Dental Care for Baby Teeth

baby teeth family dentistry, baby smile missing tooth

The white toothy smile of a happy child is one of the most satisfying things in the world for parents.  Eating meals together and watching your youngest children experience new tastes and flavours is one of the best parts of family life.  By contrast, the anguish of seeing and hearing an unhappy child with cavities and sore teeth cuts Mom and Dad to the core.  They blame their kids for not brushing properly, and they blame themselves for not watching closely enough at bedtime and after breakfast.  But in truth, such natural developments are hard to prevent. Like everyone these days, kids consume a lot of hidden sugars that increase bacteria in their mouths.  Tooth decay begins with a group of germs called mutans streptococcus.  This bacteria feeds on sugar and produces acid that eats away at the structure of teeth by depleting calcium from the enamel, and baby teeth are particularly susceptible to these germs.  Baby teeth are softer than permanent teeth, which makes them more easily damaged by sugars added to many processed foods and the acids found in liquids such as soda, juice and flavored water.

baby teeth schematic developmentThe Fetal Origins of Baby Teeth

Children’s teeth begin developing in the fetus.  The mother’s diet is a factor as good nutrition during pregnancy is important in the development of their child’s teeth. Mom should be eating foods that are high in calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C, and vitamin D.  Certain medications, such as tetracycline, should not be taken by the mother while she is pregnant as this can cause harm to the developing teeth of the embryo.

What are natal teeth? While most infants get their first teeth months after their birth, some babies are born with one or more teeth already in place.  These are called natal teeth.  Natal teeth are relatively rare in humans; the phenomenon occurs about once in approximately two thousand human births.

Babies Learn Through Their Mouths

Babies experience great pleasure and satisfaction through their mouths. Even when not feeding, sucking on a finger or pacifier can change their behavior from crying to contentment. When babies grow strong enough to crawl around on their own, and explore their world, they do it by placing objects in their mouths. So when their mouth becomes a source of pain it can be quite unsettling for some children. If you’ve ever bitten the inside of your cheek, you know just how distracting a bit of newly irregular flesh can be. For a baby, the sudden intrusion of a sharp tooth through tender gums can be quite an adjustment. Some get used to it quickly, but at first it can be more uncomfortable than a pebble in a shoe.

One trick to tackling teething pain may be to give your toddler something cold and wet to chew-on and let them massage their own gums. The same way ice works on a sprained ankle to numb pain and reduce swelling, cold compresses and other items soothe sore gums. A cold washcloth trick can be quite effective; soak a washcloth in cold chamomile tea and then place it inside a clean plastic bag in the refrigerator.  When you remove the washcloth from the bag, your child will enjoy munching on it and experiencing the material on their gums while the cold numbs the pain. Chamomile tea flavouring is optional and dilute tinctures can help children sleep at bedtime.

child brushing teeth blue eyes toothbrush

Baby Teeth Matter

Babies’ teeth begin to develop before they are born, but in most cases these teeth don’t come through until they’re between 6 and 12 months old. Most children have a full set of 20 milk or baby teeth by the time they’re three years old. When they reach age five these teeth will start to fall out, making way for adult teeth. Because baby teeth are only temporary, people might be tempted to think they’re not very important. They are not practice teeth or ‘disposables’ as such, but very important in their own right.  Healthy baby teeth are essential for speech development, building self esteem, and promoting good nutrition through proper chewing. They are also necessary for saving space in the jaw for the proper development and positioning of adult teeth.

Avoid Sipping On Juice Or Milk

The harmful oral bacteria in our mouths that causes tooth decay feeds on sugar. Every time our children eat or drink something sugary the bacteria count rises with new chemical energy. In a normal child’s mouth it then takes about half an hour for their own saliva to wash away the leftover sugars. However, when we give our kids sippy cups or bottles of milk or juice to drink over a long period of time, their saliva doesn’t have time to wash away the residue and their oral bacteria continues to multiply unabated.  This is such a common problem that it has a name: bottle rot. You can protect your child’s teeth from bottle rot by making only water available during the day, and by feeding milk or juice at mealtimes. The best practice seems to be only giving them bottles or sippy cups of water to sip on while they play, or when you put them to bed.

Thumb-sucking & Pacifiers

It is perfectly natural and healthy for babies and toddlers to suck on their thumbs or fingers or use a pacifier. Doing so helps them feel safe and happy, and most children will stop the practice on their own around age four. However, if they continue the habit after that period, it can begin to impact their dental alignment and create problems like an open bite.  Archer Dental blog has already outlined some easy to execute ways to help your child stop sucking their thumb. Come see us if you’re concerned about your child’s thumb-sucking or constant need for a pacifier.

Dentists can help by using Dental Sealant

How dental sealants work to prevent tooth decayOne of the ways Archer Dental can help your children grow and maintain strong, healthy teeth is to use dental sealant on newly erupted molars.  Dental sealant is a thin coating made from special plastic that is applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the teeth in the back of the mouth.  Dental sealant helps keep food particles and germs from getting stuck in the grooves of these teeth, which can cause decay. The back teeth are often the first to show signs of decay, so many parents take this extra step to protect them.  The sealant is usually applied as soon as your child’s permanent molars come in between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. Once those molars have erupted, it is a good idea to have your dentist apply the sealant as soon as possible.  The sealing process is quick and easy, with no discomfort, and their teeth will be protected for years in the future.

Good Oral Health Habits

No matter what your child eats or drinks, if they have sealants, and if they grow out of using a pacifier or sucking their thumb on their own, nothing can replace good oral health habits like daily brushing and flossing. While your child is too young to do it themselves, you can do it for them and with them and explain why it’s so important for keeping their teeth healthy and happy.

Do not use teething tablets, gels with benzocaine, homeopathic teething gels or tablets, or amber teething necklaces. Stay away from teething tablets that contain the plant poison belladonna and gels with benzocaine. Belladonna and benzocaine are marketed to numb your child’s pain, but the FDA has issued warnings against both due to potential side effects. In addition, amber teething necklaces are not recommended.  Necklaces placed around an infant’s neck can pose a strangulation risk or be a potential choking hazard. There is also very little medical research to support the necklace’s effectiveness.

Get Regular Check Ups at Archer Dental, a Trusted Family Dentist

Don’t forget that one of your best resources for keeping your child’s teeth healthy is the dentist!  With regular checkups, Archer Dental can make sure that everything is progressing normally and answer any questions that either you or your child might regarding the condition of the teeth today and proper care going forward.  Parents searching for a family dentist should know that we focus on oral hygiene and overall tooth health.  We accept patients of any age, and that means we specialize in treating elderly patients as well as toddlers. By bringing your whole family to any one of our three dental clinics means you can have everyone’s oral health issues examined at one time and in one place. This is an important consideration when choosing your dentist as you want your family to feel comfortable and it must be convenient in order to promote regular attendance.

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