Breast Feeding or Bottle Feeding to prevent Early Childhood Caries
Some ways to prevent early childhood caries is to avoid allowing your baby to fall asleep whilst feeding, either on the bottle or breast as milk can “pool” in the baby’s mouth and cause acid to form throughout sleep. This acid leads to decay. After feeding you can clean baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth.
The Australian Dental Association recommends that children are encouraged to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
Children Who Thumbsuck
Thumbsucking is normal for infants and most stop by the age of 2. If your child continues to suck their thump beyond age 2, try to discourage them. If children suck their thumb beyond age 4, it may lead to crooked, crowded teeth and/or bite problems.
There is no problem with your child using a pacifier, but do not dip it in sugar, honey or any sweetened liquid. Try to have your child give up the pacifier by age 2. Remember that while a pacifier and thumbsucking create no difference for the health of your child, you may find that it is easier to wean a child from a pacifier than from thumbsucking.
Cleaning Baby’s Gums/Teeth
Begin cleaning baby’s gums within the first few days of birth. You can use a clean, wet washcloth. Baby will get used to the feeling of having a clean mouth.
When your child has their first tooth erupt, brushing should begin. Continue to clean and massage your child’s gums where there are no teeth.
Brushing Toddler’s Teeth
Use a small, soft-bristled brush. Use a circular motion on all tooth surfaces, especially around the gumline. When your child can spit out, use a pea-sized amount of flouride toothpaste on the toothbrush. Proper demonstration by your dentist or hygienist is recommended at your child’s first dental visit.
Transmitting Harmful Bacteria
Cavity causing germs can be transmitted through contact. This is demonstrated when a baby puts their hands in your mouth and then into their own mouth. It is very important for you to also have healthy teeth and gums.
Research has shown that a pregnant woman shares blood with her unborn baby, any infection of the mouth – gum or cavity disease can affect the baby. Oral infection has also been linked to conditions such as low birth weight babies.
Flouride Toothpaste for Children
Children should commence using flouride toothpaste when they are able to spit. Flouride is safe and necessary to keep teeth strong, but only at recommended levels. Young toddlers sometimes swallow toothpaste in excessive amounts, this can lead to flourosis, which causes discolouration of teeth. Children under 6 years of age may use a low-flouride toothpaste such as Colgate’s “My First Toothpaste”.
Normally the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums are sore, tender and sometimes irritable until the age of 3. Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits-they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.
While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side, every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines. A bottle containing anything other than water, 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.
Infant’s New Teeth
The primary, or “baby,” teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they replace the primary teeth around age 6.
Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems-hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups.
A Child’s First Dental Visit
A child’s first dental visit should be scheduled when their first tooth erupts. The most important part of the visit is getting to know and becoming comfortable with our Dental Therapist and her staff. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future dental visits. If possible, allow the child to sit in a parent’s lap in the exam room. Children should be encouraged to discuss any fears or anxiety they feel.
Why Primary Teeth Are Important
Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Foremost, good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth.
Good Diet and Healthy Teeth
The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimise (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Most snacks that children eat cause cavities, so children should only eat healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, which promote strong teeth.
Infant Tooth Eruption
A child’s teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the primary or “baby” teeth push through the gums – the lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age 3, but the place and order varies.
Permanent teeth begin eruption around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. Adults have 28 secondary (permanent) teeth – 32 including the third molars (wisdom teeth).
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Tooth decay in infants can be minimised or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier. Our practice is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.