Excellent diet and nutrition habits need to start early in life. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily, learn to speak clearly and smile with confidence. Sweet drinks are a particular problem as they may cause decay between the teeth. Drs. Carey and Jones will tell you: “Drink Water—It’s Healthy for Your Teeth!”
You will have two sets of teeth: primary (baby) teeth and secondary (permanent) teeth. A child’s teeth start forming before birth. As early as 4 months old, the first primary teeth push through the gums—the lower central incisors are generally first, then the upper central incisors follow. The remaining, of the 20 total primary teeth, erupt by age 3 but the order varies.
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 32 teeth including the third molars (wisdom teeth).
Teething normally the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums are sore, tender and sometimes irritable until the age of 3. Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well but look for BPA free products. While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth prior to twice daily brushings, especially on the inside or the tongue side. A bottle containing anything other than water and left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping will cause decay. During sleep, saliva flow decreases and sugar containing liquids pool around teeth for long time periods. When acids remain on tooth enamel for extended time periods they cause tooth decay. Infant formula or breast milk contain large amounts of sugars/acids that will cause decay if given the opportunity.
Baby (Primary) Teeth
The primary teeth play a crucial role in your child’s development. Good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth also allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth around age 6. 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. Family history of missing teeth should always be mentioned to your dentist. The way you and your child care for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats their permanent teeth.
Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups. Be sure to schedule your child’s first dental visit around his/her first birthday. Adult dental problems are almost exclusively introduced during childhood.
Permanent teeth will begin to grow around age 3 underneath the gums and bony structures of the mouth. Permanent teeth should all be present by the age of 14. A pediatric dentist at one interval will record these structures using an x-ray called a panorex x-ray. The panorex view allows the dentist to see all of the oral structures and determine growth and development. Usually this x-ray view is taken for the first time at age 6 upon eruption of the first permanent teeth and followed up again around age 9-10 for continued monitoring of growth and development.
While at our office, we make sure that your child receives the highest level of service and ensure that our dental work is of the best quality. To ensure that your child maintains great oral health, this level of quality needs to extend into their personal oral hygiene.
At your child’s first dental visit, Dr. Carey takes special time to educate parents on the importance of regular brushing and flossing, along with the proper diet essential to keeping teeth healthy. Our assistants accompany the child throughout their visit and give “kid friendly” advice on how to brush and floss – and most importantly – they make it fun!
We can help you establish a dental hygiene routine for your child that will keep their teeth healthy and white. If you have any questions about your child’s current hygiene plan please ask us.
The American Dental Hygiene Association states that a good oral hygiene routine for children includes:
- Thoroughly cleaning your infant’s gums after each feeding with a water-soaked infant cloth. This stimulates the gum tissue and removes food.
- Teaching your child at age 3 about proper brushing techniques with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste and later teaching them brushing and gentle flossing until 7 or 8 years old.
- Regular visits with their dentist to check for cavities in the primary teeth and for possible developmental problems.
- Encouraging your child to discuss any fears they may have about oral health visits, but not mentioning words like “pain” or “hurt,” since this may instill the possibility of pain in the child’s thought process.
- Determining if the water supply that serves your home is fluoridated; if not, discussing supplement options with your dentist or hygienist.
- Asking your hygienist or dentist about sealant applications to protect your child’s teeth-chewing surfaces and about bottle tooth decay, which occurs when teeth are frequently exposed to sugared liquids.
Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. It may make them feel secure and happy, or provide a sense of security at difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.
Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.
Children should cease thumb sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.
Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, consult your pediatric dentist.
A few suggestions to help your child get through thumb sucking:
- Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb sucking.
- Children who are sucking for comfort will feel less of a need when their parents provide comfort.
- Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from their parents.
- Your pediatric dentist can encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue.
- If these approaches don’t work, remind the children of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your pediatric dentist may recommend the use of a mouth appliance.
Please discuss the positive aspects of dentistry with your child. One way to convey good feelings to your child about dental visits is to remind them that going to the dentist is a sign that they are growing up. You can explain that Dr. Carey will count and take pictures of their teeth, and they will get to pick out a new toothbrush!
Please do not tell you child that the “dentist will not hurt” as this may never have entered their mind. Instead you may want to assure your child that the dentist will be friendly. Also, please avoid using the words “needle”, “shot”, “pull” or any other words suggesting unpleasantness.
Expect your child to do well and enjoy their visit to our office and chances are they will do just that!