Early Dental Information
Infants’ New Teeth
A child’s teeth start forming before birth. As early as four months of age, the primary or “baby” teeth push through the gums—the lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age three, but the place and order varies. Until the age of three, your child’s gums will be sore, tender and sometimes irritable. Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well and teething biscuits can be used, but watch that your baby does not bite off a piece that he or she can choke on.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth (especially on the inside of the top front teeth) every two weeks for brown spotting. A bottle containing anything other than water that’s left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This happens because 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, 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 plaque.
Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier. Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Contact our office if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.
A Child’s First Dental Visit
A child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around his or her first birthday. The most important part of the visit is getting to know and becoming comfortable with the doctor and the staff. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future dental visits. Often times, our dentists will recommend that the child sit in a parent’s lap in the exam room.
Why Primary Teeth Are Important
The primary, or “baby,” teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they replace the primary teeth. Permanent teeth begin eruption around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth—32 including the third molars (wisdom teeth).
Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, 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 pediatric dentist. The way your child cares for his or her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he or she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular dental cleanings and 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 (and avoid) cavities and other common dental problems. Many processed snacks that children eat can cause cavities, so parents should try to provide healthy foods for snacks whenever possible, like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, in order to promote strong teeth.