The oral health needs of infants and children require diligence on the part of parents to ensure healthy teeth and gums as they grow.
Many parents remember well the teething experience as their newborns become infants and toddlers. New parents are also sounding boards for advice from other parents, grandparents and literature they read. Sometimes, the variety of inputs may create confusion about what methods to use for feeding, teething and brushing.
Eureka Dental specializes in pediatric dentistry because our staff includes dentists who are experts and understand how to guide your children’s oral health into a successful adult smile.
We recommend infants have their first office visit soon after they reach six months of age, and no later than their first birthday. During this period your child will usually begin growth of his or her primary teeth. The first few teeth are an exciting and challenging milestone, and we want to ensure any early signs of oral issues are seen quickly before they have the chance to disrupt future teeth.
One cautionary situation we help to avoid is a condition called “baby bottle tooth decay.” As the name suggests, the condition usually comes from nursing a bottle of breast milk or juice. The sugars from breast milk or juice may catalyze faster decay as small pools form inside your child’s mouth. If the condition remains untreated, your child’s primary teeth may decay quickly, which can impede the proper formation of adult teeth later on in life.
This condition is best avoided by not allowing your child to nurse on a bottle while going to sleep, and by not dipping a pacifier into a sweet substance like honey. Avoiding these two pitfalls, while also encouraging your child to drink from a cup, will help alleviate the occurrence of this condition.
As your child experiences the eruption of his or her first teeth, the process of “teething” naturally creates soreness and discomfort. This is completely normal and can be relieved by rubbing the baby’s gums with a piece of wet gauze, your finger, or even gently with the back of a small spoon.
Teething rings and pacifiers are also excellent tools to relieve the discomfort for children under the age of 4. Pacifiers are discouraged after the age of four because they can interfere with the proper alignment and growth of your child’s teeth.
However, many children may default to thumb-sucking which can create problems both in the development of primary teeth, as well as the eventual integration of adult teeth. Even as babies, thumb-sucking can create malformed or crooked teeth, and should be strongly discouraged.
Primary & Permanent Teeth
Children will usually develop all 20 primary teeth by the age of three. The gradual loss and replacement of primary teeth is usually complete by the time your child reaches the age of 12. The 28 permanent teeth will be supplemented in time with an additional four molars, or “wisdom teeth.” The relationship between primary and permanent teeth is critical, as your child’s primary teeth “set the stage” for his or her adult teeth. Early childhood oral care ensures proper spacing and gum health to facilitate straight teeth that align evenly with each other. We specialize in many procedures to overcome issues with primary teeth so that they do not impact successful development of permanent ones.
Babies’ gums and teeth, even prior to his or her first tooth, can be cleaned gently with special infant toothbrushes that fit over the tip of a finger. We recommend that parents avoid any fluoride toothpastes before the child is two years old, as infants tend to swallow toothpaste. Water is an acceptable substitute for toothpaste, and a variety of non-fluoride infant toothpastes exist today. Once your child reaches the age of two, a very small (pea-sized) portion of toothpaste should be used, and parents should teach children to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste after brushing.
Most public drinking water is fluoridated (contains a small amount of fluoride). You can inquire about the level of fluoride in your community’s water supply, and consult with your dentist about any additional fluoride supplements that may be required to supplement his or her toothpaste.
Depending on the age and oral development of your child, a toothache may be a natural part of tooth development or it may be a sign of a more serious issue. The pain of common toothaches may be safely relieved by rinsing the mouth with a mixture of salt and warm water. If this solution does not alleviate the pain, you may add an appropriate dose of acetaminophen. We suggest that if the warm salt water and acetaminophen is unsuccessful that you contact a dentist immediately to see if a more serious problem exists.
Children are incredibly prone to accidents, which is why parents stress constantly about how to protect them. Oral injuries are one fact of childhood, and we offer a number of suggestions to help avoid damage that may affect proper development of your child’s teeth.
First, parents can closely supervise play to make sure that risky behavior is minimized. Also, parents should not allow children to place foreign objects in their mouths at any time.
For children involved in sports and physical activities, mouth guards are highly recommended. Sports injuries in soccer, football and nearly all physical activity can be minimized greatly by the use of mouth guards. They can protect not only teeth, but gums, lips and other oral structures. These appliances are soft and can be molded to precisely fit your child’s teeth and gum structure.
When injuries occur, knowing what to do can immensely help your child’s oral health.
If a tooth is knocked out, hold the tooth by the crown (outer edge) of the tooth, not the root, and try to place the tooth back in the socket while waiting to see our office. If you cannot re-insert the tooth, place it in a container of saline, cold milk, or even the child’s own saliva.
Next, rinse your child’s mouth out of any blood or other debris. Then apply a cold compress or cloth on the cheek outside of the location of the injury, as this will reduce swelling.
For a broken, or fractured, tooth, rinse with warm water and apply the cold compress or cloth to the cheek to reduce swelling. Ibuprofen may also be used to counter swelling.
If the fracture or chip is minor, the tooth can be repaired by sanding and filling, as long as the interior pulp of the tooth is not severely damaged.
If your child’s tooth is loose due to injury or an emerging permanent tooth, try to get your child to bite down on an apple or piece of caramel which may help separate the tooth from the gum.
Irritation caused by braces may be relieved by placing a small piece of gauze or cotton on the protruding part of the wire or anchors. If an injury has occurred where the braces or a piece of the retainer has punctured soft tissue, contact our office immediately and avoid dislodging it yourself.
Sealants are an effective way to fill the small ridges on the chewing surface of your child’s teeth. The application of the sealant is easy to achieve, typically lasts for several years, and can dramatically assist in preventing decay from food and plaque.
Women have unique needs to maintain excellent oral health due to physical and hormonal changes they experience as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, menstruation and menopause. We understand the potential for oral lesions and ulcers, dry sockets, and swollen gums comes as a natural byproduct of women’s changing bodies throughout life.
As these phases of a woman’s health occur, we suggest regular visits to the dentist. We understand the interaction between oral health and overall physical health, including how gum disease may contribute to a higher risk of premature births, and how birth control pills may increase the risk of gingivitis.
Our team can help educate women about how to maintain excellent oral health, and how to integrate an oral health strategy throughout important phases in life.