Take a look at the articles below to learn more about certain dental conditions and what you should do if your child is dealing with one of them.

Black Tooth

If your child's front tooth is turning dark it's possible that they may have bumped their primary baby tooth. Discoloration typically doesn't happen until two to three weeks after an accident. Their tooth will begin to change to a gray or even dark purple color that can closely resemble black. Turning dark or not doesn't always depend on the severity of the injury. If the tooth becomes displaced or loosened at the time of the injury, chances of it turning dark increase. In alternative situations the tooth can turn a pink color which can be another condition called internal resorption where the tooth resorbs from the inside out.

The good news is the tooth can lighten back up, in most cases they will, however it can take a while. One of the major reasons for the discoloration is that the blood supply to the tooth has been reduced. If the tooth has been displaced the blood supply could also be damaged. These teeth have a lesser chance of recovery and may not lighten up at all.

In short it's a very common thing to see a dark baby tooth. Kids bump their teeth all the time. In most cases the tooth will lighten back up. If it doesn't, there still may be no treatment needed other than keeping an eye on it. On the rare occasion it may abscess and need to be removed.

If it is a permanent tooth, then it's a whole different scenario. An injured permanent tooth that turns dark usually means the tooth is dead and will need a root canal to save it.

Of course if you notice any of these signs on your child's teeth, feel free to contact Dr. Whelan's office for the appropriate treatment.

Dental Cavity

Parents often assume that kids get cavities because they're not brushing and flossing enough, which can be true to an extent. A little know fact is that tooth decay is caused by some very specific germs, and like all germs they can spread throughout families, and last a lifetime. Additionally tooth decay is more common amongst young children even when compared to chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes.

Children now have much more sugar in their diets at an early age than ever before. The increasing popularity of bottled water, which typically doesn't contain fluoride can also contribute to tooth decay.

Mutans streptococcus, or the germs associated with tooth decay, feed on sugar and produce an acid that eats away at the structure of teeth by depleting calcium. This bacteria also creates plaque or that yellowish film, which builds up on teeth and contains even more enamel-eroding acid. Once an area without calcium becomes big enough, the surface of the tooth collapses, causing a cavity.

How can you help limit or reduce the risk of cavities for your children? Start with the basics by encouraging your children to diligently brush and floss. Proper brushing and flossing physically pushes bacteria, plaque, and sugar off the teeth. Additionally fluoride is a necessary part of dental health as it helps to not only restores calcium to decaying teeth, but also limits the production of corrosive acid.

Your child should see a dentist by his first birthday, according to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Association (AAPD) and the AAP. Waiting until your child is older increases the likelihood of cavities as decay can be well underway. About 40% of 2- to 5-year-olds have cavities.

Double Teeth

Double teeth is the result of an emerging adult tooth appearing in the mouth before the baby tooth has fallen out, this is also commonly know as shark teeth. This double set of teeth can be worrisome for parents, however it's fairly common and typically does not require any treatment. Shark teeth can happen at any time, however they're most commonly seen at two different stages of a child's development. This first being right around age 6, which is when the lower set of front teeth begin to grow in. The second stage is typically around age 11 when the top rear molars begin to grow in.

The double set of teeth typically occurs as the permanent tooth slowly begins to dissolve the root of the baby tooth as it emerges beneath it. Over time there is not much root left from the baby tooth, which will then loosen and fall out and the new adult tooth comes in where the baby tooth was.

Often times the second set of teeth don't need any treatment. If a permanent tooth hasn't come in all the way and the baby tooth is getting increasingly looser, there's not much to worry about as the situation will commonly resolve itself. If the new tooth continues to grow in and the baby tooth doesn't loosen, please give the office a call and schedule an appointment to see Dr. Whelan.

Unfortunately in some cases there still may not be enough room for a permanent tooth to move into position even after the baby tooth has fallen out. When this occurs, please call the office to schedule an appointment.

Geographic Tongue

A Geographic Tongue is a harmless condition, which affects the surface of a tongue. Both you and your child's tongue is covered with tiny, pinkish-white bumps (papillae), which are actually short, fine, hair-like projections. When a patient has a geographic tongue, spots on the surface of the tongue are missing these papillae and now appear as smooth, red "patches." Many times these patches or islands as they are some times referred to can have slightly raised borders.

These patches are actually lesions, don't be alarmed though. Geographic tongue is also know as benign migratory glossitis. The patches or lesions will often times appear map-like, giving it the name geographic tongue. Patches on the tongue will oftentimes heal in one area and then move to a different part of the tongue.

Again while geographic tongue can look alarming, it doesn't cause any health problems and is not associated with any type of oral cancer or infection. Minimal side effects of geographic tongue will sometimes cause discomfort and/or increased sensitivity from the tongue to certain foods and drinks. Avoid letting your children eat acidic fruit along with tomatoes, pineapple and citrus fruits as these are commonly know to cause flare ups with geographic tongue. You'll also want them to avoid spicy foods, walnuts, eggplant, chard and spinach. Avoid strong cheeses like the Bleu or Swiss cheese varieties. You'll also want to avoid oregano; the seasoning used in tomato sauces or on fish and poultry. Lastly, strongly flavored candies like peppermint or cinnamon hard candy can also cause discomfort.

While the cause of geographic tongue is unknown, there is also no way to prevent the condition. After about 7-10 days if the lesions on the tongue have not resolved themselves it would be a good idea to give our office a call and schedule a visit with Dr. Whelan for a consult.

Abscessed Tooth

If your child is continually complaining about a tooth and throbbing pain, it could be something more than just a toothache. It could be an abscessed tooth or an infection within a tooth that has spread to either the root tip or around the root. This infection originates from the tooth's inner chamber, prior to the formation of an abscess, the tooth has essentially lost its ability to fight off an infection and bacteria.

Common symptoms of an abscessed tooth is that it will turn dark in color compared to the surrounding teeth. Pain is often experienced while eating or by pressing on the tooth. The abscess that has spread out the root tip causes the supporting structures (gum and bone) to be affected. In many cases the throbbing or pulsating pain can be so severe that it can't be relieved with pain medications. This is commonly related to the infection spreading and causing more pressure on the surrounding gums and bone.

An obvious sign of infection is swelling and/or a pimple on the gum that is filled with pus. This pimple can oftentimes rupture to release pus. Additional signs of a tooth abscess can include a bad taste or bad odor in the mouth.

For a child's primary tooth, treatment of a dental abscess depends on the extent of infection. If the abscessed primary tooth is in the early stages of infection and is not moving or wiggling in the tooth socket, the infection can be cleared out within the pulp chamber. The space is then filled with a paste such as zinc oxide eugenol.

If the infection is advanced and has caused the tooth to become mobile, the best course of action is to the remove the infected tooth completely. Removing the tooth is important in order to avoid a persistent infection that could risk harming the adult tooth that is developing underneath.

If the infection is left untreated for a prolonged period of time or is allowed to spread, the condition can escalate and become difficult to control. There is the danger that the infection could rapidly spread to the bone of the jaw and other spaces of the head and neck. If swelling in the jaw or neck becomes so great it can potentially affect the airway and become life-threatening.

If you think your child may have an abscessed tooth, please call our office to schedule a visit with Dr. Whelan.

Tooth Chip / Fracture

If your child has chipped or fractured a tooth, remain calm and call our office immediately. The first 30 minutes after a dental accident are the most critical, so it is important to have you child rinse their mouth out with water. Put a cold compress on their face to reduce swelling. If it is possible, gather the pieces of the tooth and place them in a cup of milk. This keeps the pieces from getting brittle. Make sure to bring the fragments to our office, because the dentist may be able to reattach the pieces with special dental glue.

It is important to call the office as soon as you can so we can access the damage. Even if your child has just chipped a baby tooth, we need to make sure the chip or fracture does not extend into the root of the tooth. This could lead to an infection. If more than half of your child's tooth is broken, the nerve may be exposed, which also increases the potential for infection.

When you come into our office, we will determine the best treatment option for your child. Minor fractures can be smoothed down or simply left alone. The tooth can also be restored with a bonding treatment or composite restoration. A composite filling is the same material we use for white fillings. Composite fillings are also used for larger fractures, to cover the sensitive dentin and keep the tooth looking healthy. A very large fracture may require a crown or porcelain facing, but it depends on the age of your child. If your child will need orthodontic treatment in the future, typically we will wait to put a porcelain facing on the tooth right away.

Call our office to schedule a visit with Dr. Whelan to ensure your child receives the appropriate treatment for their chipped or fractured tooth.

Tooth Intrusion

Tooth intrusion is when a primary or baby tooth is partially or completely pushed into the gums. Sometimes it appears as if the child has had their tooth knocked out because the tooth has been push completely out of sight. These cases require Dr. Whelan to take a radiograph of the area to track the location of the injured primary (baby) tooth. This shows where the baby tooth is in relation to the developing permanent teeth. Fortunately, many intruded teeth re-erupt within months.

It is important to have intruded teeth checked out by Dr. Whelan because the roots of the primary tooth can be forced into the bud of the developing permanent tooth. If this happens, it can effect the development of the adult tooth and result in color changes.

If the baby tooth has been pushed up less than 3mm, there is high chance of it re-erupting on its own. Typically, it will re-erupt within a 2-3 month period, assuming the developing adult tooth bud has not been injured. The baby tooth may need to be removed if the tooth does not re-erupt in the matter of 2 months. For baby teeth that have been pushed up more than 6 mm, it should be extracted to prevent further damage to the adult tooth bud. This is why x-rays are important for this procedure. X-rays determine if the adult bud has been damaged or is in danger of being damaged.

Please schedule a visit with Dr. Whelan immediately if your child has an intruded tooth, so we can access the damage and determine the best treatment plan for your child.

Tooth Luxation

This is the most common type of tooth displacement for toddlers and children. This is because the bone around baby teeth is very soft and teeth are able to move more easily in their sockets. During a fall, a child's baby tooth is typically pushed inward toward the palate. While this can cause a lot of bleeding around the surrounding gums, it is usually less damaging to the developing permanent tooth. This is because the crown portion of the tooth moves inward, instead of upward, toward the developing tooth bud.

For permanent teeth that have been displaced, carefully, and gently try to reposition the tooth, if possible. If you can, hold the tooth in place and call our office immediately. The first 30 minutes after a dental injury are the most critical. If the tooth has moved less than 5 mm, there is a 50% chance there is no damage to the nerve. Teeth may reposition themselves, but others may require orthodontic treatment. In some cases, there could be a fracture in the bone surrounding the tooth during a luxation. If the tooth is very loose and can move more than 2 mm, a composite splint and flexible wire may be placed for 7-10 days to help stabilize it. The splint is usually made of a resin material that is used for temporary crowns and bridges. This is easy to remove and allows a certain level of flexibility. Typically, a splint is left on for 4 weeks.

If your child has received a dental injury, call our office to schedule a visit with Dr. Whelan immediately. This ensures the damage is as minimal as possible.


The frenum is a 'fold' or fibrous tissue that can restrict the motion of the lip or tongue. When it occurs with the upper lip it is referred to as a "maxillary frenum". It can be very restrictive causing issues with breastfeeding. If a good seal cannot be maintained by the infant, air can pass into the stomach creating air pockets and potential gastric reflux. In older children, the frenum may cause a space between the incisors (diastema) and require orthodontic treatment.

In the lower jaw, the frenum can severely restrict the movement of the tongue inhibiting it's peristaltic action making breastfeeding difficult and/or painful. It may cause a poor latch, inadequate milk transfer and milk intake. This has been termed "tongue-tied" or "ankyloglossia".

Treatment for either of these tethered conditions is called a "frenectomy/frenotomy" and can be achieved with scissors, scalpel, electrosurgery, or with a laser. The two latter treatment modalities can be done chairside and without the placement of sutures.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Whelan's office for a consult and treatment recommendations.