4949 Westown Pkwy Suite 150
West Des Moines , IA 50266-6716
(515) 225-0066

The language of a pediatric dentist

As specialists in pediatric dentistry, Dr. Matt and Dr. Diana know that children are not just small versions of adults.  Along with our stellar dental assistants, we take our time to get to know your child and present instruments and materials in a child-friendly manner. 

During check-up appointments, you might hear the “spinny toothbrush” and feel the “silly string” (floss).  Your child will likely take “tooth pictures” (x-rays).  For patients that would benefit from additional fluoride, we “paint on fluoride tooth vitamins.”  The dental mirror and “tooth counter” can be seen below. 

During treatment visits, we do not use words like “shot,” “drill” or “needle.”  These words can be very anxiety-provoking for children, as well as adults.  We introduce topical anesthetic as “tooth jelly” and local anesthetic (shots) as “sleepy water.”    We have many words and phrases that we use to help children understand their dental experience, feel comfortable to ask questions and help reduce fear and anxiety.  We show children the next step on their hand so they can feel, hear and see what will be on their tooth.  

It is VERY important that you allow Dr. Matt or Dr. Diana to explain to your child the procedures during their appointment.  Some parents and siblings try to help by telling the patient exactly what will happen before the appointment.  Many times, this can backfire because children can become overwhelmed with scary words and they aren’t able to understand procedures like extractions or crowns.  Our doctors have extensive training and experience with children and will show them each step so that they can understand.  Behavior management is the hallmark of a pediatric dentist and this is the reason many local family dentists refer their young patients to our office for treatment.  

Just as your child sees a pediatrician for their medical care, a pediatric dentist is ideally suited to work with your children to make dental care easy and fun.  Next time you are with your child at our office, listen for some of the special words we use! 

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Happy Dental Assistant Appreciation Week!

Our patients know that our office is special for many reasons and our dental assistants are arguably the most important one.  Our dental assistants are exceptional women that take care of our patients every day.  They welcome them, make them feel at home and at ease.  They work with them to have fun at the dentist.  We are so proud of these ladies and their hard work!  Thank you!

Happy Dental Assistant Appreciation Week! We our amazing dental assistants.

Ashley, Taylor, Laurisa, Amber, Kara, Rachael, not pictured: Rosy, Savana, Mystie, Danielle, Lisa and Vicki. 💖💕💗

Teething Troubles?

What is “teething?” 

Children begin to get their first teeth at approximately 6 months.  Some children begin earlier, as young as 3 months, and some don’t have teeth until 18 months!  Every child is different.  When baby teeth are coming in, some children can become more fussy, drooly and restless.  A child that has a fever (a fever is a temperature of at least 100.4°F), diarrhea, rashes or other concerning symptoms, please call your pediatrician as something else is bothering your child, such as a viral illness or ear infection.

You can soothe baby’s gums by giving teething toys or a wet washcloth that has been refrigerated.  Baby Orajel (topical benzocaine) is NOT recommended and can be dangerous and even lethal for young children.  The FDA warns against using it for children under age two as it can cause a lethal side effect, called methemoglobinemia.  Read this article for more details: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm250024.htm

“I see some babies wearing amber necklaces.  Are these effective?”

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Happy New Year!

A good New Year’s Resolution: Get fewer cavities!

A better New Year’s Resolution: Tweak your habits and get fewer cavities!

“Getting” fewer cavities is passive.  But did you know that, especially for children, getting cavities is due to multiple factors that are under your control:

  • Inadequate oral hygiene. An adult brushing for 20 seconds is approximately 349.2% more effective than a four-year-old brushing on their own for 5 minutes (in my opinion, not a scientific figure).  Although allowing a child to brush their own teeth allows the parent to focus on something else, it is not effective. 
    • I recommend helping your child brush their teeth until they are at least six-years-old with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing in between teeth will help get rid of the bacteria in the areas where the toothbrush can’t reach.  Not sure how much toothpaste to use or which toothbrush is best?  Check out http://www.dmpdc.com/back-to-basics/
  • Sugars in liquid form. Many toddlers and young children are given “juice” daily.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) both recommend no more than 4-6 ounces of 100% juice per day and it is NOT recommended for any child under age 1. Four ounces isn’t very much – that’s only 1/2 cup!  Try putting it in a measuring cup to see for yourself.
    • If you choose to give your child juice to drink, do it out of an open cup. This will help them drink it quickly and allow it to clear from their mouth faster.  Many parents consider many drinks “juice” which are not made of juice.  CapriSun, SunnyD, juice boxes, Powerade, etc. are not juice and should not be given to children.  They can get cavities quickly when drinking these on a regular basis, even if watered down.  If at all possible, juice should be eliminated from a child’s diet, especially if they are at high risk for cavities.  If a child is thirsty, they should be given water to drink.  If they use a sippy cup, only water should be in it.  That way, you don’t have to worry about refrigeration or the beverage causing decay.  Win, win!

      Dr. Diana’s water bottle! Don’t forget to make sure to set a good example by drinking water and staying hydrated.

  • Frequent snacking on sticky carbohydrates. Crackers, chips, and other dried/processed snacks are VERY likely to cause decay because they stay on the teeth much longer than other foods.  The bacteria that cause decay eat what we eat, so if we avoid starchy sugary foods, they don’t have access to the foods they need to cause cavities. 
    • I recommend avoiding “vending machine foods” – anything that is found in a vending machine is likely to cause decay. Think about it…chips, crackers, pretzels, fruit snacks, granola bars, candy, etc.  They all are sugary, starchy and bad for teeth!  Instead think of fresh items like crunchy vegetables (carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli), dairy products (cheese, yogurt), crunchy fruits (apples, pears), meat or nuts.  Leftovers make the best snack! 
    • Watch out for slow snackers! Kids, if given the choice, will eat a little bit all day long.  If you have 15 chips to eat – eat them all at once.  This is much better for teeth than eating one at a time all day.  It takes the mouth 20 minutes to adjust back to normal after eating.  If you eat all day, the mouth can’t recover and makes the environment perfect for forming decay.

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Let’s get back to basics!

Today’s blog post will address many parents’ common questions and concerns.

When should my child brush their teeth? 

Children should brush twice daily, ideally after breakfast and before bedtime with fluoride toothpaste.  Parents should help brush (“brush as a team”) until the child is approximately six-years-old to make sure they are doing an adequate job.  Just because a child likes to brush doesn’t mean they are brushing all the hard-to-reach spots! 

How much toothpaste should we use?

Age < 3 years Smear Fluoride Toothpaste
Age > 3 years  Pea-sized Fluoride Toothpaste

Make sure you help your child learn to spit out extra toothpaste rather than swallowing.  And don’t rinse afterward!  Rinsing with water or mouthwash washes away all the hard work you did putting the toothpaste on the teeth.  Children age 6 and over can begin using a mouthwash before brushing to get the maximum effect of both products.

When should a child see a dentist for the first time?

Age 1, or within six months of the appearance of their first tooth.  Dr. Diana and Dr. Matt are specially trained to work with little ones.  Some family dentists or medical doctors may say that children should begin going to the dentist later, but we know from experience that sometimes, children already have cavities or other problems by age 2. 

If your baby doesn’t have teeth yet, try using a clean washcloth wet with water and moving it around their gums and tongue when in the bath.  This helps them have a clean mouth and get used to getting their gums cleaned so that when teeth come in and it’s time to use a toothbrush, they are ready!

What kind of toothbrush and toothpaste is best?

Any soft-bristled age-appropriate toothbrush is great.  Electric or manual can be used as both are effective.  Older children and patients with limited dexterity may benefit from an electric toothbrush to help them brush by the gumline. 

Any fluoride toothpaste is suitable, but many times children prefer bubble gum flavor because it is milder than mint.  Three-year-olds are famous for saying that mint toothpaste (or anything they don’t like) is “too spicy!”

Look for fun characters on toothbrushes and toothpastes to help motivate your child to brush.  Also, if your child has teeth that touch each other, they should be flossed daily.

Is flossing really that important? Read more

Dental X-rays

Dental x-rays are used to help diagnose and monitor dental problems as well as track growth and development.  Although the amount of radiation used is very small, we use every precaution available to protect your child.  We use lead aprons, thyroid collars, high speed digital film and a focused beam.  X-rays are used to find cavities, bone loss, gum diseases, infections, teeth that have not yet come in, missing or extra teeth, cysts, tumors and other oral diseases.  Our pediatric dentists are specialists in the care of infants, children and patients with special needs and prescribe x-rays for each individual patient.

Click here to read a news story about Harper, who is from Polk City, who was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdymyosarcoma after having a swollen cheek. 

Luckily, cancer is very uncommon in children.  Some cancers can be diagnosed radiographically, that is, by evaluating x-rays.  Our doctors order certain x-rays for detection of cavities, like “bitewings,” seen here:

Can you spot the areas of decay?  They are the dark areas where the teeth touch and have been circled in the second picture.  These cavities are tricky because we can’t see them when we look at this patient’s teeth.  This seven-year-old is a good example of why we make x-rays even if we can’t yet see decay because based on this patient’s diet and oral hygiene, she is at high risk of decay.  The x-rays confirm that she has several cavities.  If we waited until we could see cavities to begin taking x-rays, the teeth may be so decayed that they may be painful or require extraction.  If we can identify decay when it is small, it is easier to fix and helps us guide our patients and their families to choose healthy snacks, drinks and brushing tips to help prevent more cavities!

Other x-rays like “pantomographs” to evaluate the development of the teeth and detect tumors, growths and cancers.  Here is an example of a healthy patient:

Call our office if you have questions or concerns about your child.  515-225-0066

Pumpkin Decorating Contest!

Dr. Diana, Kailyn and Savana have been working hard on decorating a pumpkin for Stork Orthodontics‘ Pumpkin Decorating Contest.  “Ellie the Elephant” was a huge success sitting behind our front desk!  Now she has been transported to her new home at Stork.  We will be asking for your votes to help us win in the upcoming weeks!

Back to School time is here!

Congratulations, parents!  The kids are back in school.  This is a great time to tweak your routine to have happy, healthy children this school year.  Here are some of Dr. Diana’s back-to-school tips:

  • Brushing – Get a new toothbrush! Many toothbrushes come with movie characters or fun colors to make brushing fun.  Make sure your child is brushing after breakfast before school and before bed.  Children under the age of six should receive help from an adult and brush “as a team.”  This way, you can ensure that all tooth surfaces are getting scrubbed! 
  • Snacks – Keep it simple and healthy! Children age 2 and over should have only one snack per day.  This helps them be hungry for mealtime and therefore more likely to consume nutritious foods.  Choose fruits, vegetables and dairy for snacks.  Crunchy fruits and veggies like apples, pears, carrots, cucumbers, and celery make great choices.  Try apples and peanut butter or cucumbers and hummus to get some protein as well.  Yogurt and cheese make great snacks too!  Chips, crackers and other crunchy carbohydrates are very popular with children. These snacks are just as bad for teeth as candy!  Especially when consumed a little at a time throughout the day.  Fruit snacks, even when made with real fruit, and granola bars contain a lot of sugar and are sticky, staying on teeth for hours.  Many children that develop cavities eat a lot of these types of snacks. 

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Emergency Dental Treatment

Let’s say your child falls, bumps his mouth and is bleeding.  This will get any parent’s adrenaline pumping as your child is in distress.  If your child does not lose consciousness, has no headache, nausea or vomiting, and the injuries are limited to the mouth, call our office.  In other words, IF YOU HAVE A DENTAL PROBLEM, CALL YOUR DENTIST.  The emergency room does not have a dentist on staff and can’t help if your child gets a tooth knocked out or other similar injuries.

After 5:00 pm, you can get in touch with our doctor on call by calling our office and following the menu to press the appropriate number to be connected.  We care for your children not just during business hours and are available 24 hours a day if you are concerned.  As specialists in pediatric dentistry, Dr. Matt and Dr. Diana have been trained extensively on traumatic dental injuries and have comprehensive experience with emergencies. 

This is an example of a dental emergency. This child fell and hit her mouth and her tooth was pushed out of the socket. Dr. Diana was able to see her in our office after hours to help get her out of pain and on the road to recovery.

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Age 1 for your child’s first visit

When should a child first see the dentist?  

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend children see a dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth or by their first birthday!

Some say that this is too young to see a dentist.  As specialists in pediatric dentistry, our doctors know that it is never too early to find a dental home and that cavities and other oral problems affect some children when they are very young.  Dr. Diana and Dr. Matt look for cavities, gum problems, oral diseases and pathology as well as your child’s overall development and growth.  Our goal is to help prevent problems that our patients may face rather than just reacting when things go wrong, such as cavities or trauma.  We want to be a dental home for your child so that we can answer all your questions and be ready if and when you should ever need us for treatment.

What are dental problems that young children may face?

Believe it or not, some children develop cavities as young as 12 months old.  Our doctors also look for gum problems, oral cancer, your child’s bite and their overall growth and development.  Sometimes signs of diseases or conditions that affect the body are first diagnosed by a dentist because of a dental problem.  Some children have lip ties or tongue ties that we can release with our laser.  Another common issue with this age group is when they are learning to walk, sometimes a child will fall and bump their mouth.  This can cause movement or displacement of teeth or gums.  Call our office if your child ever takes a serious tumble so that we may advise you.

Example of a Young Child with Cavities

This is a picture of a child who is only nineteen months old.  She has cavities on her two front teeth.  One of the cavities is so large that it has caused the tooth to die, and an infection has resulted.  You can see the infection in the gums as a yellow area above the teeth on the left of the photo.  When teeth are infected, the treatment is almost always extraction.  

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