When you step into Premier Smiles in Corpus Christi, TX, you’ll know you’ve found the perfect place for your family’s care.
Our team loves helping kids grow into healthy adults. Dr. Okafor knows that early experiences influence the value children place on their oral health as adults. One negative experience can affect a child’s outlook on dentistry for the rest of their life. You can be sure your child will have a great experience at Premier Smiles.
The services offered at Premier Smiles ensure that patients of all ages feel welcome. From the earliest check-ups to orthodontic evaluations, Dr. Okafor will listen to your concerns and guide you through every stage.
Dr. Okafor believes a trip to the dentist should be fun, lighthearted, and not something to fear. The way your child is exposed to dentistry lays the groundwork for how they view dental care and dental visits for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Okafor and his team love caring for their patients, and work hard to make sure each child is spoken to gently, treated with respect, and cared for as if they were our own child. We use simple words to explain procedures to our patients and make sure each parent or guardian is aware of the process as well.
Helping our youngest patients grow into healthy young adults is a highlight for our team. Children are constantly growing and require frequent checkups to ensure they are developing properly. With an early preventative hygiene plan, we can prevent childhood tooth decay and a lifetime of problems.
Tooth decay often begins at an early age, making young children particularly susceptible. Nearly half of children between the ages of 2-11 have experienced tooth decay while 32% of kids between the ages of 9-11 develop cavities in their permanent teeth. Major contributing factors to this public health problem include baby formula with added sugar and heavily-sugared fruit juices. Even breast milk can cause cavities in baby teeth because of the natural sugars present.
Care for baby teeth should begin as soon as the first tooth appears. We recommend that you bring your child in for an exam no later than his or her first birthday. Regular six-month checkups will put kids on a schedule like most adults, establishing a routine that will hopefully last a lifetime.
The following early steps can help guard your child against tooth decay, even before their first dental visit:
Your baby’s teeth should always be rinsed with water or wiped with a damp cloth after feeding, especially before they fall asleep. Milk or formula residue left in the mouth can encourage decay even in the youngest patients.
Try to wean your child off bottle feeding by their first birthday. This helps avoid decay and reduces the chance of developing jaw problems from excessive sucking.
Begin brushing as soon as your child’s first tooth appears. Even if it’s barely poking through the gum, a tooth can develop decay if not cleaned properly. Start by brushing with a soft bristled brush and water. Ask Dr. Okafor or your child’s hygienist when it’s ok to begin using a small amount of toothpaste.
Help your child brush and remember that kids don’t have the dexterity to clean their teeth on their own until after they can tie their shoes.
Don’t give bottles filled with sugary drinks or milk before bedtime.
If you do choose to offer sugary beverages, have your child use a straw, so the teeth have less contact with the liquid.
Try to limit the overall sugary foods your child eats and drinks.
Most parents know the teen years present unique challenges. When it comes to your teen’s dental health, rapid changes seem to happen almost daily. A good partnership with our team can help you and your teen survive these sometimes difficult years.
Dental health during the teen years offers another set of challenges. For most parents, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. A dizzying number of changes strike during these formative years, and parents often experience a few frustrations along the way.
Teens listen more than we realize, and pestering parents can make a tremendous difference in the dental future of your young adult. You might feel like you are nagging, but believe it or not, the constant reminders to brush, floss, and eat well will sink in. Don’t underestimate any encouragement given to help your teen avoid the long-term effects of cavities and gum inflammation.
Preventive visits every six months provide us with an opportunity to coach your teen and reinforce the efforts you’re making with them. Sometimes the rapport we establish in a professional, yet friendly, setting proves especially effective.
Tips for home efforts that protect your teen’s dental health:
Limit sodas and energy drinks.Sugary, carbonated drinks are the number one cause of tooth decay in adolescents. Most 20-ounce bottles of soda are just 18 teaspoons of sugar mixed with an extremely acidic liquid. The combination can be devastating for teeth as well as your teen’s overall health.
Encourage brushing before bedtime.The hours spent sleeping can be especially harmful as the mouth dries out and bacteria flourishes.
Explain the dangers of sharing toothbrushes.Bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities can easily transfer from one person to another.
Slip dental floss or a toothpick in with their lunch or backpack.
Sometimes dental problems follow otherwise healthy people through life. Understanding the causes of dental disease can eliminate the frustration that builds as teeth deteriorate. Creating a customized preventive routine can leave you looking forward to your dental visits.
It’s easy to ignore, but a little bit of tooth decay or gum disease usually leads to a little bit more. However, one thing is certain. If left untreated, it almost always results in pain, emergency treatment, and tooth loss. So why does this happen?
It’s an Infection
Millions of bacteria swim around in our mouths. Many of them are harmless, and some are beneficial. But a few love nothing more than to eat away at the hard and soft tissues of the mouth. Like all living creatures, they need an energy source. Sugars are their snack of choice, and they use simple carbohydrates from our diet to manufacture energy.
Like all living creatures, they also produce waste. These acidic wastes deposited on the teeth erode the hard surfaces, weaken the enamel, and form holes known as cavities.
Some bacteria produce a toxic waste that causes bleeding gums and destroys the bone around the teeth. This is called periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the leading reason people lose their teeth and end up with dentures.
Most infections can be cured with antibiotics, but mouth bacteria require a different approach. Regular checkups and cleanings help us find new cavities and remove plaque and tartar that harbor millions of harmful bacteria. High-risk patients benefit from a customized approach with our team. We have many methods to strengthen weakened enamel that has not yet developed into decay.
The complex cycle of inflammation and infection extends beyond the gums and mouth. In fact, research continues to uncover the many ways that our oral health affects the overall health of our bodies including heart health. Our oral health can influence medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. For example, mouth bacteria enter the bloodstream through inflamed and bleeding gums. Like a river, blood flow carries the bacteria to the small vessels of the heart and brain. Here they can damage the intricate vessel lining leading to blockage of the vessel. Heart attack or stroke can result because of bleeding gums.
A few tips for maintaining a healthy mouth:
Brush for at least two minutes twice a day and floss at least once a day: It sounds like a long time, but it makes a difference. Consider buying an electric toothbrush with a built-in timer or set the timer on your phone. If you don’t like to floss, consider toothpicks, proxabrushes, or a Waterpik.
Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly and replace it every three months: Bacteria linger on your toothbrush, finding their way back into the mouth the next time you brush.
Drink sugary liquids through a straw: A straw helps keep sugar from bathing the teeth directly before swallowing.
Drink water after eating a meal: Water helps clean larger deposits of food from your teeth. Plus, we all could use a little more hydration!
Get cavities treated immediately: Cavities rarely hurt until they reach a critical stage. And don’t forget: a little bit of tooth decay usually becomes a little bit more.
See your hygienist every six months: The risk of critical dental problems diminishes significantly if you’re visiting us twice a year. Patients that fit preventive dentistry into their schedule typically enjoy fewer dental visits and expenses over time than those who wait for emergencies to develop.
Metal grins fill the pages of many high school yearbooks. But today more and more patients are opting to go with “clear braces” or Invisalign. Braces offer benefits at many different stages of life. Identifying problems at a young age allows for early intervention which can often reduce how long your child is in treatment. Monitoring growth and development at your child’s regular preventive visits are just a part of our commitment to your family’s dental health.
A variety of tooth and jaw issues can be resolved through orthodontics. Dr. Okafor may point out that your child’s baby teeth appear crowded or the relationship between the upper and lower teeth isn’t ideal. While treatment doesn’t usually start this young, it may help you prepare for the possibility of future corrective care. As permanent teeth start to appear, usually around age 6, Dr. Okafor will monitor the situation and help you decide if early orthodontic treatment is right for your child.
Although many orthodontic wearers are teenagers, braces play a role in some children’s earlier years. Since permanent teeth are typically larger than baby teeth, a device called a palatal expander may be used to create more room. This allows adult teeth to move into place correctly, helping avoid more extensive treatment later on.
A narrow jaw or a large overbite may create a similar dilemma. Gently guiding your child’s jaw growth while they are still growing can make a tremendous difference down the road. Once growth stops during the teen years, sometimes the only corrective measure involves surgery which is always a scenario to avoid when possible.
The Usual Track
Many youngsters benefit from orthodontics after their baby teeth have fallen out and the permanent teeth have grown in. The length of treatment time can vary, but often falls around two years.
Orthodontic treatment can solve almost every bite issue, but success relies on good patient compliance. Wearing elastic bands consistently, keeping follow-up appointments, and practicing outstanding home care can all lead to a beautiful smile. This commitment involves frequent preventive visits with our hygienist as well. This helps avoid permanent staining from weakened enamel and cavities around brackets.
Invisalign is a popular option for straightening teeth. Custom, clear aligners, or “trays”, are made for each patient which they switch out at regular intervals – each new tray adjusting the teeth a little more. Read more on Invisalign >>
Premier Smiles specializes in helping our orthodontic patients enjoy a successful outcome: a gorgeous, healthy smile.
Deep crevices run across the chewing surface of molars. Even though a toothbrush can skim these surfaces, bacteria still settle into the narrow grooves beyond the bristles’ reach. Cavities may form and end up affecting the tooth’s nerve without warning, destroying valuable tooth structure. Protecting the grooves with a resin sealant may help prevent decay in your child’s back teeth.
Our goal is for our patients to require the least amount of dental treatment possible. Children who enter adulthood with the fewest restored teeth generally have the lowest risk of future problems.
Sealants can dramatically reduce the number of cavities a child might develop throughout their childhood. On the chewing surface of molars, deep grooves run into the center of the teeth. Under a microscope, these crevices might look like a deep canyon. In reality, most of them are narrower than a single toothbrush bristle but that is still wide enough for bacteria to hide. It’s easy to see how cavities can form in such a perfect hideout.
If the grooves in permanent molars are sealed at a young age, the risk of decay decreases dramatically. Fortunately, this procedure can be done quickly and without any discomfort or anesthetic. The sealant material creates a smooth surface, filling in the grooves and making the biting surface more manageable for little hands to keep clean. A resin material is flowed over the grooves and is sealed quickly with a blue curing light. Within a few minutes, your child’s teeth are protected against cavities.
Sealants only last a few years and may need to be repaired or replaced periodically. But research confirms a 90% reduction in tooth decay along the chewing surface in sealed molars. This cost-effective, simple step may help your child enter adulthood with fewer fillings.