Cleveland Pediatric Dentist
Good dental health is one of the best investments you can make for your child.
Children are not born with bad teeth; the fact is that most children start out with healthy, strong teeth and gums. Parents must realize that baby teeth are important and good oral health starts when the child's teeth first come into the mouth. Daily home care with proper brushing techniques for plaque removal, a healthy diet, and professional care with dental examinations and fluoride treatments are all necessary to achieve good dental health for children.
Before the baby is born, mothers can take steps that will affect the development of their baby's teeth. Mothers do not have to lose a tooth during pregnancy, as some pregnant women believe. Good oral health habits, daily plaque removal with tooth brushing techniques and dental flossing will help keep gums healthy if they are affected by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Eating foods high in vitamins A, D, and C, and high in calcium and phosphorous will aid the formation of healthy teeth in babies. Deficiencies in these vitamins and minerals may result in formation abnormalities in baby's teeth.
Development of Children's Teeth
Babies are born with twenty teeth already present in their jaws. These primary teeth will erupt over the next two and one-half years. Figure 1 is the approximate schedule for primary teeth eruption.
During infancy, children are totally dependent upon parents for their dental care. After every feeding, wipe the teeth and gums to remove plaque. Decay can occur in teeth as soon as they appear in the mouth. "Nursing Bottle Mouth" is a condition that occurs when an infant is permitted to drink from a bottle of milk, formula, sugar water or juice during naps or at nighttime. The liquid pools around the child's teeth which are attacked by the acid produced by bacterial plaque for the long period during sleep. Use only water in bottles if used to put your child to sleep.
Fluoride is required if your child is to have healthy teeth. Drinking water contains fluoride at levels safe for your child. If you do not have fluoride in your drinking water, your dentist or physician can prescribe a daily fluoride supplement for your child.
Thumb-sucking is a natural reflex for your child. It is a normal infant habit, and usually decreases after the age of two. The continuation of thumb-sucking after the age of four may cause problems with normal dental development. Ask Dr. Jaffe if you are concerned about your child's oral habits that may cause future dental problems.
Teeth erupting into your baby's mouth, may cause irritation and sore, tender gums. Gently rub baby's gums with a clean finger, or offer your baby a clean teething ring to chew on.
Besides aiding in chewing, speaking and your child's appearance, primary teeth are important because they hold the space in the child's jaw for permanent teeth. Primary teeth lost prematurely will result in permanent teeth shifting and crowding. This may lead to difficulties with dental diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease, and malocclusion requiring braces.
Brushing and Flossing Your Child's Teeth
By age 2, or as soon as all of the primary teeth are erupted, parents should brush and floss the child's teeth. By age 4 or 5 the child may be able to brush alone, but a parent must watch to be certain that all areas of all teeth are properly cleaned. Parents will have to floss a child's teeth at this age. Disclosing solution and disclosing tablets will stain any missed plaque and indicate the areas where it still remains on the teeth. This is a good tool not only for parents, but also for the child to begin to learn where plaque forms in the mouth.
Good eating habits need to be established at this stage of a child's life. This is a good time to establish these habits because it is easier to control a child's diet at this time than it is later in their development. Children at this age depend on parents to provide good, healthy foods that will establish good physical and dental health for the child. A balanced diet for mealtimes and healthy snacks for in-between meals is essential for good oral health. Snacking too often, especially on snacks that contain sugar will promote dental decay that will damage a child's teeth.
Ask Dr. Jaffe how your child can get the necessary amounts of fluoride needed for good dental health. Toothpaste with American Dental Association's acceptance has fluoride in it and is recommended. If the water supply in your community does not contain fluoride, ask your dentist or physician for a prescription for a fluoride supplement.
Visits to the Dentist
The best age for a child to visit the dentist for the first time is before the age of two. This will contribute to a lifetime of good dental habits for your child by introducing him or her to the dentist and dental hygienist when the first visit to the dental office is pleasant. Talk to your child about how the dentist is a friendly doctor who will help the child stay healthy. Explain that at the first visit the dentist will examine the child's teeth for tooth decay or other problems. X-rays may be taken at this appointment to see how the teeth and facial bones are developing. The teeth may be cleaned by the dentist or dental hygienist, and this is a good time to get information on how to clean your child's teeth at home, how diet and eating habits affect your child's dental health, and how your child should get fluoride. This discussion will promote a positive attitude toward the dentist as your child visits your dentist early and regularly.
Sometimes primary teeth fall out before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt. Dr. Jaffe may suggest a space maintainer to keep the space reserved for the permanent tooth. If a primary tooth does not fall out on time, Dr. Jaffe may recommend that it be removed. Both of these recommendations will prevent the irregular eruption of permanent teeth.
At about the age of 6, your child's jaw will grow and help provide room for the permanent teeth to erupt. At this same time, the roots of the primary teeth will begin to dissolve, and the permanent teeth begin to prepare for eruption into the mouth. Below is the schedule for permanent teeth eruption.
At about the age of 6, the first permanent teeth to erupt are usually the first permanent molars. These teeth are very important because they help shape the lower part of the face and affect the position of the other permanent teeth. These molars, upper and lower, do not replace primary teeth, but erupt behind the primary teeth. Sometimes these molars are mistaken for primary teeth, but they are not. Special care must be taken with cleaning the first permanent molars because they must last a lifetime for your child.
Oral Hygiene, Diet, Fluoride & Dental Visits
By the time permanent teeth are erupting into your child's mouth, he or she should be able to brush effectively. The use of floss is a more difficult skill to master and although a child can manage flossing at about the age of 8, parents should continue to monitor the effectiveness of brushing and flossing. Disclosing tablets or disclosing solution can be used to indicate areas of plaque missed by brushing and flossing.
Food habits that affect your child's entire life will be established at this stage. Be certain that your child understands that what and how he or she eats will affect their teeth. Clean teeth are less likely to decay, so brushing teeth after every meal will help prevent dental disease. Also, make certain that your child understands that snacking too often will affect tooth decay also. If needed, a food diary can be kept to track what kinds of food your child eats, and how often they eat. Your dentist will analyze the food diary and make recommendations based upon the information.
Fluoride is still very important for your child's good dental health. Topical fluorides can be applied at the dentist's office and daily fluoride supplements can be continued. Use of fluoridated toothpaste is also important, and after the age of 6, fluoridated mouthwash can be used.
Visits to the dentist for identification of treatment of any dental problems should be done on a regular basis. The child's teeth will be professionally cleaned, oral hygiene methods will be reviewed, topical fluoride will be applied when needed and X-rays may be taken. Sealants may be used to protect the chewing surfaces of your child's back teeth. The chewing surfaces contain tiny depressions and grooves called pits and fissures. These depressions and grooves accumulate plaque, which promotes tooth decay. These decay-prone areas can be sealed with painted on sealant to protect the chewing surfaces. Throughout the time of permanent teeth eruption (ages 7 to 21) good oral hygiene habits, proper diet, fluoride application, and regular dental visits are extremely important for your child to develop and maintain good oral health. Dr. Jaffe will determine if any dental problems develop and will be able to recommend specific treatment. With your help, your child's efforts, and professional care, your child can develop and maintain good oral health and keep their teeth for all of their lives.