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childrens dentist

Dental Questions: Why are baby teeth so white?

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Dental Questions: Why are baby teeth so white?

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February is the official National Children's Dental Health Month, as recognized by the ADA. Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry will be rolling out weekly topics relating to pediatric dentistry all month long. Make sure to check back regularly to catch all the great information. 

One of the most immediately noticeable features of baby teeth is the pearly white shade of their dental enamel. Many times, parents are surprised to find that their child's first adult teeth aren't nearly as bright as their predecessors. Has your child lost their Hollywood smile? Fear not, this is completely normal!

While baby teeth are made of the same enamel and dentin as adult teeth, the ratios and compositions are slightly different. The inner dentin layer of the tooth is generally more opaque than enamel and tends to pick up pigments from the foods we eat or drink. In the baby teeth, the ratio of enamel to dentin is considerably higher. Thus, the teeth appear more white and tend to develop less deep staining. On the flip-side, the overall thickness of dentin and enamel is much less in baby teeth. This means that cavities can reach the nerve much faster than the adult counterparts. 

Primary first molar versus adult first molar. Notice how the enamel is relatively thicker in the baby tooth, while the overall thickness of both layers is much less than the adult tooth. 

Primary first molar versus adult first molar. Notice how the enamel is relatively thicker in the baby tooth, while the overall thickness of both layers is much less than the adult tooth. 

What if your child doesn't have perfectly white teeth? That's a tough question to answer without a complete dental exam, but it can be due to a number of reasons. Cavities, congenital defects in tooth structure and certain types of plaque and tartar can all stain baby teeth. Your best bet is to bring your child in for regular dental checkups. To schedule an appointment today, or to learn more about baby teeth and oral health, please give our office a call!

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Dentistry and Children's Teeth

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Dentistry and Children's Teeth

ThousandOaksFamilyDentistry.com

If you ever took a fall or had a cavity as a child, you're probably thankful that we get two sets of teeth. Our primary dentition can certainly seem like a second chance to recover from youthful mishaps. You may be wondering why, if adult teeth will eventually take their place, do we perform restorative dental procedures on kids teeth? Crowns, fillings and even braces may seem excessive when you could simply "extract and wait" for the adult teeth to come in. On the contrary, primary teeth serve a number of important roles in establishing a healthy adult dentitition. 

One of the most basic goals of primary teeth is to hold space for the permanent teeth. They create markers for where the adult teeth need to erupt and keep adjacent teeth from crowding into the open spaces. Once you lose a primary tooth, the teeth on either side can start to drift into its space, blocking the adult tooth from eruption. Many times, children who lose a primary tooth prematurely will receive a space maintainer- a cemented retainer that keeps two teeth from coming closer together.

Primary teeth also play an important role in the development of the jawbones. This is the guiding principle behind interceptive orthodontics, where braces and orthodontic appliances are placed on baby teeth. By ensuring these teeth are in ideal locations, an orthodontist can guide the development of the jaws and palate while lessening the need for future adjustment. 

Beyond the developmental importance of primary teeth, they are critical in psychological and social factors as well. Missing multiple anterior teeth can be embarrassing or humiliating, particularly when children are not at the appropriate age of tooth loss. Moreover, the posterior teeth are important in chewing and processing food. Without the ability to chew, we miss out on important nutrients in our diet. Molars allow us to break down food, increase surface area and ultimately facilitate healthy digestion. 

In short, the primary teeth are an incredibly important part of childhood development. With this in mind, dentists do all they can to maintain these teeth through their healthy lifespans. If you want to know more about childhood dentition, the importance of brushing and flossing or dental development, please give our office a call!

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Happy Birthday Duke!

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Happy Birthday Duke!

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

Duke will be turning one year old this week and already has 8 of his primary teeth! The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children have their first dental visit by 12 months to ensure that development is continuing normally. If your youngster needs his first checkup, give our office a call!

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Carol and Nico

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Carol and Nico

thousandoaksfamilydentistry.com

Here's another fun moment from our office: Sharon (our past dental assistant and hygienist) stopped by for a cleaning and brought along her son Nico. This gave our insurance coordinator Carol a chance to babysit during the appointment. How much fun! We love getting updates on our past staff and their families. Until next time!!

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Brushing Duke's Teeth

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Brushing Duke's Teeth

Here you can really see his first two teeth!

Here you can really see his first two teeth!

What a great moment caught on video! Here is Dr. Kari's son Duke having his teeth brushed for the first time. His two lower teeth came in at 6 months and now at 7 months they are almost fully erupted. They get brushed twice a day with a children's toothbrush soaked in water. He loves holding the brush and sucking the water off the bristles. We can't wait to share more dental milestones to come!

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Dental Library Review: My Tooth is Loose!

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Dental Library Review: My Tooth is Loose!

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Welcome to The Dental Library Review! In this feature, we will be reviewing and highlighting different children’s books we have collected at our office. Our staff have personally used these books with their own children and have had great reception. Today, we will be going over My Tooth is Loose! by Martin Silverman and Amy Aitken. 

This book follows Gorgie, a young boy with a loose tooth. Unsure of what to do with this discovery, Georgie consults his friends. They offer him a number of options on removing the tooth, ranging from eating an apple to tying a string around it. He is unsatisfied with their answers and decides to ask his Mom. She assures him that if he leaves the tooth alone, it will come out on its own. 

Our office recommends this book because it helps ease concerns about loose teeth and what to do with them. Children can have all types of wild ideas on how to remove loose teeth, some of which can be potentially dangerous. It is best to let the teeth loosen and come out on their own. 

My Tooth is Loose! is a Penguin Young Readers level 2 book. As such, it features large pictures, simple sentences and context clues. If you would like to know more about this book or any other books we have at our office, please stop by! We love getting our patients and their children excited about oral health topics!

 

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Dental Library Review: The Tooth Book

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Dental Library Review: The Tooth Book

Welcome to The Dental Library Review! In this feature, we will be reviewing and highlighting different children’s books we have collected at our office. Our staff have personally used these books with their own children and have had great reception. Today, we will be going over The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss (with illustrations by Joe Mathieu).

Being a classic Dr. Seuss storybook, this tale is full of whimsical rhymes and colorful illustrations; Joe Mathieu does a great job of pairing the fun poetry with equally entertaining imagery. In this early reader, we learn about all the fun places we can find teeth and why they are so important. We also get a short lesson in why we have to take good care of our teeth and what happens to boys and girls who eat too many sweets. Overall, it is a great mix of silly fun and important oral health concepts for small children.

Given the simple wording, thick pages and short storyline, this book is likely best suited for young readers or as a bedtime story. In fact, it is listed as a part of Dr. Seuss’ Bright and Early Board Books. As with all the stories we review, feel free to check it out at your next appointment. We are always happy to do anything we can to get your family excited and educated about dental health topics!

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Dental Library Review: What If You Had Animal Teeth

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Dental Library Review: What If You Had Animal Teeth

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Welcome to The Dental Library Review! In this feature, we will be reviewing and highlighting different children’s books we have collected at our office. Our staff have personally used these books with their own children and have had great reception. Today, we will be going over What If You Had Animal Teeth by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam.

This book is a great idea for any child who loves science, biology or animals. Every page covers a different creature, what their teeth look like and what they are used for. Children and adults alike will find these facts interesting and thought provoking. The book also briefly introduces the human teeth, what they do and why it is important to keep them nice and healthy!

Since the book opens with a story about losing the front two teeth, it is most appropriate for children in the 6-7 year range (when the central incisors are typically shed). However, we feel that this book would be fun and interesting for children over a much wider age range. Our only caution is that some of the pictures and illustrations might be alarming to younger children (snakes with fangs showing, children illustrated with animal teeth, etc.).

As with all the stories we review, feel free to check it out at your next appointment. We are always happy to do anything we can to get your family excited and educated about dental health topics!

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Dentistry Through the Ages- Toddlers and Young Children

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Dentistry Through the Ages- Toddlers and Young Children

Greetings and welcome to our on-going blog series, Dentistry Through the Ages. In these blog posts, we will cover age-group specific dental needs and concerns. Your life is constantly changing, and we want to equip you with the best information possible to keep your teeth healthy!

Today, we want to take a look at the special dental needs and concerns of toddlers and young children. During this time period, your young one will undergo rapid growth and development, both physically and mentally. At Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry, we want to give you the best tools to keep up with their changing needs!

There are a number of milestones that can help you best gauge your child’s dental development. Typically, the first primary teeth to erupt will be the central lower incisors at around 8 months. These will be followed shortly after by opposing teeth, the upper central incisors at about 10 months. Likewise, the last primary teeth to be shed are the upper canines and second molars, which are lost as late as 12 years.

A chart showing the eruption and shedding ages for primary teeth. 

A chart showing the eruption and shedding ages for primary teeth. 

It becomes apparent that although the primary teeth will all be eventually be shed and replaced, they need to last a long time- from 5 to 10 years depending on the specific tooth. During this period, these teeth will serve as both mechanical tools for chewing and as placeholders for the adult teeth. It is important that primary teeth are lost naturally and not due to facial trauma or decay. If a tooth must be removed prematurely, we recommend placing a Space Maintainer retention device to hold spacing. Without this appliance, the adult teeth can come in crooked or unevenly, requiring extensive orthodontic intervention later in life.

A typical space maintainer on a model. The final appliance is gently cemented to the rearward tooth. 

A typical space maintainer on a model. The final appliance is gently cemented to the rearward tooth. 

Beyond the development of primary teeth and adult teeth, there are a number of ways you can give your young child the best start on their dental health. At 1 year of age, we recommend stopping the use of bottles and pacifiers. Studies show that the prolonged use of these products can cause improper oral development, including an open bite. You can limit pacifier use using the “snip” method, where a small amount of the pacifier base is cut off periodically, limiting your child’s ability to create satisfying suction with the device. Thumb sucking needs to be limited as well, although behavioral interventions required to stop this are usually unsuccessful until the age of 3.

We recommend brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first teeth begin to erupt. You can brush with water, fluoride-free toothpaste or even xylitol wipes. However, avoid fluoridated toothpaste and supplements until age 2, as the fluoridated water in Southern California will provide enough remineralization power alone. Any extra dosage of the ion can cause a condition called fluorosis, where white spots of “over mineralization” arise on the still-developing adult teeth.

At about three years of age, adjacent teeth in your child’s mouth will begin to touch. At this time, it is crucial to start flossing once a day. Childhood diets are full of tooth decay causing foods and habits- constant snacking, sticky and carbohydrate heavy foods and milk instead of water for beverage. While brushing will manage the risk of decay on most tooth surfaces, only flossing can remove bacteria and food from in-between teeth, where 70% of childhood tooth decay occurs. Additionally, keep in mind that brushing and flossing can be difficult tasks for children. As a rule of thumb, children not possess the motor skills to brush their own teeth until they can tie their own shoes.

We typically recommend children come in for their first dental visit at 1 year of age or when their first tooth comes (around 6-12mos). This visit is less of a traditional exam, and more of a “primer” for future dental visits. We will introduce your child to our various tools and ease them into what can be a very stressful setting. Depending on patient compliance, we will do a quick check of the mouth, followed by a health history review and educational discussion (for parents). All this is conducted in our fun and imaginative children’s room!

Undoubtedly, your child’s specific developmental patterns, needs and concerns will vary from the information in this article. With this in mind, it is imperative that they come in for regular dental examinations and check-ups. Many problems- from tooth decay to some developmental issues, can be corrected easily if caught early on. We hope to see you and your loved ones at our office- to make sure everyone is on the right track for dental success!

 

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Dental Sealants

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Dental Sealants

    One of the most common preventative dental treatments available to growing kids and teens is dental sealants. Between 10% and 50% of all students will have at least one sealant at any given grade school in the United States. While many parents are well educated on the benefits of sealants, the whole picture is slightly less clear. What are they made out of? What exactly are they “sealing?” Are they designed to last forever? In this blog post, we will shed some light on commonly asked questions on dental sealants and how they can be excellent preventative tools in young teeth.

Deep enamel pockets in the biting surfaces of molars can create difficult-to-clean teeth. 

Deep enamel pockets in the biting surfaces of molars can create difficult-to-clean teeth. 

    The principle behind dental sealants (also known as pit and fissure sealants) is very simple. In young children and teens, tooth anatomy can be deep and varied. In the molars, these “pits” (natural dips in the teeth) and “fissures” (natural troughs in the teeth) are prone to collect bacteria and acidic food particles. Unfortunately, these groves are often too big for toothbrush bristles to invade and clean. The result is a perfect pocket of food and bacteria that can sit unharmed even after a perfect brushing session.

    Sealants come into play by making these ridges and pockets shallower by using a specialized filling material. We typically place sealants on adult teeth once they are fully erupted and show signs of deep tooth anatomy. Baby teeth are usually shallow enough that sealing them is an unnecessary measure. The necessity and appropriateness of sealants are typically determined at a regular cleaning/exam appointment.

    In placing a sealant, we first use air abrasion technology to gently roughen the tooth surface around the pits and fissures. This process is extremely gentle; your normal saliva flow has strong enough remineralization powers to reverse the effects of air abrasion. After the tooth is prepared, we place a hard material called glass ionomer into the pits and grooves. We love glass ionomer because it is engineered to provide prolonged fluoride release, making it perfect for this application. Once the material is hardened and set, we perform a final adjustment to make sure the sealant isn’t interfering with normal biting and chewing. The entire appointment takes about 30 minutes for one tooth, with 15 extra minutes for each additional tooth.

A typical before (left) and after (right) of dental sealants. 

A typical before (left) and after (right) of dental sealants. 

    Since we are only placing material in near-microscopic grooves (thinner than a toothbrush bristle!), the resulting “filling” is incredibly shallow and thin. Likewise, sealants can fall out or break after a number of years. This is a completely natural and expected part of the sealant life cycle. However, many of our patients have their sealants last for near lifetimes. When a sealant does fall out, we note it during a regular exam and consider the options. We can replace a sealant at any age, but changes in tooth structure often make this step unnecessary.

     For most people, extreme molar anatomy is exclusively a childhood problem. Children's teeth grow in at different paces and will often be in a position where they have nothing to hit against while chewing. This lack of constant contact makes these pockets of bacteria and food even harder to displace.  However, we can and will place sealants in adults, if necessary.

    Please note that sealants are not the same as fillings on the biting (“occlusal”) surfaces of your back teeth. If there is active decay in the pits and fissures, we must place a filling to reverse it’s progress. However, deep anatomy can usually be caught and adressed before actual decay sets in. If you have any further questions about dental sealants, how they work or why we place them, please feel free to call our office. We want all of our patients to be well educated on the best preventative services available to them and their children.

 

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