It is important for parents to begin cleaning their child’s mouth before the first tooth erupts. The bacteria that causes cavities can live on your baby’s tongue, and parents should clean the teeth and gums with a damp cloth after feeding. This will help to minimize the number of bacteria in the baby’s mouth, which reduces their overall risk for cavities in the future.
Once teeth begin to erupt, parents should continue to clean the baby’s mouth after feedings. It is especially important to clean at bedtime, after a nighttime feeding. If milk (breast or other) sits on the teeth overnight, cavities will begin to form quickly. It is best to clean teeth immediately after the last feeding, or only offer plain water in a cup or bottle at bedtime to avoid future decay.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry both recommend establishing a dental home for your baby by his/her first birthday. Establishing a dental home with a board-certified pediatric dentist is much like establishing a medical home with a pediatrician for your child. Your child may develop concerns or require intervention for an unexpected problem, and it is important that you have a relationship with a doctor and staff who may help you.
Our practice offers a wide range of dental services for your children. Our emphasis is on total preventive care for our patients. Total care begins with regular check-ups, including cleanings, x-rays (when age appropriate), and comprehensive examinations. Consistent home oral health routines are reinforced at each visit and are important in maintaining a cavity free smile.
We provide many preventative measures to keep your child’s teeth clean and healthy, including sealants and fluoride varnish treatments. We also educate the parents in early detection of common problems children may face, including early childhood caries, identifying risk factors in diet, pacifier or thumb sucking habits, and other growth and development concerns. Early identification of these issues can save time, money and energy in the future.
Gingivitis, or gum disease, is inflammation of the soft tissues supporting the teeth. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums can bleed easily and become red and swollen. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. Gingivitis may also cause bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
Dental caries, also known as cavities, can be caused by sugary and/or acidic foods and drinks in your child’s diet. Bacteria in the mouth consume sugar and produce acids as waste, which in turn causes weakened areas in the enamel. If these weakened areas progress, a hole, or cavity, results.
- Cavities can occur on the chewing surface or along the gumline of the teeth, and these areas are visible to the naked eye. This type of cavity is usually caused by sugary, starchy snacks such as cookies, crackers, chips, or sometimes through poor brushing habits.
- Cavities may also occur between teeth, and these areas are only visualized through cavity detecting x-rays, or bitewing x-rays. This type of cavity is frequently caused by drinks other than white milk and plain water, or by sticky, sour candies. Our doctors prescribe these x-rays when back baby teeth are touching, and the child can follow directions to obtain them safely.
These result if a tooth with a cavity is left untreated for a period of time. Abscessed baby teeth are those which become infected and can no longer be saved by a restoration. These teeth require extraction. Without removal, abscessed teeth have the potential to cause facial cellulitis, a life-threatening infection which results in a swollen face and often requires a hospital admission for treatment of IV antibiotics.
Space maintainers are small retainers used to maintain proper growth and development when a baby tooth is lost early due to infection. These retainers are cemented to an adjacent tooth and remain until the new permanent tooth is near eruption.
Orthodontic concerns may often be identified in young children at their regular checkups. Growth and development concerns may be of a genetic origin, or caused by other factors such as a pacifier, thumb sucking habit, or enlarged tonsils. Our doctors trained two additional years to be competent in identifying potential growth issues at an early age, and to offer early interventions when appropriate that may minimize the need for future interventions. Our doctors utilize both clinical and radiographic examinations to identify orthodontic concerns.
Panoramic x-rays are prescribed when the first permanent tooth erupts, which is in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s guidelines on prescribing radiographs in children. This type of x-ray helps the doctors diagnose missing teeth, extra teeth, crowding, and other pathologies such as cysts, growths, or infections.
A bottle or sippy cup containing anything other than water and left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.
Because parents often unknowingly project their dental fears onto their children, it is important that our families support us in the use of kid-friendly terms and descriptors in conjunction with our various behavior management techniques. These synonyms help our patients to feel more relaxed and understand what to expect in an age-appropriate context.