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Infant Dental Care
How many teeth does a child have? Count them… 8? 16? 20? Would you believe 52? This sounds amazing, but it’s true. From birth all 20 of the baby (primary) teeth and several of the adult (permanent) teeth are formed. By age 3, almost all of the 32 permanent teeth are well on their way. What’s even more amazing is that there are several steps you can take now, while your child is a baby, that will determine their oral health well into adulthood.
The two lower front teeth are usually the first to arrive at around 6-10 months of age. Teething continues until about 2 1/2 years of age, when the second primary molars erupt. During teething, the child’s gums may look a little red and swollen, and they may experience excessive drooling and grumpiness. Other signs of a toothache may include: loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and a transient low-grade fever. If your baby experiences: a high or prolonged fever, a rash or vomiting, these are signs that something else may be wrong and you should consult your pediatrician.
To help relieve teething discomfort, you can give your child a cool teething ring or frozen washcloth to chew on. The cold will help loosen the gums and the chewing will help the new teeth break through. Care should be taken not to allow your child to chew on objects that could break apart and become a choking hazard. Children’s Tylenol and preparations that numb the gums should be used sparingly and only as a last resort.
IMPORTANCE OF THE LEBED TEETH
Although it is true that the primary teeth will eventually be replaced, they serve very important roles. Like your permanent teeth, your child’s primary teeth are necessary for: proper chewing and eating, speech development and attractive appearance. In addition, the primary teeth play an important role in the development of jaw bones and muscles, and help guide the permanent teeth into position. The second primary molars are not usually replaced until 12-14 years of age and should generally last for 10 years or more.
Cleaning should begin even before the first tooth erupts. After each feeding you should gently clean your baby’s gums with a clean wet gauze or washcloth. This will allow you to check that everything seems normal and creates a healthy oral environment for the first tooth to erupt. You can continue to clean the first new primary teeth with gauze or a washcloth. Once your fingers are in danger, it’s time to graduate to a soft, child-sized toothbrush. Brushing should be done at least twice a day, and most importantly, before going to bed.
Fluoride toothpaste is not intended to be swallowed and should not be used with young children until they can reliably rinse and spit. If they get the proper dietary fluoride supplement, babies don’t need the extra fluoride from toothpaste. There are now several toothpastes available in pharmacies and supermarkets that are specially formulated for babies. These children’s toothpastes do not contain fluoride, are safe to swallow, and are less abrasive than standard children’s and adult toothpastes.
Once your child is able to rinse and spit, fluoride toothpaste should be used. Parents of young children should be especially careful with “tasty” children’s toothpaste. Because of their pleasant taste, some children like to eat these toothpastes. This should be strongly discouraged. Parents should make sure that only a small pea-sized piece of fluoride toothpaste is used with each brushing.
Fluoride is one of our most effective tools for fighting tooth decay. By strengthening teeth, it helps prevent cavities between teeth where the toothbrush cannot reach. Fluoride can also reverse small microscopic cavities before they become large enough to require restoration. Because there is no fluoride in the water in Suffolk and Nassau counties, most children living here should start taking a dietary fluoride supplement by six months of age. Your child’s pediatric dentist or pediatrician can advise you on the appropriate fluoride supplement for your child.
CARIES OF FRINFANAZA
One of the most emotionally and physically devastating oral diseases is early childhood caries. It causes severe, rapid decay of baby teeth and can rob a child of their attractive smile. Often, the four upper front teeth may need to be extracted before the age of 2. The good news is that this disease is 100% preventable.
Early childhood caries most often results when a baby is allowed to fall asleep with a bottle of milk, formula, juice or sweet water such as a pacifier. During sleep, these liquids pool around the baby’s teeth for long periods. The naturally occurring bacteria (plaque) in the child’s mouth produce acids that attack the tooth surface. Unless treated immediately, it can completely destroy the primary teeth and cause infections and abscesses that can damage the developing permanent teeth.
So what can you do? Prevention is easy. If your child needs a comforter at nap time, bedtime, or between regular feedings, give them a bottle filled only with cool water. If they get enough nutrition during regular feedings, they don’t need milk or juice at bedtime. If your child already has a bedtime milk/juice bottle habit, changing the routine can be difficult. Be persistent, don’t give up. The few sleepless nights that may result will be a worthwhile investment in your child’s future smile.
Many children’s medicines are sweet, sticky syrups. If left around the teeth, they can also lead to early childhood caries. To prevent problems: clean your child’s mouth after each administration, and avoid giving medication at bedtime when they may not swallow the entire dose.
THUMB SUCKING AND SUCKERS
The sucking reflex is very strong in a newborn. A sonogram will often reveal the infant’s thumb sucking while still in the womb. Thumb and pacifier sucking habits are normal for babies and toddlers. These habits are preferable to bedtime for comfort, as they do not cause tooth decay. If given up around age 3 1/2, sucking habits present very little chance of causing orthodontic problems in the permanent teeth.
VISIT THE PEDIATRIC DENTIST
Preventive dental care should start “the younger the better”. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents schedule their baby’s first visit before 12 months. Early on, routine dental care will ensure that any problems can be detected and treated early, or even avoided altogether. Experience shows that children who have a “dental home” and who participate regularly in a preventive program have a much lower incidence of dental disease than those who are seen sporadically. In addition, enjoyable visits to the pediatric dentist will help your child establish confidence and trust that will last a lifetime. Our office does not pay for “well baby” dental visits for children under 24 months of age. By getting started on preventive dental care, you can help ensure that your baby’s 52 teeth are part of a healthy, attractive smile for life.
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