Infants should be seen by our dental team after the first 6 months of age or at least by your child’s first birthday. By this time, your baby’s first teeth or primary teeth are beginning to erupt, therefore it is a critical time to spot any problems before they escalate.
Conditions like gum irritation and thumb-sucking can create future problems. Babies who suck their thumbs may be setting the stage for malformed teeth and bite relationships.
Baby bottle tooth decay is another problem that can be spotted early, which is caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices combining with saliva to form pools inside your baby’s mouth. If left untreated, this can lead to premature decay of your baby’s future primary teeth, which can then hamper proper formation of permanent teeth.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
One of the best ways to prevent baby bottle tooth decay is to not allow your baby to nurse on a bottle while going to sleep. Dipping pacifiers in sweet substances such as honey also encourages early decay in your baby’s mouth. Encouraging your child to drink from a cup as early as possible helps prevent problems associated with baby bottle tooth decay.
Teething, Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking
Teething is a sign that your child’s gums are sore, which is normal. You can help relieve pain by allowing your 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 age 4, teething rings and pacifiers can be safely used to support your child’s oral needs for relieving gum pain and for suckling. Beyond age 4, pacifiers are generally discouraged because they may interfere with the development of your child’s teeth. Thumb-sucking should also be discouraged because it can lead to malformed teeth that become crooked and crowded.
Primary and Permanent Teeth
Every child grows 20 primary teeth, usually by age 3. Their teeth are gradually replaced by age 12 with a full set of 28 permanent teeth and later on, four molars called wisdom teeth.
It is essential that your child’s primary teeth are healthy, because their development sets the stage for their permanent teeth. If their primary teeth become diseased or do not grow in properly, chances are greater that their permanent replacements will suffer. Poorly formed primary teeth that don’t erupt properly can crowd out spaces reserved for other teeth. Space maintainers are often used to correct this condition, if it is spotted early enough.
Babies’ gums and teeth can be gently cleaned with infant toothbrushes that fit over your finger. Water is suitable in lieu of toothpaste as your baby may swallow the toothpaste. We advise parents to avoid fluoride toothpastes on children under age 2.
Primary teeth can be cleansed with child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrushes. Remember to use small portions of toothpaste and teach your child to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste when they are finished.
Fluoride is present in most public drinking water systems. If you are unsure about your community’s water and fluoride content, there are fluoride supplements that our dentist can prescribe. Your child may not be getting enough fluoride by just using fluoride toothpaste.
Toothaches are common in young children. They are caused by erupting teeth, but can also indicate a serious problem. You can safely relieve a small child’s toothache without the aid of medication by rinsing their 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 us immediately.
Help your child prevent oral injuries by closely supervising them during play and not allowing your child to put foreign objects in the mouth.
For younger children involved in physical activities and sports, mouth guards are strongly encouraged and can prevent injuries to their teeth, gums, lips and other oral structures. Mouth guards are small plastic appliances that safely fit around your child’s teeth. Many mouth guards are soft and pliable when opened, therefore mould to your child’s teeth when first inserted.
If the tooth has been knocked out, try to place the tooth back in its socket while waiting to see our dentist. Remember to hold the dislocated tooth by the crown, not the root. If you cannot relocate the tooth, place it in a container of cold milk, saline or your child’s own saliva.
Then, rinse your child’s mouth of any blood or other debris and place a cold cloth or compress on the cheek near the injury. This will keep down swelling.
For a fractured tooth, it’s 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 sanded or restored by our dentist if the pulp is not severely damaged.
If your child’s primary tooth has been loosened by an injury or an emerging permanent tooth, try getting your child to gently bite down on an apple or piece of caramel. In some cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gum.
Irritation caused by retainers or braces can sometimes be relieved by placing a tiny piece of cotton or gauze 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 us immediately and avoid dislodging it yourself.
Sealants fill in the little ridges on the chewing part of your teeth to protect and seal the tooth from food and plaque. The application is easy to apply and typically last for several years.