Posts for: September, 2013
It's 3:00 PM, your child has just come back from the school playground — and she's complaining of a toothache that's making her miserable. She can't seem to say if there was a particular injury or a blow, but the more she talks about it, the worse it gets. You're the parent... what are you going to do now?
If you've ever been through this type of situation, you know that a calm demeanor and a little TLC can go a long way. But how do you know whether you're facing a dental emergency, or a routine booboo? Here are a few general rules that may help.
First, relax: Without a fever and facial swelling, a child's toothache isn't usually an emergency. But any tooth pain that keeps a child up at night or lasts into the next day should be evaluated by a dentist. Even if it's nothing but a small cavity (the most common cause of toothache) you don't want to let it go untreated. That could allow it to turn from a small discomfort into a major problem — like a painful abscess.
There are some things you can do at home to try and get a handle on what's causing the pain. Encourage the child to show you exactly where the pain is located, and to tell you when and how it started. Then, examine the area closely. Look for obvious brown spots, or even tiny cavities (holes) on biting surfaces or between teeth, which might indicate decay. Also check the gums surrounding the tooth, to see if there are sores or swelling.
You may find evidence of a traumatic injury, like a cut or bruise — or, if only swelling is apparent, it may mean an abscess has formed. If nothing looks amiss, try gently flossing on either side of the hurting tooth. This may dislodge a particle of food that's causing pain and pressure.
If the pain persists, you can try giving an appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, or applying an ice pack on the outside of the jaw — one minute on and one minute off. But even if you can make the immediate pain go away, don't neglect the situation that caused it. Unless you're absolutely sure you know why the toothache occurred, you should bring the child in for an examination. It will put your mind at rest — and maybe prevent a bigger problem down the road.
If Kristi Yamaguchi's kids inherit her figure skating ability, they might just be headed for the Olympics — after all, their mom won the gold medal for figure skating in the 1992 games. When it comes to teeth, however, she wouldn't mind if they inherited her spouse's instead. “My husband [fellow Olympian turned pro hockey player Bret Hedican] never had braces,” she recently told an interviewer. “I'm hoping they get his teeth.”
When you look at the elegant skating star's pearly smile, you'd never suspect she had dental problems. In fact, Kristi had four permanent teeth extracted to relieve the crowding in her mouth. She also wore braces to correct irregularities in both upper and lower teeth. Could orthodontics work the same “magic” for your kids — or yourself?
It just might. The first step toward finding out is having an orthodontic evaluation. For kids, the right time for an initial evaluation is no later than age 7. By then, the first molars are usually present and your child's bite pattern is establishing. Even though treatment may not begin for several more years, it's helpful to know what problems may arise in your child's individual situation — and to start treating them at just the right time.
Orthodontics has progressed a great deal in the two decades since Yamaguchi's braces came off. Today, small devices called palatal expanders are often used to create more space in the mouth, as an alternative to tooth extraction. There are also many new options for orthodontic appliances, in addition to standard metal braces. These include unobtrusive tooth-colored braces and lingual braces, which are applied to the tongue side of the teeth and can't be seen. In some cases, clear plastic aligners can be used instead of braces, for a look that's almost invisible.
Adolescence is often the preferred time to do orthodontic treatment. By then, the permanent teeth have mostly come in, but there's still some growing left to do. But age isn't a factor that should stop you from getting the smile you've always wanted. About one in five orthodontic patients today is an adult — and those less-visible appliances can fit in well with the more “professional” image of an older person.
Orthodontics can't help make someone an Olympic athlete — only lots of talent and practice can do that. But it can make a big difference in a person's appearance. “Once my braces came off, it was like — Wow! That looks so much nicer,” Yamaguchi recollected. And today, the mother of two, author, and philanthropist sports the same appealing smile she had on the podium at the Albertville Olympic Games.
If you would like more information on how orthodontics could help you get the smile you've dreamed about, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Early Orthodontic Evaluation” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”