toothcare

Prevention Tips for Children

Infants

We will see infants after the first six months of age or by the child's first birthday. The baby's first teeth, or primary teeth, are beginning to come in. This is a critical time when we can spot any problems before they become big concerns.

Conditions like gum irritation and thumb-sucking could create problems later on. Those babies that suck on their thumbs could be setting the stage for teeth that are malformed and create bite relationships.

Left untreated, this can later lead to premature decay of your baby's primary teeth. That can also hamper the proper formation of any permanent teeth.

"Baby bottle tooth decay," which is caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, will combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth. Teeth soak in these pools, causing problems later on. 

One of the best ways to avoid this is to not allow your baby to nurse on a bottle while going to sleep. Also, don’t dip pacifiers in sweet substances like honey, this encourages early decay in your baby's mouth. Get your young child to drink from a cup as early on as possible. This will help avoid the problems associated with baby bottle tooth decay.

Teething, Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking

Teething means your child's gums are sore. This is normal. You can relieve this condition by allowing your baby to suck on a teething ring. You can also gently rub your baby's gums with the back of a small spoon, a piece of wet gauze, or your finger.

Babies that are under 4 can use teething rings and pacifiers to safely accommodate their oral needs, relieving gum pain and for suckling. Pacifiers are discouraged after 4 because they may interfere with the development of your child's teeth.

You should strongly discourage thumb-sucking. This habit can lead to malformed teeth, which become crooked and crowded.

Primary and Permanent Teeth

By the age of 3, every child has grown 20 primary teeth. These are gradually replaced by the age of 12 with a full set of 28 permanent teeth. Four molars, or "wisdom teeth" come after that.

You want to maintain the health of a child's primary teeth. These teeth establish the stage for the development of the permanent teeth. Should primary teeth become diseased or not grow in properly, it increases the chances their permanent replacements will suffer as well. If the primary teeth are poorly formed and erupt irregularly, they could crowd out spaces reserved for other teeth. If it is spotted early on, space maintainers may be used to correct the condition.

Brushing

You can clean babies' gums and teeth with a special infant toothbrush that fits over your finger. Instead of toothpaste, water will suffice as a cleaning agent. You don’t want your baby to swallow the toothpaste. Do not use fluoride toothpastes on children under the age of 2.

Primary teeth can also be cleansed with child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush. Be sure to use small portions of toothpaste (pea-sized is ideal). Be sure to teach your child to spit out the toothpaste, not swallow it.

Fluoride

You’ll find fluoride in most public drinking water. However, if you’re hesitant about your community's drinking water and its fluoride content, or you learn that fluoride levels are high, your dentist can prescribe fluoride supplements. Note, that your child may not be getting sufficient fluoride from fluoride toothpaste.

Toothaches

It’s not uncommon for young children to have a toothache. This can be caused by erupting teeth or it’s possible it could be an indication of a serious problem.

A little warm water and table salt will safely relieve a small child's toothache. Medication isn’t needed. Rinse the mouth with this solution. If the pain doesn't subside, you can try acetaminophen. If that doesn’t help, contact your dentist immediately.

Injuries

Prevent oral injuries by closely supervising your child during play. Also don’t allow the child to put foreign objects in the mouth.

Mouth guards are strongly encouraged for younger children who are involved in physical activities and sports. They can prevent a lot of injuries to the teeth, gums, lips and other oral structures.

These small plastic appliances safely fit around your child's teeth. Many mouth guards are soft and pliant when opened. They will mold to a child's teeth when they’re first inserted.

Should the tooth have been knocked out, you should place it back in its socket while you are waiting to see our office. Always hold the dislocated tooth by the crown—not the root. If you cannot put the tooth back in the child’s mouth, place it in a container of cold milk, saline or the victim's own saliva.

You should rinse any blood or other debris from the area. Then place a cold cloth or compress on the cheek near the injury. This will limit the swelling.

If the tooth is fractured, rinse it with warm water. Then apply a cold pack or compress to the affected area. Use Ibuprofen to keep down swelling. Should the fracture be minor, the tooth can be sanded. If the pulp is not severely damaged the tooth can be restored by the dentist.

If you have a loosened primary tooth caused by an injury or an emerging permanent tooth, get the child to gently bite down on an apple or a piece of caramel. In most cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gum.

Sometimes retainers or braces can cause irritation. To relieve it, place a tiny piece of cotton or gauze on the tip of a wire or other protruding object. If the injury is caused by a piece of the retainer or braces and lodges in the soft tissue, contact our office immediately. Don’t attempt to dislodge it yourself.