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Should You Be Concerned about Your Child’s Bad Breath?

May 21st, 2020

The short answer to this question? Yes. Because your child’s breath is a reflection of his or her oral health, you should talk to Dr. Eduardo Perez if you notice any unpleasant changes. While better dental hygiene is usually the answer for young children, bad breath can also be a symptom of more serious problems.

Oral Hygiene

Most often, bad breath is simply a sign that your child needs a little help developing proper brushing and flossing habits.

  • Show your child how to use a soft-bristled brush that fits in the mouth comfortably, be sure to brush all the surfaces of each tooth, and don’t forget to angle toward the gum line. And brush long enough. Once all the baby teeth have arrived, two minutes of brushing is usually recommended for children.
  • It’s not too early to floss! Adults need to handle the flossing duties for children until they can manage on their own, so it’s a perfect time to teach technique. And, just like toothbrushes, floss should be flexible and soft.
  • Don’t forget the tongue. Our tongues harbor the bacteria that cause bad breath, so finish off your child’s routine with a gentle brush of the tongue.

Better oral habits mean not only fresh breath, but give those baby teeth the best chance of staying healthy until they are naturally replaced by adult teeth. After all, baby teeth not only help your child learn to eat and speak properly, but they act as necessary placeholders so the permanent teeth are able to erupt in exactly the right spot.

Talk to a member of our San Antonio, Texas office team at your child’s next appointment if you are concerned about oral hygiene–they have many great suggestions for making brushing and flossing more efficient, comfortable, and even fun for your child.

Why Do Molars Seem to Get More Cavities?

May 14th, 2020

Probably because, for many kids, molars do get more cavities. So let’s answer two better questions: Why do molars get more cavities? And, how can we help prevent them?

It’s the Pits. (And Fissures.)

The reason molars are so useful—and more likely to develop cavities—is because of their shape. Unlike our front teeth, which are used to bite through foods, molars are used to grind and chew. That’s why they are so much larger, with a flat surface on top. Well, not exactly flat.

When you look at a molar, you’ll notice that the top isn’t really smooth at all. It’s covered with little indentations known as pits and longer grooves called fissures. These irregular features both trap food particles and make it more difficult for bristles to clean them away. Cavities in molar surfaces are so common that they even have a specific name: “pit and fissure cavities.”

But molar biology does not mean tooth decay is inevitable! There are steps you can take to protect your children’s molars as they grow, while you’re providing them with dental strategies that will keep their adult molars healthy and cavity-free.

Preventing Pit and Fissure Cavities

  • Don’t Just Brush—Brush Effectively

The first step in preventing any kind of cavity is brushing properly. Your child should be brushing at least two minutes, at least twice each day. And while the time we spend brushing is important, technique is also key.

When you’re showing your child how to brush, be sure that the tops of molars, upper and lower, get brushed thoroughly, with special emphasis on cleaning pits and fissures. Make sure the toothbrush is small enough to fit your child’s mouth comfortably and reach all the tooth surfaces. Replace worn-down brushes or electric toothbrush heads after three to four months when they no longer clean as effectively.

Your child will probably need adult supervision from toddler years through the early years of grade school to learn how to brush properly. This is time well spent, as your child learns cavity-preventing brushing techniques which will last a lifetime.

  • Eat a Tooth-Healthy Diet

Plaque bacteria use the sugars in our food to make acids. These acids break down the mineral strength of tooth enamel and eventually lead to cavities. And because pits and fissures are great hiding places for bacteria and food particles (especially sticky ones), molars are even more at risk for cavities. Limiting sugary, sticky foods like sweet treats and simple carbs helps reduce that risk.

Acidic foods like flavored juices, sour candies, sodas, and power drinks also weaken enamel and can leave teeth more vulnerable to decay. Help your child avoid cavities by limiting acidic foods and drinks, making them part of a balanced meal, and/or rinsing with water after eating.

  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride toothpaste not only reduces the risk of cavities, it also helps strengthen enamel that has been weakened by bacterial and dietary acids. Win-win!

  • Ask About Sealants

Sealants are invisible, safe coatings which protect molars by preventing food and bacteria from getting trapped in their uneven surfaces. The top of the molar is first treated with an etching solution to allow the sealant to bond tightly to the tooth, a thin coat of sealant is painted on, and then it’s hardened under a curing light. That’s all there is to it.

Sealants are often recommended when children’s permanent molars first erupt, when they are especially at risk for cavities. Sealants can last from three to five years (or even longer), and studies have shown a dramatic reduction in cavities for patients who use sealants compared to patients with untreated teeth. Depending on your child’s individual needs, Dr. Eduardo Perez might recommend a sealant for baby molars as well.

  • Regular Exams and Cleanings

It might be hard for you to tell if your child’s molars have been affected by sticky plaque, or sugary foods, or acidic drinks, or inadequate brushing, or any other potential cavity-causers. It’s not a difficult job for Dr. Eduardo Perez, though! Through regular checkups and cleanings at our San Antonio, Texas office, we will discover any conditions that might lead to cavities, and, if necessary, treat small cavities before they lead to more serious decay.

Statistically, childhood molars have a greater chance of developing cavities than incisors and canines. Help your child beat the odds by understanding why these teeth are at risk and by working with your dental team to give your child years of healthy teeth now and a future filled with beautiful smiles!

Mouthguard Protection

April 30th, 2020

Let’s talk about mouthguards and night guards—two crucial appliances that protect your child’s teeth and jaw.

We could talk about how important a mouthguard is when your family leads an active life. Mouthguards protect teeth, delicate mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents and impacts. 

Or if someone in the house grinds his or her teeth at night, waking up every morning with tooth or jaw pain, we can talk about how a night guard can be a quality-of-life-saver.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how a guard protects your child, today we’re going to look at how you can help children protect their mouthguards.

If you want their guards to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell!) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference. Here are some important rules to share with your child.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping mouthguards and night guards clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, whether during daytime activities or through the night, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home your guard. And when your night guard or mouthguard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your mouthguard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your guard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of guard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your guard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Floating loose on the bathroom counter or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. Eduardo Perez can make a mouthguard or night guard designed to fit your teeth perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your guard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or ask our San Antonio, Texas team about repairing or replacing your custom guard. A mouthguard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t keep you safe.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard or night guard is a smile that will last you for a lifetime. That’s a benefit we can talk about all day!

Does Your Child Need Endodontic Treatment?

April 16th, 2020

Baby teeth come with a built-in expiration date. That charming first smile is meant to make way for a healthy, beautiful adult smile. Unfortunately, before they are ready to make way for permanent teeth, primary teeth can be affected by decay, trauma, or infection—problems which can lead to damage to the pulp within the tooth. If your dentist tells you that your child’s tooth needs specialized endodontic treatment, is treatment really that much better for your child than losing a baby tooth prematurely?

Quite often, the answer is yes!

Baby teeth do much more than serve as temporary stand-ins for adult teeth. They are essential for:

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth helps your child develop proper chewing, which leads to healthy digestion. And chewing also helps build face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to arrive. If a primary tooth is lost too early, the remaining baby teeth may drift from their proper location. This, in turn, can cause overcrowding or misalignment of the permanent teeth when they do erupt.

Baby teeth, like adult teeth, contain living pulp tissue. The pulp chamber inside the crown (the visible part of the tooth) and the root canals (inside each root) hold nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When the pulp is damaged by trauma or infected, a baby tooth can still be saved with endodontic treatment. Endodontic treatment in baby teeth can take two forms.

  • “Vital” pulp is pulp that can be saved. Vital pulp therapy uses procedures to deal with damaged pulp inside the crown, or visible part, of the tooth. Pulp therapy can be used on teeth when only the top of the pulp has been affected by decay, limited exposure, infection, or trauma, but the root pulp remains healthy. Specific treatment will depend on the nature of the pulp injury, and a crown will usually be placed over the tooth after treatment to protect it.
  • With non-vital pulp, your dentist will probably recommend a traditional root canal procedure. All of the pulp tissue will be removed from inside the crown and the roots, and the pulp chamber and root canals will then be cleaned, disinfected, shaped, and filled. Finally, because the treated tooth will be more fragile, a crown will be used to protect the tooth from further damage.

There can be good reasons for extracting a seriously damaged baby tooth, and there are situations where preserving the tooth is the best and healthiest option for your child. Discuss your options with Dr. Eduardo Perez when you visit our San Antonio, Texas office for the safest, most effective way to treat your child’s compromised tooth.