Although they may seem "disposable" as children eventually lose them, primary teeth are very important to a child's dental and oral health ... and proper maintenance is a must!
Neglected cavities can often lead to problems when children start to develop permanent teeth. Primary (or "Baby") teeth play an important role in adequately chewing food, providing space and correct positioning for the permanent teeth, and allowing healthy development of the jaw bone and muscles. Additionally, healthy primary teeth allow children to develop correct speech patterns and pronunciation.
Did You Know? Although the front four primary teeth last until about 6 or 7 years of age, a child's back primary teeth usually stay in-place until 11 or 12 years old!
So, your infant's first tooth has just erupted! So what do you do?
When this happens for the first time, it's important to being a daily brushing routine. A pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste should be used after the child is old enough not to swallow it. By age 4 or 5, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with your supervision. Once your child turns 7 or 8, be sure that they are able to thoroughly and correctly brush their teeth on their own. After periodic check-up visits at Frisco Mini Molars, Dr. Mitchell can consult with you on whether or not your child is able to brush their teeth on their own and offer further advice if necessary.
Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces of your child's teeth. When you teach your child how to brush their teeth at home, place their toothbrush at a 45-degree angle in their mouth. Start brushing along gum line with a soft bristle brush in a gentle circular motion – continue to brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of each tooth.
Pro Tip: Finish by brushing the tongue to remove bacteria and, as a result, help freshen their breath!
What About Flossing?
Flossing removes plaque between the teeth where a toothbrush usually cannot reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. You may wish to floss the child’s teeth until he or she can do it alone. Use about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss lightly between the thumbs and forefingers. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this until all teeth are properly flossed.
Pro Tip: Don't forget to floss the very back four teeth in your child's mouth. These surfaces can be tricky to reach, thus often missed!
Believe it or not, a consistent diet of candy bars and sugary drinks may not be the best thing for your child's dental health!
Naturally, healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth! Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Many snacks and sugar-coated goodies often lead to cavity formation – so the more candy, junk food and generally unhealthy snacks your child eats, the greater chance he or she has for developing tooth decay.
Interestingly, how long food remains in the mouth also plays a role in preventing or encouraging cavities. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. Help your child by offering nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.
Pro Tip! Not all food and snacks have to be "boring" in order to be healthy. Try finding sweet-tasting healthy alternatives to junk food to keep in your home. There are many varieties of sugar-free candy, snacks and gum if your child is craving something sweet!
Proper oral hygiene helps remove bacteria and food particles that lead to the development of cavities. To help prevent cavities in infant children, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water (this can lead to "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay").
We recommend that you schedule check-ups with Dr. Mitchell every six months once your child turns one year old. This will ensure that they have a healthy start to satisfactory check-ups through their entire childhood and beyond!
What's more: Dr. Mitchell may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child’s molars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.
Parents should be aware of a more serious form of tooth decay in young children, one called "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay". This is caused when an infant's teeth are exposed to liquids containing sugar for an extended period of time. Some parents may not realize this, but liquids such as milk and breast milk, baby formula, and fruit juice have a considerable amount of sugar in them – so over time, prolonged teeth exposure to these liquids can rapidly lead to cavities.
Many parents will put their baby down for a nap or at night with a bottle as a comforter – but before you do, think first: does the liquid in the bottle contain any amount of sugar? The sweet liquid will likely pool and completely encapsulate itself around the child's teeth when laying down, giving plaque bacteria a huge advantage in producing the acids that attack tooth enamel.
The best thing you can do when putting your child down to bed is to give them water! This simple rule will severely help fight against the effects of baby bottle tooth decay, and you could avoid the situation altogether.
Ask any dentist or medical professional this question, and you will find vastly different answers. However, one thing is certain: one should carefully choose a toothpaste that is both safe and effective for your child to use.
Many toothpastes and polishes have the potential to damage teeth. Some may contain harsh abrasives which can help deteriorate still-developing tooth enamel. Be sure to pick out a toothpaste that is recommended by the American Dental Association, in which these products have been thoroughly tested to ensure their safety.
When brushing, make sure your children spit out their toothpaste after brushing to avoid ingesting too much fluoride and dealing with the conditions associated with having too much fluoride in their system. If your child is too young to spit out toothpaste, there are fluoride-free toothpaste variants available to avoid any complications associated with fluoride ingestion.
Do you hear the sound of your child grinding his or her teeth at night? Are you finding noticeable wear on your child's teeth? Some parents are often concerned about this condition (called Bruxism) and may not know the cause of it. There are actually several theories among the medical community regarding the cause of Bruxism, and there actually may be unique causes behind this condition from child to child.
Psychological Components may lead to Bruxism, such as stress due to a new environment, family issues, changes at school or anything else that shakes a child's world-view.
Inner-Ear Pressure is another theory provided by the medical community, stating that pressure changes (much like when one's ears "pop" when changing altitudes occur during a plane flight) cause a child to nocturnally attempt to equalize pressure by making a chewing-motion with their jaw.
Interestingly, most pediatric Bruxism cases do not require any treatment – in fact, most children outgrow Bruxism altogether – but the simplest of treatments, especially when excessive wear of teeth is present, is a simple mouth guard that the child inserts in their mouth at night. Please feel free to talk with Dr. Mitchell about the possible pros and cons to your child wearing a night guard to combat the effects of Bruxism.
The large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it by the age of four, without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. If your child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt, or sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.
Along with favorite blankets, teddy bears, and nap time, thumb-sucking can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood. According to a recent report, between 75% and 95% of infants suck their thumbs, so chances are there's a thumb-sucker (or a former thumb-sucker) in your family. Is this cause for worry?
In most cases, no. However, it's important to pay attention to your child's habits, in case their behavior has the potential to affect his or her oral health.
What Is Normal Thumb-Sucking Behavior?
The majority of children suck a thumb or a finger from a very young age; most even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant, and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.
According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them.
However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower their chances of continuing to suck his or her thumb). If your child is still sucking when his permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.
What Signs Should I Watch For?
First, take note of how your child sucks their thumb. If he or she sucks passively, with their thumb gently resting inside his or her mouth, they are less likely to cause damage. If, on the other hand, your child is an aggressive thumb-sucker, placing pressure on their mouth or teeth, the habit may cause problems with tooth alignment and proper mouth growth. Extended sucking affects both the teeth and the shape of the face and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future.
If at any time you suspect your child's thumb-sucking may be affecting his or her oral health, please give us a call or bring him in for a visit. We can help you assess the situation.
How Can I Help My Child Quit Thumb-Sucking?
Should you need to help your child end their habit, follow these guidelines:
1. Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb-sucking, give praise when he or she doesn't suck.
2. Put a band-aid on your child's thumb or a sock over their hand at night. Let them know that this is not a punishment, just a way to help them remember to avoid sucking.
3. Start a progress chart and let your child put a sticker up every day that they don't suck their thumb. If they make it through a week without sucking, they get to choose a prize (trip to the zoo, new set of blocks, etc.) When your child has filled up a whole month reward them with something great (a ball glove or new video game); by then the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in his treatment will increase his willingness to break the habit.
4. If you notice your child sucking when he's anxious, work on alleviating their anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb-sucking.
5. Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides, while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions.
6. Explain clearly what might happen to his or her teeth if they keeps sucking their thumb.
Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the thumb-sucking habit.
"Bad Bites" or malocclusions are developed over time and can be recognized in children as young as 2 or 3 years old. Early steps can be taken to reduce the requirement for major orthodontic treatment when they're older, so it's never too early to keep an eye on your child's oral development.
During your child's dentist appointment, Dr. Mitchell can identify malocclusions, often recognizable as crowded/crooked teeth or bite misalignments, and intervene by recommending steps to help guide teeth as they emerge in your child's mouth. Orthodontic treatment at an early age can help prevent more extensive treatment later in a child's life.
Orthodontic problems are often inherited but can also be caused by dental injuries, premature loss of primary teeth or even pacifier/thumb sucking (see the Thumb Sucking section on this page for more information). It's best to help children break or avoid sucking and biting habits in order to prevent possibly serious dental issues that may require extensive orthodontic treatment.
The benefits of orthodontic treatments go well beyond having a beautiful smile. Straight teeth are far easier to keep clean and less vulnerable to dental caries and gum disease. Maintaining a healthy smile becomes significantly more difficult when teeth are crooked or misaligned. Remember: it's not ALL about keeping your child looking great – it's ALSO about keeping them healthy!
If your child does require orthodontic treatment, the use of orthodontic appliances (such as braces, retainers or expanders) may be used to help re-shape and re-align any amount of teeth or dental structures in the mouth. Some of these appliances may alter speech patterns and most will require children to avoid eating certain foods (such as hard, sticky foods and snacks like gum, caramel, peanuts, etc.) in order to preserve the instruments' effectiveness and reliability. In any case, many options are available to your child for their unique orthodontic situation.
Dr. Mitchell may recommend a trusted partnering orthodontist to fulfill these needs, but every child's case and situation will widely vary. Be sure to ask about available options for your child during their visit to Frisco Mini Molars!
At Frisco Mini Molars, we want to make sure you are as educated and in-the-know as possible in order to take the very best care of your child's dental health! Please feel free to speak with Dr. Mitchell or any of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members if you have a question regarding your child's teeth.
|What To Do In An Emergency
Clean the area of the affected tooth. Rinse the mouth thoroughly with warm water or use dental floss to dislodge any food that may be impacted. If the pain still exists, contact your child's dentist. Do not place aspirin or heat on the gum or on the aching tooth. If the face is swollen, apply cold compresses and contact your dentist immediately.
Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek
Apply ice to injured areas to help control swelling. If there is bleeding, apply firm but gentle pressure with a gauze or cloth. If bleeding cannot be controlled by simple pressure, call a doctor or visit the hospital emergency room.
Knocked Out Permanent Tooth
If possible, find the tooth. Handle it by the crown, not by the root. You may rinse the tooth with water only. DO NOT clean with soap, scrub or handle the tooth unnecessarily. Inspect the tooth for fractures. If it is sound, try to reinsert it in the socket. Have the patient hold the tooth in place by biting on gauze. If you are unable to reinsert the tooth, transport the tooth in a cup containing cold milk. If the patient is old enough, the tooth may also be carried in the patient’s mouth (beside the cheek). The patient must see a dentist IMMEDIATELY! Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.
Knocked Out Baby Tooth
Contact your pediatric dentist during business hours. This is not usually an emergency, and in most cases, no treatment is necessary.
Chipped or Fractured Permanent Tooth
Contact your pediatric dentist immediately. Quick action can save the tooth, prevent infection and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment. Rinse the mouth with water and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling. If possible, locate and save any broken tooth fragments and bring them with you to the dentist.
Chipped or Fractured Baby Tooth
Contact your pediatric dentist.
Severe Blow to the Head
Take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room immediately.
Possible Broken or Fractured Jaw
Keep the jaw from moving and take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room.