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Thumb Sucking

February 13th, 2019

Learning to suck their thumbs is one of the first physical skills babies acquire. In fact, ultrasound images have revealed babies sucking their thumbs in the womb! Babies have a natural sucking reflex, and this activity is a normal way for your baby to soothe herself.

If your toddler still turns to her thumb for comfort, no need to worry. Most children give up this habit as they grow, and generally stop completely between the ages of two and four. But what of the child who doesn’t? Should you encourage your child to stop? And when?

When Thumb Sucking Becomes a Problem

After your child turns five, and certainly when her permanent teeth start to arrive, aggressive thumb sucking is something to watch for. This type of vigorous sucking, which puts pressure on the teeth and gums, can lead to a number of problems.

  • Open Bite

Our bites are considered normal when the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower where they touch in the front of the mouth. But with aggressive thumb sucking, teeth are pushed out of alignment. Sometimes this results in a condition called “open bite,” where the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact at all. An open bite almost always requires orthodontic treatment.

  • Jaw Problems

Your child’s palate and jaw are still growing. Aggressive thumb sucking can actually change the shape of the palate and jaw, and even affect facial structure. Again, orthodontic treatment can help, but prevention is always the better option!

  • Speech Difficulties

Prolonged thumb sucking has been suggested as a risk factor for speech disorders such as lisping, the inability to pronounce certain letters, or tongue thrusting.

The consequences from aggressive thumb sucking can be prevented with early intervention. What to do if you are worried?

Talk to Us

First, let us reassure you that most children stop thumb sucking on their own, and with no negative dental effects at all. But if your child is still aggressively sucking her thumb once her permanent teeth have started erupting, or if we see changes in her baby teeth, let’s talk about solutions during an appointment at our Summit, NJ office. We can offer suggestions to help your child break the habit at home. There are also dental appliances available that can discourage thumb sucking if your child finds it especially hard to stop.

Work with your Child

  • Be Positive

Positive reinforcement is always best. Praise her when she remembers not to suck her thumb. Make a chart with stickers to reward every thumb-free day. Pick out a favorite book to read or activity you can share.

  • Identify Triggers

Children associate thumb sucking with comfort and security.  If your child turns to her thumb when she’s anxious, try to discover what is bothering her and how to reassure her. If she automatically sucks her thumb when she is bored, find an activity that will engage her. If she’s hungry, offer a healthy snack.

  • Talk about It!

Depending on her age, it might help your child to understand why stopping this habit is important. We are happy to explain, in a positive, age-appropriate way, just how breaking the thumb sucking habit will help her teeth and her smile.

Again, most children leave thumb sucking behind naturally and easily. But if what is a comfort for your child has become a concern for you, please give us a call. Dr. Stephen Korson will work with you and your child to prevent future orthodontic problems and begin her lifetime of beautiful smiles.

 

National Children’s Dental Health Month

February 6th, 2019

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and a perfect time for Dr. Stephen Korson to review some of the important steps in keeping your child’s smile healthy!

Your Baby

Early care is best! Even before teeth appear, the American Dental Association recommends gently wiping your baby’s gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth after feeding. When his or her first tooth arrives, it’s time to schedule your child’s first visit. Our office will be happy to answer any questions you might have about brushing tools and techniques. This is also an opportunity to check not only tooth health, but jaw and teeth development. Check your baby’s teeth regularly, and call us if you have any concerns.

Your Preschooler

By the time children are three, they will probably have all or most of their baby teeth. Brushing your child’s teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled, child-sized brush is a great model for when your child begins brushing on his or her own. And when teeth begin to touch, flossing your child’s teeth is recommended once a day as well.  Remember to schedule regular checkups at our Summit, NJ office, and help make your toddler’s visit positive by reading books or watching videos about visiting the dentist, using playtime to practice things that might happen in the dentist’s chair (such as opening his or her mouth to count teeth), and planning visits during times your child is well-rested.

Your School-Age Child

Your child might be ready to take on brushing and flossing while you supervise, and there are many ways you can encourage both reluctant and enthusiastic brushers! The ADA recommends two minutes of careful brushing twice a day, or as directed by your dentist or physician. You can use these four important minutes to tell your child stories, listen to music, or brush together. Your child can help choose his or her toothbrush and toothpaste, or earn stickers for a brushing job well done. Stick to a routine for best results, and schedule regular checkups and cleanings to protect your child’s overall dental health. This is also an important age to check bite alignment, any potential orthodontic issues, and the possibility of sealants.

February might be the shortest month, but it’s a great time to consider your child’s life-long smile. If you have any questions or concerns, the team at our Summit, NJ office is always happy to discuss them with you—any time of year!

Can children be at risk for periodontal disease?

January 30th, 2019

You want to check all the boxes when you consider your child’s dental health. You make sure your child brushes twice daily to avoid cavities. You’ve made a plan for an orthodontic checkup just in case braces are needed. You insist on a mouthguard for dental protection during sports. One thing you might not have considered? Protecting your child from gum disease.

We often think about gum disease, or periodontitis, as an adult problem. In fact, children and teens can suffer from gingivitis and other gum disease as well. There are several possible reasons your child might develop gum disease:

  • Poor dental hygiene

Two minutes of brushing twice a day is the recommended amount of time to remove the bacteria and plaque that cause gingivitis (early gum disease). Flossing is also essential for removing bacteria and plaque from hard-to-reach areas around the teeth.

  • Puberty

The hormones that cause puberty can also lead to gums that become irritated more easily when exposed to plaque. This is a time to be especially proactive with dental health.

  • Medical conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes can bring an increased risk of gum disease. Be sure to give us a complete picture of your child’s health, and we will let you know if there are potential complications for your child’s gums and teeth and how we can respond to and prevent them.

  • Periodontal diseases

More serious periodontal diseases, while relatively uncommon, can affect children and teens as well as adults. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, results in connective and bone tissue loss around the affected teeth, leading to loose teeth and even tooth loss. Let Dr. Stephen Korson know if you have a family history of gum disease, as that might be a factor in your child’s dental health, and tell us if you have noticed any symptoms of gum disease.

How can we help our children prevent gum disease? Here are some symptoms you should never ignore:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Redness or puffiness in the gums
  • Gums that are pulling away, or receding, from the teeth
  • Bad breath even after brushing

The best treatment for childhood gum disease is prevention. Careful brushing and flossing and regular visits to our Summit, NJ office for a professional cleaning will stop gingivitis from developing and from becoming a more serious form of gum disease. We will take care to look for any signs of gum problems, and have suggestions for you if your child is at greater risk for periodontitis. Together, we can encourage gentle and proactive gum care, and check off one more goal accomplished on your child’s path to lifelong dental health!

Patient of the Month: Brianna Harris

January 29th, 2019

I hope everyone is having a great start to the new year. Our January patient of the month is one person who is doing just that. Briana Harris, is a member of the National Ninja League, in the teen division. Having just placed first in her last competition earlier this month, she is about to compete in the Nationals starting in a few weeks. We expect Briana to grit her teeth and go for gold. Nobody at our office is betting against her.