Dental Care for Your Baby
How should I clean my baby’s teeth?
A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head, especially one designed for infants, is the best choice. Brushing at least once a day, at bedtime, will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.
At what age should my child have his/her first dental visit?
The AAPD encourages parents and other care providers to help every child establish a dental home by 12 months of age. The AAPD recognizes a dental home should provide: comprehensive oral health care including acute care and preventative services in accordance with AAPD periodicity schedules.
What is baby bottle tooth decay and how can I prevent it?
Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing. It happens when a child goes to sleep while breastfeeding and/or bottle feeding. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. Avoid nursing a child to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. He or she should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.
Can thumb sucking be harmful for my child’s teeth?
Thumb sucking and pacifier habits over a prolonged period of time can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems. If your child is still sucking on thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist. However, most children stop these habits on their own.
Educating parents and the community on cavity prevention is central to our practice. There are three key topics we address with each new patient to ensure good at-home care for teeth.
We call them the “Three Things”
- Help your child with brushing and flossing. Assist your children with brushing and flossing rituals at least until the third grade. This is when children are developing their fine motor skills and are capable of adopting this responsibility on their own.
- Ensure your child is getting enough fluoride. Fluoride works both topically and systemically to make tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities. Topical fluoride soaks into the very outer layer of the teeth (from toothpaste or mouthwash) while systemic fluoride works on developing teeth and is incorporated into the entire thickness of the tooth (from drinking water treated with fluoride). Systemic fluoride is most beneficial for developing teeth.
- Ensure your child is brushing after frequent snacks or meals. Eating habits are crucial to reducing your child’s cavity risk. We are less concerned about what your child eats and more concerned with how often your child is eating. Snackers and grazers are at a greater risk of cavities than those who eat at designated feeding times. The more frequent the snack, the more acid attack the mouth experiences! Brush often to decrease the bacteria growth caused by the breakdown of sugars.
Pediatric Dental Emergencies
Begin by cleaning around the sore tooth meticulously. Using warm salt water, rinse the mouth to displace any food trapped between teeth. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you use aspirin on the aching tooth or on the gum. In the event of facial swelling, apply a cold compress to the area. For temporary pain relief, acetaminophen is recommended. See a dentist as soon as possible.
Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek
Ice can be applied to any bruised areas. For bleeding, apply firm (but gentle) pressure with sterile gauze or a clean cloth. If the bleeding does not stop with pressure or continues after 15 minutes, go to an emergency room.
Broken Braces and Wires
Remove a broken appliance only if it comes out easily. If it is lodged or painful to remove, cover any protruding edges with wax, cotton balls, gauze or chewing gum. DO NOT REMOVE any wire caught in the gums, cheek or tongue; see a dentist immediately. Emergency attention is usually not required for loose or broken appliances that cause no discomfort.
Rinse the area with warm water. Put a cold compress over the facial area of the injury. Recover any broken tooth fragments. Get immediate dental attention.
Knocked Out Permanent Tooth
Recover the tooth, making sure to hold it by the crown (top) and not the root end. Rinse, but do not clean or handle the tooth more than necessary. Reinsert the tooth in the socket and hold it in place using a clean piece of gauze or cloth. If the tooth cannot be reinserted, carry it in a cup containing milk or water. Because time is essential, see a dentist immediately.
Other Emergency Conditions:
Possible Broken Jaw
In the event of jaw injury, tie the mouth closed with a towel, tie or handkerchief. Go immediately to an emergency room.
Bleeding After a Baby Tooth Falls Out
Fold a piece of gauze and place it (tightly) over the bleeding area. Bite down on the gauze for 15 minutes; if bleeding continues, see a dentist.
Cold or Canker Sores
Pediatric Dental FAQs
If my child gets a toothache, what should I do?
To comfort your child, rinse his/her mouth with warm salt water and apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in a cloth on your child’s face if it is swollen. Do not put heat or aspirin on the sore area, but you may give the child acetaminophen for pain. See our staff as soon as possible.
How safe are dental X-rays?
With contemporary safeguards, such as lead aprons and high-speed film, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. Even though there is very little risk, pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation. In fact, dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem.
My child plays sports. How should I protect my child’s teeth?
A mouth guard should be a top priority on your child’s list of sports equipment. Athletic mouth protectors, or mouth guards, are made of soft plastic and fit comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth. They protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports-related injuries. Any mouth guard works better than no mouth guard, but a custom mouth guard fitted by our doctor is your child’s best protection against sports-related injuries.
When do the first teeth start to erupt?
At about 6 months, the two lower front teeth (central incisors) will erupt, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. The remainder of the baby teeth appear during the next 18 to 24 months but not necessarily in an orderly sequence from front to back. At 2 to 3 years, all of these 20 primary teeth should be present.
What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?
First of all, remain calm. If possible, find the tooth and hold it by the crown rather than the root. Replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze or a washcloth. If you can’t put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with milk and take your child and the glass immediately to the pediatric dentist. The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.
How can I help my child through the teething stage?
Sore gums when teeth erupt are part of the normal eruption process. The discomfort is eased for some children by use of a teething biscuit, a piece of toast or a frozen teething ring. Your pharmacy should also have medications that can be rubbed on the gums to reduce discomfort.
I noticed a space between my child’s two upper front teeth. Is this cause for concern?
Usually, the space will close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. We can determine via a consultation whether there is cause for concern.
If my child gets a cavity in a baby tooth, should it still be filled?
Primary or baby teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Some of them are necessary until a child is 12 years old or longer. Pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health and premature loss of teeth are just a few of the problems that can happen when baby teeth are neglected. Tooth decay is really an infection that will spread and could cause decay of permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the health of your child.
What causes tooth decay?
Four things are necessary for cavities to form: a tooth, bacteria, sugars or carbohydrates, and time. Dental plaque is a thin, sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on everyone’s teeth. When you eat, the sugars in your food cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. With time and repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.
Is my child getting enough fluoride?
Fluoride dramatically decreases a person’s chances of getting cavities by making teeth stronger. Fluoride in the drinking water is the best and easiest way to get it, but to make sure your child is getting enough fluoride, have your pediatric district evaluate the fluoride level of your child’s primary source of water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride via water (especially in communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.
When should my child start using toothpaste?
Do not use fluoridated toothpaste for your kids until age 3. Earlier than that, clean your child’s teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. After age 3, parents should supervise brushing. Use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and make sure children do not swallow excess toothpaste.