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Infant Teething Remedies: What Might Help—And What to Avoid

December 2nd, 2022

Some lucky babies wake one morning displaying a brand new tooth to the complete surprise of their unsuspecting parents! But your happy baby is irritable and drooling. Or your hearty eater doesn’t feel like finishing her food. Perhaps she finds it hard to go to sleep when she’s usually nodded off before you finish the first lullaby. A small number of children suffer little or no discomfort teething, but for the majority of babies who do, here are some helpful ways to ease their teething pain.

  • Massage--Rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or piece of gauze—gentle pressure is all you need. And do be careful of your fingers once those teeth start coming in!
  • Chewing—there are many colorful and easy to grasp teething toys available, including BPA-free models.
  • Cool Relief—Cool a solid teether in the refrigerator to help ease discomfort. Placing a teething ring in the freezer is not recommended, as extreme cold can be damaging to little mouths and gums.
  • Comfort Food—If your baby is eating solid foods, try cold applesauce or other purees.
  • Skin Care—Drooling is often part of the teething process, but try to keep your child’s face free from rash and chaffing by wiping with a clean cloth when necessary.

And while you are trying to keep your baby comfortable, also be sure to keep her safe!

  • Know what your baby is putting into her mouth. All teething items should be non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals. Teethers filled with fluids may break or leak, so a solid toy is best.
  • Make teething items size-appropriate. Avoid anything small or breakable that might present a choking hazard.
  • Over-the-counter gels and liquids containing benzocaine, meant to reduce pain in the gums and mouth, may on rare occasion lead to serious health conditions in small children. Always check with Dr. Connie Verhagen or your pediatrician before buying an over-the-counter teething medication for your baby.

For many babies, teething can be a long and sometimes difficult process. If there is anything we can do to help you and your baby in this journey, please give our Muskegon, MI office a call.

Pacifiers and Your Child's Oral Health

November 25th, 2022

Children are born with a natural sucking reflex. In fact, sonogram images from the womb often reveal an unborn baby practicing by sucking on his or her fingers or thumb. Not only does sucking aid in your baby’s ability to acquire food and nutrients, but it is also a security and possible analgesic outside of meal times.

Though it is both normal and beneficial for parents to soothe their children with pacifiers during infancy, long-term use could interfere with oral health and development. Most children will stop using a pacifier on their own. However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends halting pacifier use after age three. Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use after this time can cause the upper front teeth to begin to lean outward. It can also cause new teeth to erupt crookedly, and it can negatively affect jaw alignment.

If your child is not showing signs of self-weaning by age two, you may begin the process by limiting pacifier usage to specific times, such as nap time or when getting vaccinations. Offer an alternative security item, such as a blanket, and be sure to praise your child when he or she chooses the blanket over the pacifier.

Tips

  • Never under any circumstances should you dip your baby’s pacifier in something sweet. Though it is a tempting way of encouraging your child to take a pacifier when crying, it can also lead to early childhood tooth decay.
  • If your child has not discontinued pacifier use by age three, talk with Dr. Connie Verhagen about behavioral modifications or appliances that can help your child wean.
  • Never use negative reinforcement to discourage pacifier use. Punishment for pacifier use is not effective for changing your child’s habits.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s pacifier usage or which types of pacifiers are best for your child’s oral health, please give our team at West Coast Pediatric Dentistry a call at our convenient Muskegon, MI office!

Thanksgiving in North America

November 18th, 2022

Thanksgiving marks the start to the holidays; a season filled with feasting, indulging, and spending time with family and friends are always special. Thanksgiving is a holiday meant for giving thanks, and while this may seem like such a natural celebration, the United States is only one of a handful of countries to officially celebrate with a holiday.

Unlike many holidays, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, and it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October, which is, oddly enough, much closer to a time when harvests were likely gathered. In addition to the different dates, the origins of the celebration also share different roots.

Thanksgiving in the United States

Giving thanks for a bountiful harvest are not new, but the modern day holiday in the US can be traced to a celebration at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1621. This feast of thanksgiving was inspired by a good harvest, and the tradition was simply continued on. At first, the colony at Plymouth didn't have enough food to feed everyone present, but the Native Americans helped by providing seeds and teaching them how to fish, and they soon began to be able to hold a feast worthy of the name. The tradition spread, and by the 1660s, most of New England was hosting a Thanksgiving feast in honor of the harvest.

Canadian Thanksgiving

An explorer of early Canada named Martin Frobisher is accredited for the first Canadian Thanksgiving. He survived the arduous journey from England through harsh weather conditions and rough terrain, and after his last voyage from Europe to present-day Nunavut, he held a formal ceremony to give thanks for his survival and good fortune. As time passed and more settlers arrived, a feast was added to what quickly became a yearly tradition. Another explorer, Samuel de Champlain, is linked to the first actual Thanksgiving celebration in honor of a successful harvest; settlers who arrived with him in New France celebrated the harvest with a bountiful feast.

A Modern Thanksgiving

Today, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with the best of Americana. From feasts and football games to getting ready for the start of the Christmas shopping season, Thanksgiving means roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole. No matter how you celebrate this momentous day, pause for a moment to give thanks for your friends, family, and all the bounties you’ve received. Happy Thanksgiving from West Coast Pediatric Dentistry!

Is there a connection between oral health and school performance?

November 11th, 2022

As a parent, you want the best for your children, and that includes doing their best in school. You can support them by taking an interest in their activities, being enthusiastic about attendance, and helping them with homework. There may also be one more way you can help your children succeed at school. Surprisingly, research suggests that children with better oral health are likely to do better in school.

What the Research Says

One study in North Carolina looked at risk factors for poor school performance among school-aged children. As expected, the study found poor school performance linked to low socioeconomic status, low levels of parental education, and poor overall health. However, it also found a strong link between poor oral health and poor school performance, with children classified as having poor oral health 40 percent more likely struggle in school.

These findings are generalizable to the rest of the country. For example, attendance is an important factor in academic achievement, but dental conditions are responsible for a loss 51 million school hours among schoolchildren each year. Dental pain and infection are linked to poorer performance.

School-Based Programs to Promote Oral Health

In light of the apparent benefits of good oral health for school performance, some schools are taking steps to promote better oral care and health. In Maine, for instance, schools in need can apply for grants through School Oral Health Program (SOHP). The SOHP consists of four components:

  1. Oral health education for all children to support healthy behaviors
  2. A weekly fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen teeth
  3. Dental screenings to identify children who may need dental care
  4. Dental sealants, or plastic coatings, on back teeth to guard against decay

The State of Maine also supports an “Annual Sugar Out Day” to raise awareness of the effects of sugar on dental health and to help students choose low-sugar alternatives.

Oral Health Habits to Adopt

You can help your child improve oral health and do better in school by encouraging good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and reminding your child to drink water after eating. Also, regular trips to our Muskegon, MI office can help prevent serious tooth problems.

Steer clear of that candy!

November 4th, 2022

At West Coast Pediatric Dentistry, we know how tempting candy can sometimes be on our sweet tooth, but it’s important to remember that every candy and sugary treat you consume elevates your risk of developing tooth decay, which can break down your teeth.

While not all bad in moderation, when eaten in excess, candy can lead to big problems, especially if good oral hygiene habits are not followed. We have a few helpful tips if you just can’t stay away from all those treats:

1. Consume candy and other sweets during meals when your saliva can help neutralize the acids that are found in some candies, especially the sour variety.

2. Avoid sticky or hard candies, which can stay in your mouth longer than you think, resulting in acids being constantly exposed to your teeth. That leads to cavities and tooth decay.

3. Make sure the water you drink is fluoridated. Water that is fluoridated has been shown to help prevent cavities.

4. Make sure to maintain your daily oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing twice a day, and flossing at least once.

5. Visit our office twice a year for regular dental checkups and cleanings with Dr. Connie Verhagen. During your visit, we can help catch problems such as cavities early to reduce the effects they have on your teeth, as well as give you tips for improving your oral health.

We hope these tips have helped! To learn more about cavity prevention, or to schedule your next visit at our convenient Muskegon, MI office, please give us a call!

Halloween: Sweet candy and scary costumes!

October 28th, 2022

Halloween is an annual event celebrated by both children and adults every October 31. Some scholars claim that it originates from the celebration of Celtic festivals that honored the dead and harvest season. This day marks the end of summer, and the transition to cold winter months ahead. No matter what the origin may be, Dr. Connie Verhagen and our team hope all our patients have a fun and safe Halloween!

The History of Halloween

North America predominantly celebrates Halloween by dressing up in costumes, going trick-or-treating to collect candy, and eating an abnormal amount of sweets. This tradition goes back hundreds of years and usually involves celebrations throughout the month of October.

Halloween festivities can also include carving pumpkins, going on hayrides, visiting apple orchards and haunted houses, watching scary movies, attending costume parties, and much more!

Spooky Facts

  • Fifty percent of kids prefer to receive chocolate candy for Halloween, compared with 24% who prefer non-chocolate candy and 10% who preferred gum.
  • One quarter of all the candy sold each year in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.
  • The first jack o’ lanterns were actually made from turnips.
  • Halloween is the second highest-grossing commercial holiday after Christmas.
  • The largest pumpkin ever measured broke the world record in 1993 by weighing in at 836 lbs.

Worried about your child’s teeth?

  • Limit the amount of candy he or she consumes each day.
  • Have your child brush his or her teeth after eating candy.
  • Avoid hard, chewy candies, because they can stick in hard-to-brush places.
  • Keep candy out of sight to reduce temptation.
  • Don’t buy candy too far in advance so you can limit pre-Halloween consumption.
  • Help or encourage your kids to floss.

Moderation is key when it comes to your oral health and celebrating Halloween. Make sure to schedule your child’s next appointment at our Muskegon, MI office if you notice any issues with his or her teeth. We hope you have a fun and spooky Halloween!

Make Brushing Fun!

October 21st, 2022

It’s gratifying to know your child has good oral hygiene, especially starting from an early age. We know it can be difficult to get your son or daughter to brush those tiny teeth, let alone brush them well enough, every day. Dr. Connie Verhagen and our team are here to give you some tips on how to help your youngster learn excellent oral health habits.

Your child should brush his or her teeth at least twice a day in order to prevent cavities and decay. An grownup may have to assist with flossing or using mouthwash. Always make sure your little one doesn’t swallow toothpaste or mouthwash in the process.

Only buy alcohol-free mouthwash, especially if you have young children in your household. Oral healthcare should be made fun from the start, to create good habits!

Helpful Tips

  • Set a good example. Brush your teeth with your children and make it fun! Pick a two-minute song to play while brushing and dance along to it.
  • Make it a race to the bathroom to see who can get the toothbrush and floss out first.
  • Use a sticker sheet. For every night your children brush well, give them a sticker. After they’ve earned certain number of stickers, they win a reward. Let them pick it!
  • Let your child check your brushwork, or try letting your youngster brush your teeth!
  • Allow children to play with a toothbrush if they want to. They can brush their favorite stuffed animal’s or doll’s teeth before bed as well.
  • Let your child pick his or her own toothbrush or toothpaste from a range of options you provide. Kids might pick one with their favorite cartoon character(s) on it, for example.
  • Get a two-minute brushing timer your child can flip over when he or she starts to brush. Your son or daughter can watch the sand fall until it’s empty, which notifies the kid it’s time to stop brushing.
  • Buy special children’s mouthwash that is colored to stain the areas of the child’s mouth where he or she needs to re-brush for effectiveness.
  • Be gentle when your little one makes a mistake like forgetting to brush, and remind your son or daughter about the importance of good oral health in a fun, loving way.

There are plenty of ways to make brushing your child’s teeth more fun and effective. When Dr. Connie Verhagen and the parents work together, we can help establish good oral health habits in children that will last a lifetime.

Take the trouble to set a great example for your children, and they will follow in your footsteps. If you’re concerned about your child’s oral health, contact our Muskegon, MI office and schedule an appointment with our team.

Use Pediatric Dentists to Treat Children

October 14th, 2022

There are many different types of dental specialties out there, so how do you know when you should see a general dentist (your regular dentist), and when you should seek the help of a dentist with specialized training? This article covers the basic differences between a pediatric dentist and a family or general dentist, and why it may be beneficial to find a specialized doctor to work with your children’s teeth.

What is a pediatric dentist?

All dentists, regardless of which specialty they practice, attend a four-year dental school for either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. Once they have completed the initial degree program, some dentists choose to proceed to additional training in an area of dental specialty. Pediatric dentistry is one of those specialties.

A pediatric dentist will study the development of teeth from infancy through the teen years. Babies, toddlers, school-age children, and teenagers experience different growth phases and have different needs for their oral health care from adults. A dentist with post-graduate training in this specialty can often provide a more comprehensive approach to treatment to meet those needs.

Specialized Needs Pediatric Dentists Can Address

Starting with the first teeth that grow in your child’s mouth (usually around six months of age), you need to begin caring for your child’s teeth. However, it’s not as simple as just doing the same things you do for your adult teeth, because children have specific needs and may have concerns and issues that you do not face for your oral health care as an adult.

There are several concerns unique to younger dental patients. Beginning with babies, parents need to be aware of the specific oral care required for children. For example, babies who drink from bottles can develop baby bottle tooth decay if parents do not properly clean their teeth. Young children may develop a habit of sucking their thumb, which can contribute to poor oral hygiene. Children who have trouble with teeth grinding may need specialized care. And children have specific dietary needs that serve their need to develop strong teeth and gums.

All these concerns can be addressed by a pediatric dentist with specialized knowledge of childhood oral health and teeth development. General dentists often know some of this information, but without the specialized training they may not be able to provide the care that is geared toward the needs of your children. In addition, pediatric dentists will often have a practice that is built entirely with children in mind, with décor, staff, and other elements that can help put children at ease when it’s time to visit the dentist.

If you have young children, consider our pediatric dentistry office. At West Coast Pediatric Dentistry, our specialized care for young patients features a caregiver with the knowledge and training to provide your children with the best possible care.

What's on your fall reading list?

October 7th, 2022

How better to spend the fall months than inside by the fireplace with a warm cup of cider and a book in hand? Dr. Connie Verhagen and our team at West Coast Pediatric Dentistry encourage you to warm up your mind this fall season with a few great books. Sure it may be easy to put off reading when balancing a hectic schedule, but reading is vital to brain development. Besides, reading is always a blast!

This week, we thought we’d ask what you or your child are reading this fall. Do you have any suggestions for must-read books this year? Out of ideas for great fall reads? Ask us for suggestions, and we would be happy to provide a few. You may also ask a local librarian here in Muskegon, MI for some ideas.

Happy reading! Be sure to share with us your fall picks or your all-time favorites below or on our Facebook page!

How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

September 30th, 2022

Children are born with a set of primary teeth – 20 to be exact – that help them learn to chew and speak, and develop enough space in the jaw for the permanent teeth that will appear several years later. Kids are especially susceptible to decay, which can cause pain and tooth loss – a problem that could interfere with oral development. As a parent, it is important that you take proactive steps to keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible.

Bottles and “Sippie Cups”

One of the biggest culprits of childhood tooth decay is poor diet. This begins as early as a few months old, when children are often allowed to go to bed with bottles and “sippie cups” of milk or juice. The sugars in these beverages – even natural sugars – can steadily decay the teeth.

Dr. Connie Verhagen and our staff suggest serving children milk and juice only at meal times, and limiting juice intake to just a few ounces per day. If your child becomes thirsty between meals or likes to go to bed with a bottle, serve water during these times.

Hygiene

As a parent, you can establish healthy dental habits long before your child’s first tooth erupts. Start by gently wiping your baby’s gums with a clean wash cloth during the first months of life. By age one, graduate to an appropriately sized toothbrush with fluoridated toothpaste, and brush at least twice a day.

Dental Visits

Dental visits should start young and continue on a regular basis throughout your child's life. Dr. Connie Verhagen and our staff recommend parents bring their children to West Coast Pediatric Dentistry for the first time no later than the child’s first birthday. Initial visits concentrate on parental education, while later visits may include thorough cleanings and fluoride treatments as your child grows.

For more information about keeping your child’s teeth cavity-free, contact our Muskegon, MI office to schedule a dental consultation and checkup.

How much calcium does my child need?

September 23rd, 2022

When you were a kid, your parents may have told you to drink milk to build strong bones and grow tall and strong. Now that you have children of your own, you may hear yourself parroting those instructions you received years ago. Getting enough dairy is essential for young children whose teeth are growing. A child who consumes the recommended daily serving of dairy will develop healthy, strong teeth for the rest of his or her life.

So, which foods are the best in terms of acquiring the right amount of calcium? Milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium. Milk also contains vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and proteins. Magnesium promotes calcium deposits in your enamel, while phosphorus forms a small but important barrier against acidic foods that cause cavities. Vitamin D and protein are used by a child’s body to build bone tissue and maintain dental health.

According to a recent study, the majority of Americans, including children, do not receive enough calcium. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, only one in five children meets even the minimum standards for calcium consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children under the age of eight should receive two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight need three full cups, the same as adult men and women. In addition to milk, eating yogurt is a great way your child can increase his or her dairy consumption. Drinking sugary beverages in place of milk causes cavities and tooth decay.

If your child does not get enough dairy consumption, they run the risk of improper tooth development and other dental health problems. Dr. Connie Verhagen and our team at West Coast Pediatric Dentistry encourage you to monitor your child’s dairy consumption to ensure he or she grows healthy teeth to last a lifetime.

Questions? Give us a call at our Muskegon, MI office!

The Best Snacks for a Healthy Smile

September 16th, 2022

One of the most frequent questions that Dr. Connie Verhagen and our team hear is about what kinds of snacks are best for a child’s dental health. Sugary snacks are inevitable sometimes, but it’s vital for you as a parent to monitor how frequently your child is eating the kinds of snacks that may give him or her a cavity or two down the line.

Unsurprisingly, the best snacks are healthy ones, though they may not always be the most appealing to your little ones. The good news is that healthy doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste. Once your kids give these tasty snacks a go, they might become open to all things healthy!

  • Fresh veggies and hummus
  • Apple wedges with peanut butter
  • Low-fat yogurt with berries
  • Cubes of cheese and crackers
  • Hard-boiled eggs with a little bit of salt and pepper
  • Celery sticks with cream cheese and sunflower seeds
  • A homemade milkshake with low-fat milk (or almond milk), the fruit of their choice, chia seeds, and cinnamon
  • Lean proteins such as chicken breast, fish, and turkey

These snacks aren’t high in sugar but they contain all the nutrients your children need to have the necessary energy throughout the day.

This is only a sample of all the great, healthy snacks out there for your kids. For more ideas, ask us the next time you visit our Muskegon, MI office. It’s never too early to create healthy habits; they’re not only good for oral health, but overall health too. That’s a win-win, if you ask us.

Protecting Your Child’s Smile with Mouthguards

September 9th, 2022

If your child participates in sports or other physical activities, it’s wise to consider getting a mouthguard. Also known as mouth protectors, mouthguards are a device worn over the teeth to lessen the impact of a blow to the face.

This reduces the chance that your child might lose teeth or sustain other serious oral injuries. We recommend that all patients involved in a contact sport such as wrestling, football, or hockey wear a mouthguard because of the high risk of such injuries.

However, anyone involved in a physically demanding sport or activity should wear a mouthguard as well.

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose a few of your front teeth? The way you talk, eat, and smile would all change.

Injuries that can be sustained when not wearing a mouthguard include:

  • Chipped and broken teeth
  • Fractured jaws
  • Root damage
  • Concussions
  • Injury to the lips, cheeks, or gums

Types of Mouthguards

There are three different types of mouthguards — typically made of a soft plastic material or laminate. You can decide which works best for your child in terms of budget, fit, and comfort.

  • Stock mouthguards are prefabricated to a standard size. They offer adequate protection, but you need to find one that fits your child properly and comfortably. Stock mouthguards are readily available at department stores, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards are placed in boiling water to soften them, then into the mouth so they can conform to the shape of the teeth. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are more expensive, but offer a more customized fit than stock ones. You can find these in department stores, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are created just for your child by Dr. Connie Verhagen. These offer the best fit and comfort of all the options, but they are also the most expensive. Ask a member of our Muskegon, MI team for more information.

The American Dental Association says a good mouthguard should be easy to clean, fit properly, be comfortable, and resist tearing or damage. It shouldn’t restrict speech or breathing.

Still not sure if your child needs a mouthguard or which kind is right for his or her smile? Ask Dr. Connie Verhagen or one of our staff members for more information.

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