Normally the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months, which is a great time to begin Early Dental Care. Gums are sore, tender and sometimes kids are irritable. Rubbing sore gums gently with the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums.
Once your child gets teeth, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of dental cavities. Examine all surfaces of the teeth, including the inside or the tongue side for dull white spots or lines. This indicates the initiation of the cavity process. Cavities can develop rapidly in children with prolonged exposure to foods and beverages containing sugar – even organic and “natural” sugars cause cavities. A bottle or sippy cup containing anything other than water that is given to an infant/child for a prolonged time can promote tooth decay. It is especially important not to send a child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of any liquid besides water. Sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar (such as juice, soda, flavored waters, sports drinks, and even milk and breast milk), acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.
Infant’s New Teeth…Why Primary Teeth are Important
Healthy teeth allow for proper chewing and eating, provide space for and guide the eruption of the permanent teeth, permit normal development of the jaw, and affect the development of speech. The positive self-image that healthy teeth give is immeasurable. The front four primary teeth remain in the mouth until 6-7 years of age. The primary molars and canines are not replaced until 9-13 years of age.
Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, children with missing primary teeth or who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer. A space maintainer is a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups.
Good Diet and Healthy Teeth
The teeth, bones, and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimize cavities and other dental problems. A diet high in certain kinds of carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches, can place your child at risk for cavities. Foods with starches include bread, crackers, pasta, pretzels, cookies, and chips. Sugars are often added to dressings such as ketchup and salad dressing. All types of sugars can promote tooth decay. Many snacks that children eat can cause cavities, so children should be encouraged to eat healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, and low-fat yogurt and cheeses. The frequency of snacking creates greater exposure times of food and beverages on the teeth and can promote dental decay. Foods with sugar and starch are safer if eaten with a meal and then rinse out with water. Sticky foods such as dried fruits, fruit snacks and hard candies are not easily cleared from the mouth and teeth and have a greater cavity-causing potential.
Preventing Early Childhood Caries
Early childhood caries (formerly known as baby bottle tooth decay) is the presence of decay in infants and young children. Once foods are introduced in a child’s diet, teeth and/or formula, teeth are at risk for cavities. Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or prevented by not allowing infants to go to bed with a bottle or breast feed during the night. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle containing anything other than water. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. Fruit juice should be limited and if given, it is preferable to be in a cup with a meal or at snack time. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle. Our office is dedicated to preventing tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.
When Should I Start Cleaning my Baby’s Teeth?
Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or soft cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a ‘smear’ of fluoridated toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 3 years of age. For children older than 3 years old use a ‘pea-size’ amount of fluoride toothpaste. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their own teeth effectively and thus need the assistance of an adult.