In the 1940’s, dental infections were a leading cause of death – teeth were routinely removed without a second thought or opinion and dental care for children was rarely discussed. Thankfully, changes in modern dentistry, advancements in x-ray technology and wide-spread education about the importance of oral health has led to increased awareness of the importance of brushing and seeing a dental professional early and regularly.
Many people are surprised to learn that good dental care starts as early as the day your child arrives home from the hospital. This should include gently wiping the infant’s gums with a soft cloth twice a day, preferably after breakfast and as part of a bedtime routine. Some pediatric dentists suggest performing this cleansing routine after every feeding. The benefits are two-fold. The process of having an adult’s fingers in their mouth becomes second nature and makes the transition to the dentist less stressful when the time comes. Once the first teeth appear, this cleansing step becomes even more important because it helps remove bacteria and sugars from developing young teeth. Parents can use a soft cloth, gauze or even over-the-counter products designed for newborns. Toothpaste is not necessary at this age and, per the American Dental Association, children under two should not ingest fluoride.
In fact, some parents may be lured into the idea of purchasing special “baby water” or “nursery water”, bottled water that has added fluoride. They make the assumption that if fluoride is added to city water, with the blessing of the ADA, then it must be safe for their infant as well. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In topical treatments, fluoride has been known to combat cavities but the effects of ingesting it are beginning to surface. Reports now state that fluoride can have negative effects on both children and adults including thyroid problems, kidney disease and cancer. One study even reports that ingesting just 1 mg of fluoride can cause the loss of 1.7 IQ points in a child. Many municipalities throughout the United States and Canada are now reconsidering the wide-spread practice of fluoridating the community’s water supply. In fact, when the idea was first suggested in the 1940’s, dental care was lacking in both adults and children. Today, quality dental care is available and accessible to everyone and fluoridating the water is no longer even necessary.
Another aspect of early dental care and cavity prevention is a simple step that any parent can take: not putting baby to bed with a bottle of juice, milk or formula. The sugars in those liquids can combine with bacteria in the mouth to form an acid. The acid, in turn, can eat away at the enamel on baby’s growing teeth and cause tooth decay. This is sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay by parents and can lead to cavities. Pediatric dentists have given their approval for bottles filled with fresh water or clean pacifiers as an acceptable substitute.
So, when does that all important first tooth appear? It depends on the child and the family’s oral history, but generally parents can expect to see the first tooth between four and seven months. There is no particular deadline and getting them early or later is perfectly normal, as well. It has no bearing on later, adult teeth or on other dental development.
The process of teething can be a trying time for many children. The sensation of sharp teeth erupting through sensitive gums can be quite painful, although some babies do not even seem to notice. The symptoms vary per child and often can vary with each tooth as well. Ranging from crying and general fussiness to refusing to eat and a low level fever, teething can be unsettling for many new parents. The most obvious and telltale sign that teething has started is the drooling. In fact, toddlers frequently walk around with wet t-shirts from the copious amounts of drool; bibs can prevent this dilemma. Frozen teething rings can help ease the pain but parents can also check with their pediatrician for over-the-counter medicines to reduce fevers and help with severe pain and sleepless nights.
Many parents might wonder why it is necessary to take care of these little baby teeth if a new set will grow in to replace them in just a few short years. In fact, by age six, the process has already begun for most children. The answer may surprise even a veteran parent. First and foremost, those little teeth act as space holders for the adult teeth. If one is lost, due to accident or tooth decay, the other teeth may crowd into the empty space and not allow enough room for the adult tooth to grow in. Likewise, missing baby teeth can make it difficult for small children to chew food properly and may make speech difficult. Children learn a variety of new sounds as they grow and need all their teeth to do so properly and without a lisp in this early, developmental stage. Lastly, the decay and eventually, the loss of a baby tooth may lead to an infection below the gum line. This infection could lead to the need for surgery, like a root canal, or worse, the adult tooth may never develop properly.
Are you a new patient??
It is important to see a dentist very early in your child’s life. In fact, most pediatric dentists prefer to see their young patients at least once by their 1st birthday. A cleaning is not necessarily performed but it gives the dentist the opportunity to introduce him or herself as well as to make sure everything is developing normally. The hygienist may even give a teeth brushing demo. Precocious children may find the experience exciting and fun, whereas shy children may be uncomfortable or begin to cry. Don’t worry. The dentist and his staff are more than used to this; they have a slew of stickers and free toothbrushes to hand out to combat the tears. Parents that are concerned about the reaction at future visits should consider having young children accompany them to their own cleanings so the process can be observed first hand. Sometimes just watching removes the fear factor.
Now that the baby teeth are in and the dentist has checked everything out, it is extremely important to teach your children good dental hygiene. Brushing teeth each morning and night can reduce cavities and gum disease. In fact, starting early can help make good dental care a habit. After the age of two, it is acceptable to use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on a soft bristle brush. Teach children to brush correctly, in a small circular motion. They should do the fronts, the backs and the chewing surfaces of the teeth. For young children or those who tend to rush, set an egg timer for three minutes.
Another aspect of dental care in children to consider is the first trip to the orthodontist. Believe it or not, the American Association of Orthodontists suggests that children see an orthodontist by the age of seven. In most cases, this visit is complimentary and is just to allow the orthodontist to see the developing mouth and jawline. In some instances, problems can be corrected now, before the mouth has finished its development. This may seem early but studies indicate that early orthodontic care can result in easier and shorter treatments, less expensive solutions and may eliminate the need for surgery or tooth extractions. Overbites and overcrowded mouths may need full treatment now and a second round as a teenager but can decrease the potential of bullying and embarrassment prevalent in the tween years and often caused by misaligned teeth. On the other hand, an underbite is best treated as soon as possible, before the jawline has finished developing. In fact, many orthodontists state that the window of opportunity has closed to correct that particular problem by the time the child reaches the age of ten.
The most important factor to remember in dental care for infants and young children is that they are never too young to start. From gently wiping the gums of newborns to seeing the dentist by the age of one and the orthodontist by seven, parents need to stay on top of their child’s dental development and form an early bond with the staff at their local dental office in order to safeguard their child’s overall oral health.
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR PRACTICE
When you make us your Dentist in Vista, you will experience all that modern dentistry has to offer, including a comprehensive list of general, restorative and cosmetic dental services to meet the needs of the whole family. This includes dental implants, teeth whitening, root canal therapy, and many other types of general dentistry procedures. Our goal is to assist each patient in achieving and maintaining long-term dental health and a beautiful smile. Some of the services we provide include:
Sealants & Fluoride
Root Canal Therapy
Tooth Colored Fillings
Crowns & Bridges
We’re located at:
138 Civic Center Dr Ste 115
Vista, CA 92084