Why Children Chew on Everything and What They Should Chew on Instead

Why Children Chew on Everything and What They Should Chew on Instead

Any parent or guardian with kids, remembers the scary toddler phase where everything in reach is on their non-discerning mental list of things to chew on. The phase when they pick up everything, and to learn about it, they pop it into their mouth. Little toys, scraps of forgotten food that fell off the table at mealtime, a rubber band. Anything. We all breathe easier when that phase passes. And yet, as our kids get older, some of them continue chewing on things. You might catch them chewing on a pencil, or a pen. Biting nails is a common occurrence, and crunching ice also seems popular. Maybe the neckline or cuff of their shirtsleeve seems to be irresistible. That last one can really have parents wondering, “what causes a child to chew on clothes?”

Why Do They Chew on Stuff?

There are a variety of reasons behind kids chewing on non-food things, some reasons include:

Anxiety or stress – the act of chewing as a soothing activity goes back to the days of being a baby when sucking was an act to self soothe.
Sensory needs – chewing is relatively common as a soothing activity for children with sensory issues.
Concentration – the repetition of chewing can help focus and block outside distractions
Habit – chewing can be a habit born of boredom and convenience because there is always something available to chew on (pencils, clothing, hair, etc.)

Is Chewing Bad?

The act of chewing is not in and of itself a bad thing. Chewing stimulates the flow of saliva in your mouth. Saliva is the frontline defense in your mouth against tooth decay and plaque. According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), “Saliva contains important elements such as bicarbonate, calcium, and phosphate. They not only neutralize plaque acids, but also help repair early tooth damage and decay.”

Problems come into play with chewing when the object being chewed is a non-food item. We then can become concerned for safety (choking hazards), concerned for what is socially acceptable (wet shirt sleeves or torn bloody fingernails), and concerned for the health of their teeth (cracked or chipped tooth or a loose dental filling).

Does Ice Count as a Non-Food Item?

Chewing ice is a common habit among kids, teens, and adults. And it is unequivocally, a bad habit. Ice is very hard and possesses the ability to crack or chip your teeth. Our composite fillings that we use on teeth that have cavities can have lifespans of up to ten years or more when properly cared for, but are vulnerable to damage caused from habitually chewing ice. It is painful to lose a filling and usually means an immediate trip to the dentist for replacement. Additionally, any brackets or retainer wires can be dislodged from teeth and damaged by chewing ice. We don’t want that for your kid any more than you do.

How Should You Respond When You See Your Child Chewing Non-Food Items or Ice?

Keep in mind that their chewing habit may not be a conscious one. Do they do it when they seem nervous or stressed? Do they have other sensory issues? Try to point out the habit without judgment and resist any inclination to shame them from doing it. Shaming the habit could lead them to hide it from you but continue the behavior or do it as a form of rebellion. If you believe it to be a sensory issue, consult with their pediatrician. If it is a soothing technique for stress or anxiety, consider talking to them about other coping techniques or consult their pediatrician or school guidance counselor. Provide your child with age appropriate information about the dangers of chewing on non-food items and ice.

Is Chewing Gum Bad?

Chewing gum can be good for your child’s dental hygiene after meals. There are, however, qualifiers. Firstly, if your child has braces or a retainer or TMJ disorder, then chewing gum is a bad idea. The gum will stick to the hardware and be not only a pain to get cleaned but can damage the wires or brackets. For kids with TMJ disorder, chewing gum can cause more frequent headaches and jaw pain. Secondly, the gum must be sugarless.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “Research shows that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay. That is because the act of chewing increases the flow of saliva in your mouth, which helps neutralize and wash away cavity-causing acids and bacteria. Over time, acids can wear away tooth enamel, creating ideal conditions for decay. Look for chewing gum with the ADA Seal to be sure it can help prevent cavities.”

For Your Kids Who Like to Chew

If you have a kid that likes to chew on things, consider serving up crunchy snacks. Carrot sticks, celery sticks, and crunchy apple slices are healthy snacks that can satisfy the chewing urge. Nuts are also a great snack. Read our blog post Do-Eats and Don’t-Eats for Kids to Promote Healthy Teeth for more ideas about healthy snacks, and to read about why some of those crunchy foods are also good for teeth.

But Wait!

Yes, we are saying chewing sugarless gum can help with dental hygiene but it in no way should be used as a substitute for brushing and flossing! Morning and nighttime routines of brushing for two minutes and flossing at least once daily are vital to your child having a healthy smile.

Pediatric Dentistry Master List of FAQs for Kids Dental Health

Pediatric Dentistry Master List of FAQs for Kids Dental Health

We write regularly about parent tips for encouraging dental hygiene, healthy eating habits, and our pediatric dental services, and yet the sheer breadth of information on the topic of children’s teeth can seem rather overwhelming. Our staff answers individual questions from parents (and kids!) regularly, and you might be surprised to know that many of the questions bouncing around in your head, are frequently asked by others as well. With this in mind, we’ve put together a master list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Pediatric Dentistry Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers)

When should I bring my child in for their first dental checkup?

We typically suggest you bring in your little one when their first tooth has erupted. This is generally between six to 12 months of age. If your baby is turning one year old and has yet to have their first tooth poke through, it’s time for a dental checkup, yes even without a tooth. For more in-depth information about this topic, check out our article.

How should I clean my baby’s teeth?

You can purchase a special infant toothbrush at most drugstores. The bristles should be soft and the head of the brush especially small to better fit their mouth. Brush twice a day, using a tiny amount of toothpaste (such as a grain of rice).

What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a regular dentist?

Pediatric dentists complete two to three additional years of specialized training after dental school. This additional training focuses on the techniques and tools specifically designed for children’s comfort as well as training to encounter, understand, and address the developmental and emotional needs for infants to adolescents, including children with special needs. For more information, read this article.

Are pacifiers bad for my baby’s teeth?

Pacifiers and thumb sucking are natural soothing habits for babies and toddlers. They can become harmful if they persist beyond three years of age. Chat with your pediatric dentist if you have concerns.

How often should my kid visit the dentist?

Everyone, adults included, should have two dental checkups per year. Most insurances have transitioned to including coverage for two per year, as companies analyze the cost benefits of preventative care. Be sure you’re maximizing your dental insurance benefits before the year is out, for more information about this, read our in-depth article.

How do I prevent tooth decay from nursing or bottle rot?

Research shows that breast milk while containing sugar, does not cause tooth decay, however once your baby begins eating foods the potential for tooth decay will arise. Bottle rot is a common term that refers to tooth decay that is caused due to improper bottle feeding habits. Keep your baby’s access to their bottle limited, and never put juice in it. Even before your baby erupts their first tooth, you should gently wash their gums with a clean washcloth and water to scrub away any lingering bacteria. For more detailed information about how to avoid bottle rot, read our article, here.

Should my child get dental sealants?

Dental sealants are a preventative measure dentists use that we strongly recommend. The crevices and ridges in teeth, particularly the back molars are favorite spots for bacteria and food stuffs to linger. Additionally, those back teeth are more difficult for children to reach when they brush. The dental sealants literally seal a protective coat to the crevices of the teeth protecting them from tooth decay and making them less deep, and therefore easier to brush clean. For more information about dental sealants, read here.

Does my child need fluoride treatments?

Is your primary source of water treated with fluoride? Or do you typically drink store-bought bottled water? Most city and town water sources have been treated with fluoride, it’s in fact considered one of the greatest public health accomplishments in the last century. Check to be sure your toothpaste has fluoride. When your child comes in for a dental visit we can discuss whether your child is a good candidate for a fluoride treatment, or supplement. We know that some families find the topic of fluoride controversial, so if you have concerns please bring them to us so that we can discuss. You can also read more about fluoride treatments, here.

What do I do if my child chips a tooth or one is knocked out?

Retrieve the tooth (or piece of it), but avoid touching the root. Place the tooth in a sealed container with milk, and call your pediatric dentist for an emergency dental appointment right away. For more detailed guidance if you find yourself in this circumstance, we’ve written up several scenarios and step by step instructions for how to respond. You can find them, here.

Many of these instances occur due to injuries from sports activities. We strongly urge parents to invest in mouth guards for their children. Mouth guards are required for contact sports such as football, but research shows they are necessary for all sports activities. For more information about mouth guards, check out this article.

What do I do when my child has a toothache?

If your child complains of a toothache, it is likely to be a symptom of tooth decay. Have them rinse their mouth out with some room temperature salt water. You can give them an appropriate dosage of child’s acetaminophen to help with the pain, and an icepack for their cheek if the area is also swollen. You’ll also need to schedule a visit with your pediatric dentist as soon as possible.

Why does a cavity in a baby tooth need to be filled?

A cavity in a baby tooth needs to be treated not only to ease your child’s pain, but also because the decay in one tooth can spread into others when left untreated. We prefer not to pull a tooth in such a circumstance because our body’s natural inclination is for the baby tooth to fall out when it’s ready. Until then, the baby teeth serve to preserve the space for the permanent tooth, and help with chewing and proper speech.

Are dental X-rays safe?

As previously mentioned, pediatric dentists are specially trained to work with kids. We take special care to limit exposure, lead protective aprons are used as is high-speed film. X-rays are important for pediatric dentists to properly assess dental issues so that nothing is overlooked that could become a bigger problem later on.

Schedule Your Child’s Dental Appointment Today

Before you get caught up in the swing of the holidays, be sure to get your child’s second annual dental checkup and cleaning scheduled! Our offices in South Davis, Herriman, and Redwood are at your service. Give us a call today.

2021 Dental Insurance Benefits Expire Soon. Book Visit Today!

2021 Dental Insurance Benefits Expire Soon. Book Visit Today!

Moms and dads, holiday season is under way with the familiar scents and events as we pull out those gorgeous leafy decorations, pumpkins (pumpkin everything, really) costumes, and favorite movies, in addition to tissue boxes for sniffling noses and chapstick. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will arrive, and then it’s a frantic busy slide right into Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s a fun time of year full of family gatherings and events, yet it also means that your insurance benefits are coming close to a lapse.

Most insurance plans include coverage for dental services for all members of the family in question. You are paying those monthly premiums, however have you checked to see if you’re maximizing the dental insurance benefits in your plan? Some things to consider:

  • Has each child in your family had dental X-rays taken this year?
  • Has each child in your family had 2 dental cleanings this year?
  • Has one of your children complained about dental pain but you’ve forgotten about it in the everyday bustle of life?

Questions to Ask Your Dental Insurance Provider

  1. What is my copay?
  2. What is my maximum coverage amount per person in the family?
  3. Does my coverage include basic preventative care?
  4. Are X-rays covered?
  5. If yes, under what circumstances and/or with what frequency?
  6. Are dental cleanings covered?
  7. If yes, how many per year?
  8. Are fluoride treatments covered?
  9. If yes, are their age restrictions for fluoride treatments?
  10. What is my coverage for basic restorative care?
  11. Is basic restorative care covered up to a certain amount or is a percentage of it covered?
  12. What is considered basic restorative care in my plan?
  13. Is in-office sedation covered in my plan?

General Information About Dental Insurance

Basic preventative care typically covers two dental cleanings per year, some plans include a fluoride treatment at the cleaning appointment under the coverage, while others do not. Other insurance plans only cover fluoride treatments for certain ages.

Annual X-rays may be covered by your insurance, while yet other plans only cover them when deemed necessary by the dentist. Such circumstances when X-rays would be necessary would be in preparation for restorative work.

Some plans may cover mouth guards for children under preventative care but not all. Which is unfortunate due to the fact that we know dental injuries are common and preventable with the use of mouth guards when engaging in any type of sport activity!

Basic restorative care typically includes fillings, dental emergencies such as chipped or knocked loose teeth, as well as crowns or root canals. It’s important to ask your insurance questions about basic restorative care, due to the fact that while fillings are almost always covered, they might have restrictions on said coverage. For example, most people prefer composite fillings on the grounds that the composite material blends in with the color of the tooth so as to not be obvious. Some dental plans may only cover amalgam fillings, which are structurally sound but have the disadvantage of being metal in appearance and therefore not very discreet.

Partial Coverage for Restorative Dental Work

Don’t be surprised if you learn that your plan will only fully cover some basic preventative care services. It’s pretty common for restorative care to be partially covered. Partial coverage can mean that they’ll cover up to a certain amount in a year period for each member of your family (or in some cases a certain amount per family) while with other insurance providers, partial coverage means the insurance company will cover a percentage of restorative care services.

Furthermore, some insurances cover partial until a threshold is reached. Upon reaching that threshold, you may be entitled to full coverage again. Accordingly, if this is your circumstance, it’s important to find out how close to that threshold you are.

In-Office Sedation Services and Dental Coverage

When you are checking the details of your dental coverage with your insurance provider, it’s a good idea to ask for details about sedation. Our offices provide three different sedation options:

  • Oral Sedation – prescription sedatives for the night prior or the day of a procedure or visit, we may suggest and also implement if your child suffers dental anxiety or has developmental delays that may cause difficulties for dental procedures.
  • Nitrous Oxide – also referred to as “laughing gas” is most often utilized in conjunction with a local numbing agent for restorative dental procedures.
  • Intravenous Sedation – unlike general anesthesia utilized in hospitals by surgeons, our intravenous sedation technique does not inhibit the protective reflexes, which mainly means our patients under intravenous sedation can breathe on their own.

Any time we consider in-office sedation, we first review the options, the benefits, including the circumstances with the parents. If there is a concern for cost and/or insurance coverage, we will work with you and together we’ll find a solution.

Utah Pediatric Dentists Accepts Most Insurance

We work with most insurance companies, if you don’t find your provider on this list, give us a call to double check that your provider isn’t a new addition.

  • Aetna
  • Assurant/Sun Life Financial
  • Ameritas
  • Allegiance
  • Anthem BCBS
  • Regence BCBS
  • BCBS Federal
  • Blue Cross of Illinois (Blue Care)
  • Blue Cross of Michigan (Blue Dental)
  • Carrington
  • Cigna
  • Dental Select
  • DMBA
  • Dentist Direct/Direct Care Administrators
  • Dentamax
  • Delta Dental
  • EMI
  • GEHA – Connection Dental Network
  • Guardian
  • Humana – Connection Dental Network
  • Life Map
  • Lincoln Financial Group/Lincoln Dental Connect
  • Metlife
  • Traditional Medicaid
  • Medicaid Premier Access
  • Premier Access PPO
  • Premier Access Chip
  • PEHP
  • Principle – EMI Network
  • Standard Life Insurance/Reliance Standard
  • Select Health
  • Utah Sheet Metal/JAS/Southwest Service Administrators
  • United Concordia PPO
  • United Concordia Tricare/Active Duty
  • United Healthcare – GEHA/Connection Dental Network

Book an Appointment Right Away

Don’t wait for your dental benefits to expire! Some dental services require impressions that must be sent to a lab for production which means a time lag of at least a week. Schedule an appointment with your pediatric dentist before the holiday season speeds up.

Disneyland Giveaway

We’re hosting a Disneyland Giveaway for one family this November, enter to win and that lucky family can be yours! We’ve established 12 different methods for you to enter the sweepstakes, moreover there’s no limit to your total number of entries. On November 15th, we’ll draw the name of one lucky family. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was your name? For more information on how to enter, click here.

Reasons Why Restoring Baby Teeth is Important

Reasons Why Restoring Baby Teeth is Important

“They’re just going to fall out eventually, so why do we need to treat or restore the baby teeth?” This question comes up more often than you might think, and in a way, it has logic to it. After all, we don’t fix broken or chipped fingernails, we let them fall off or clip them the rest of the way off. So why is it different when we talk about baby teeth?

Here’s a handful of reasons for you to understand why not only the routine daily dental care of your kids’ baby teeth is important but the value of filling cavities in baby teeth as opposed to leaving them alone or simply extracting the tooth.

1. Chewing Skills and Speech

Baby teeth serve to help the development of eating habits, and speech patterns. Consider that the front teeth primarily function to bite off foods, but the grinding process occurs with the molars. We prefer to extract teeth only in certain circumstances: when the tooth is so severely decayed that proper restoration is not possible, or if a primary tooth is preventing a permanent tooth from erupting.

Speech is the outcome of a blend of tongue, teeth, and lips working together as they control sound and airflow coming out of your mouth. Not every single sound requires the tongue to strike the teeth, but the majority do. Just for fun try saying the following sentence without allowing your tongue to touch your teeth or lips:

“Thank you for this delicious meal.” Doesn’t come out sounding correct at all, does it?

2. Keep the Space

Moreover, they are excellent placeholders. The formation of their bite and the drawn-out eruption of the permanent teeth is a delicate balance maintained by the primary teeth which generally have all erupted between the ages of three and four years old. Typically, healthy primary teeth won’t begin to fall out until your child is six to seven years old. Permanent teeth start erupting around the same time, but the eruption timeline for them stretches out until their late teens. Some wisdom teeth erupt even as late as 21 years of age. When a primary tooth is extracted, the rest of the teeth in the jaw can drift a bit, consequently crowding can be an issue later on.

3. Pain and Infection

Untreated cavities in primary teeth can spread, worsen, and lead to severe decay which in turn can be quite painful and negatively impact their quality of life. Abscesses, infections, dental sepsis are all painful complications that can develop and require serious interventions. While less painful perhaps, the untreated cavities in baby teeth can be visible and depending on their age impact their confidence and raise unnecessary insecurities.

4. Hypodontia / Oligodontia / Anodontia

This reason is often surprising to people, but it actually affects a markedly large percentage of the population. Moreover, it addresses the original question pretty precisely. Hypodontia is when one to six permanent tooth or teeth fail/s to even form. This means the baby tooth that erupts will never get a replacement and therefore its importance jumps to the front of the line, immediately. Taking care of the baby teeth should be important anyway, but if that baby tooth is the only one they will have in that position for the rest of their life? That certainly puts a new perspective on it, doesn’t it?

Oligodontia is when more than six permanent teeth fail to form and occurs significantly less often than hypodontia, while anodontia is a total absence of permanent teeth and is even rarer. The most common permanent teeth to be missing in a case of hypodontia are actually the wisdom teeth which often are extracted anyway so people don’t get concerned about a missing one or two. Next in line are the premolars that are located on the sides between the canines and the molars, followed by the upper lateral incisors, and then the lower central incisors.

An estimated 20% of adults have hypodontia, and while it’s been linked to genetics, research suggests environmental factors may influence its occurrence as well. The condition presents more often in women, with identical twins displaying a higher than average rate as well.

If you’re a parent reading this who has a baby tooth that was never replaced by a permanent tooth, then it is possible this trait could present in your child(ren) but should not be an automatic conclusion. Tell your child’s pediatric dentist if hypodontia applies to you, so they can be aware to look for it. If your child currently has a gap due to a lost baby tooth and the permanent tooth has yet to erupt, no need to panic. This does not automatically mean there is no permanent tooth, it is more than likely only a delayed eruption of the permanent tooth.

Restorations for Baby Teeth

If we discover a cavity in a baby tooth, we’ll discuss with you the options available for restoration so you can make an informed decision. Generally, we recommend resin composite fillings because they match the color of the teeth, and dry quickly allowing for a shorter period of time in the dentist chair.

Dental Checkups Matter

Even if your kids don’t have complaints, it’s important that they have routine dental office checkups. Some insurances only cover visits once a year, but we normally recommend bi-annual visits (every six months). When was the last time your kids came in to see us? We have four offices spread over the Bountiful area, all conveniently located and designed to put your child at ease. We’re here for you, so give us a call and put us to work!!