make sure to brush twice each day, and don’t forget to angle your toothbrush to gently brush along the gum line where your teeth and gums meet.

Gentle brushing is all you need for daily tooth cleaning. Rough brushing and hard bristles can hurt even tough tooth enamel, so you know they’re not good for your gums!

  • Floss Well

Flossing gets plaque that your toothbrush can miss. After all, it’s hard for bristles to squeeze in between those tight teeth. And flossing is especially important for your gums, because it removes plaque that is hiding near the gum line.

But figuring out the best way to floss teeth can be hard even for adults! Luckily, you have an expert to help you find out just how to use floss and just the right floss to use—your dental hygienist. When you have your teeth cleaned at our Chicago office, ask about the easiest and best ways to floss for your own special teeth and gums.

  • Eat Well

All of the foods which are good for your teeth—milk, cheese, yogurt, fruits, vegetables—are good for your gums, too! And the foods which aren’t so great for your teeth—sticky, sugary foods—aren’t great for your gums, either. Sugar feeds the bacteria in plaque, and plaque irritates gums.

This doesn’t mean no treats ever. It does mean that it’s important to brush well after enjoying desserts, or chips, or candy, or any food that sticks around your teeth and gums after eating. And if you can’t brush, a drink of water helps wash away bits of food which are still hanging around.

  • See Your Dentist Regularly

Regular visits to Pediatric Dental Health Associates, Ltd can catch any gum problems before they become more serious. And, if you’ve been missing any spots when you brush and floss, your dentist or hygienist will let you know.

If you notice any signs of gingivitis—puffiness, redness, bleeding, or pain—tell a grownup right away. One of the fantastic things about the way our gums work is the fact that careful brushing and flossing are often all you need to make them healthy again! If you need more help, your dentist is the person who can treat gum problems to keep your smile feeling and looking great.

Work together with Drs. Joanne Oppenheim, Marilia Montero, and Mary J. Hayes to make sure your teeth and gums are their healthiest. Just like healthy teeth and gums are a great team, you and your dentist make a great team, too!

How to Brush a Two-Year-Old’s Teeth Effectively

February 14th, 2024

Our team at Pediatric Dental Health Associates, Ltd would like to offer some tips regarding the sometimes dreaded task of brushing a toddler’s teeth.

Much of the trick lies in the positioning. Before you begin, make sure you are in a position of control. This protects both you and your child from injury. Consider how well you can see. If you cannot see clearly, the quality of brushing drops significantly. For instance, if your child is standing, you are likely to see only the bottom teeth well.

Our team finds that the best position for brushing and flossing a toddler is when your child is calm. Have your child lie down on his or her back with arms out to make a T. Sit down just above the head and lightly place your legs over your child’s arms. Using a circular motion, brush all sides of the teeth.

It may sound odd, but approaching the routine this way can make brushing time a cinch! After you’re done, give your child the toothbrush and let him or her have a turn. The benefit of doing the brushing and flossing first is that it gives an example, which your child is more likely to repeat when you’re done.

Different methods work best for different families and children. These practices need to be performed with kindness and care. Be gentle and make this time a happy learning time. Don’t forget to bring your child to our Chicago office for regular dental checkups and cleanings. Drs. Joanne Oppenheim, Marilia Montero, and Mary J. Hayes can advise you on ways to implement portions of these tips in a way that may work bests for you and your child.

Three Reasons We're Fans of Fluoride

February 7th, 2024

Why all the fuss about fluoride? Your pediatric dentist recommends it, your child’s toothpaste is formulated with it, and most of our drinking water contains it. Just what is it about this mineral that makes dental professionals sing its praises? Read on for three good reasons why fluoride is a healthy choice for healthier teeth.

  1. Fluoride Works!

Fluoride is an attractive option for protecting your child’s teeth—and we mean that literally. Fluoride protects the surface of teeth by working on a molecular level to attract minerals that strengthen enamel and help prevent cavities.

Our tooth enamel is mostly made from calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, strong crystals which make up about 95% of our enamel. Hydroxyapatite is so strong, in fact, that tooth enamel is the hardest part of our bodies. What can go wrong?

Acids. Acids created by the bacteria in plaque and the acids in our diet strip away the calcium and phosphate ions in enamel, weakening the surface of the tooth. This process is called demineralization. Over time, weak spots become bigger as acids eat through enamel to the inner tooth, causing decay and cavities.

So, what can fluoride do?

First, fluoride helps remineralize tooth enamel. Fluoride is attracted to the tooth’s surface and bonds with its minerals. It also attracts the calcium and phosphate ions which are found in our saliva to restore any minerals which have been lost. This process helps repair any weak spots which might have begun to form.

But fluoride does more than restore and repair tooth strength—it improves it! Fluoride ions join with calcium and phosphate to form fluorapatite crystals, which are larger and stronger than hydroxyapatite crystals. Even better? These new crystals are more resistant to acids.

  1. Fluoride Is Doubly Effective

Fluoride works both externally and internally. We just looked at how fluoride helps keep teeth strong when applied to the outside of the teeth. This is called a topical application. Systemic benefits come the fluoride we consume in our diets.

Fluoride isn’t found in many foods, but it is found naturally in lakes, rivers, and other water sources. When the local water’s fluoride level is low, many communities add fluoride for its proven ability to prevent cavities. Water fluoridation is safe, has been studied for decades, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities by 25% or more for both children and adults.

Systemic fluoride is important for baby teeth, as fluoride joins with minerals in adult teeth while they grow and develop. This creates stronger, more cavity-resistant teeth even before they erupt.

When your child’s permanent teeth come in, fluoride is still at work! When your child drinks fluoridated water, they increasing the amount of fluoride in their saliva. Just like fluoride toothpaste, saliva bathes the teeth with fluoride ions, remineralizing and strengthening the tooth surface and helping repair weak spots in enamel.

  1. It’s Easy to Get Fluoride Protection

Because so much of our drinking water is fluoridated, most of us really don’t have to think about how to get the recommended amount of fluoride in our diet each day. If your community’s water is low in fluoride, Drs. Joanne Oppenheim, Marilia Montero, and Mary J. Hayes can help you. Prescription fluoride rinses, gels, supplements, and other treatments are available at our Chicago pediatric dental office to make sure that your child’s teeth are well protected, wherever you may live. We will let you know which products are best for your child and how often to use them.

Fluoride isn’t, of course, the only way to look out for your dental health. Proper brushing and flossing are still essential for removing plaque. And sealants provide long-lasting protection for chewing surfaces. But when it comes to a proven cavity-fighter that’s simple to use, effective, and easily available—is it any wonder we’re big fans of fluoride?