Infants should be seen by our office around their first birthday. By this time, the baby’s first teeth, or primary teeth, are beginning to erupt and it is a good time to spot any problems before they become big concerns.
Conditions like gum irritation and thumb-sucking can create problems later on. Babies who suck their thumbs may be setting the stage for teeth coming in crooked and not having a good bite.
Another problem that can be spotted early is a condition called “baby bottle tooth decay”, which is caused by the sugary substances in breast milk and most juices. If these liquids are allowed to stay on the teeth for long periods of time, acids will form which will destroy tooth enamel causing a cavity.
One of the best ways to avoid baby bottle tooth decay is to never allow your baby to nurse on a bottle when going to sleep. Avoid dipping pacifiers in sweet substances such as honey, because this only encourages early decay in the baby’s mouth. Encouraging your young child to drink from a cup as early as possible will also help avoid the problems associated with baby bottle tooth decay.
If allowed to occur, baby bottle decay can lead to the premature destruction or loss of your baby’s primary teeth, which can then later affect the proper eruption of their permanent teeth.
Teething and Pacifiers
Teething is a sign that your child’s gums are sore. This is perfectly normal. You can help relieve this by allowing the baby to suck on a teething ring, or gently rubbing your baby’s gums with the back of a small spoon, a piece of wet gauze, or even your finger.
For babies under the age of 4, teething rings and pacifiers can be safely used to facilitate the child’s oral needs for relieving gum pain and for suckling. After the age of 4, pacifiers are generally discouraged because they may interfere with the development of your child’s teeth.
Primary and Permanent Teeth
Every child grows 20 primary teeth, usually by the age of 3. These teeth are gradually replaced by the age of 12 or so with a full set of 28 permanent teeth, and later on, four molars called “wisdom teeth.”
It is essential that a child’s primary teeth are healthy, because their development sets the stage for the permanent teeth. If primary teeth become diseased or do not grow in properly, chances are greater that their permanent replacements will suffer the same fate. For example, poorly formed primary teeth that don’t erupt properly could crowd out spaces reserved for other teeth. Space maintainers can sometimes be used to correct this condition, if it is spotted early enough.
Babies’ gums and teeth can be gently cleaned with special infant toothbrushes that fit over your finger. Water is suitable in lieu of toothpaste (because the baby may swallow the toothpaste). Parents are advised to avoid fluoride toothpastes on children under the age of two.
Primary teeth can be cleansed with child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrushes. Remember to use small portions of toothpaste (a pea-sized portion is suitable), and teach your child to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste when finished.
Fluoride is generally present in most public drinking water systems. If you are unsure about your community’s water and its fluoride content, or learn that it contains an unacceptable level of fluoride in it, there are fluoride supplements your dentist can prescribe. Your child may not be getting enough fluoride just by using fluoride toothpaste.
Toothaches can be common in young children. Sometimes, toothaches are caused by erupting teeth, but they also could indicate a serious problem.
You can safely relieve a small child’s toothache without the aid of medication by rinsing the mouth with a solution of warm water and table salt. If the pain doesn’t subside, acetaminophen may be used. If such medications don’t help, contact your dentist immediately.
You can help your child prevent oral injuries by closely supervising them during play and not allowing the child to put foreign objects in their mouth.
For younger children involved in physical activities and sports, mouth guards are strongly encouraged, and can prevent a whole host of injuries to the teeth, gums, lips and other oral structures.
Mouth guards are generally small plastic appliances that safely fit around your child’s teeth. Many mouth guards are soft and pliable when opened, and mold to the child’s teeth when first inserted.
If a tooth is knocked out, first rinse the mouth of any blood or debris. Then gently rinse the tooth off and try to place the tooth back in its socket while waiting to see a dentist. Remember to hold the dislocated tooth by the crown-not the root. If you cannot place the tooth back in its socket, put it in a container of milk, saline or the victim’s own saliva.
A cold cloth or compress on the cheek near the injury will keep down swelling.
For a fractured tooth, it is best to rinse with warm water and again, apply a cold pack or compress. Ibuprofen may be used to help keep down swelling. If the tooth fracture is minor, the tooth can be smoothed or if necessary, restored by the dentist with a filling or crown.
Irritation caused by retainers or braces can sometimes be relieved by placing a tiny piece of cotton or wax on the tip of the wire or other protruding object. If an injury occurs from a piece of the retainer or braces lodging into a soft tissue, contact your Orthodontist’s office immediately.
Sealants are used to fill in the deep pits and grooves on the chewing surface of your teeth and help to protect them from collecting plaque and food debris. This aids in avoiding getting cavities. Sealants are easy to apply and typically last for several years.