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CHILDREN

Dental Care starts in Womb

Did you know that proper dental care begins in the womb ? A baby's teeth begin to form six weeks after conception. Inadequate eating habits by mothers, however, can cause failure of the tooth enamel to form. This, in turn, can cause your child to be extremely susceptible to cavity formation. Expectant mothers should remember to eat a well-balanced diet and consume products which contain the calcium necessary for proper fetal bone and tooth formation. 

Age to bring in a child.
Most children are brought in to see a dentist between age 3 and age 4. Younger than that, and they generally will not be able to sit for the visit. If you can bring the child in with you (if you are a parent) you can let them see you having your teeth cleaned and perhaps the dentist can count their teeth and let them have a pleasant first visit (instead of waiting until they have a toothache). 

 

Caring for your baby's teeth

Babies are not born with cavity causing bacteria. Oral bacteria are transferred from parent to baby during every day activities such as hugging, kissing, cuddling, and playing. It's essential for parents to keep meticulous oral hygiene of their own while waiting for your baby's teeth to erupt.

It is a good habit to clean your baby's gums after every feeding. This lowers bacteria count in the baby's mouth and keeps his/her oral environment clean while waiting for those first two teeth to come in.

Cleaning your baby's gums is easy. Take a soft piece of cloth or a piece of gauze, dampen it and gently wipe the gum pads of your baby's mouth. It's also recommended to not give your baby juices or milk at nap time, especially in a bottle. Instead, try enforcing water. This helps to avoid future tooth decay.

Fluoride plays an important role in helping baby's teeth to stay healthy. Fluoride is found in most city water. Encouraging your baby to drink water is good for their health as well as their teeth. To find out if your city water is fluoridated or not, simple call your local water supplier company. Baby's teeth need fluoride to develop strong healthy and cavity free teeth.

If you are breast-feeding, your baby is probably not getting enough fluoride to maintain strong teeth. If this is the case, your pediatrician may supplement fluoride until the baby is weaned. Fluoride supplement comes in two forms: one is a fluoride-vitamin tablet and the other is a liquid droplet that may be added to the bottle. Your pediatrician can determine how much fluoride supplement your baby will need.

 

Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

 
When your baby gets fussy, do you give the baby a bottle of milk, fruit juice, or sweetened liquids as a pacifier or comforter? Do you also give your baby a bottle at naptime or bedtime? Both of these habits can cause your baby's teeth to decay.

What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Decay in infants and children is called baby bottle tooth decay. It can destroy the teeth and most often occurs in the upper front teeth. But other teeth may also be affected.

Healthy TeethHealthy Teeth

Mild Decay Mild Decay

Severe Decay Severe Decay

What causes baby bottle tooth decay?
Decay occurs when sweetened liquids are given and are left clinging to an infant's teeth for long periods. Many sweet liquids cause problems, including milk, formula and fruit juice. Bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food. They then produce acids that attack the teeth. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack for 20 minutes or longer. After many attacks, the teeth can decay.

It's not just what you put in your child's bottle that causes decay, but how often — and for how long a time. Giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid many times a day isn't a good idea. Allowing your child to fall asleep with a bottle during naps or at night can also harm the child's teeth.

Why are baby teeth important?
Your child's baby teeth are important. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it's time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded.

How to prevent baby bottle tooth decay?
Sometimes parents do not realize that a baby's teeth can decay soon after they appear in the mouth. By the time decay is noticed, it may be too late to save the teeth. You can help prevent this from happening to your child by following the tips below:

  • After each feeding, wipe the baby's gums with a clean damp washcloth or gauze pad. Begin brushing your child's teeth when the first tooth erupts. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless, and begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted, usually by age 2 or 2½.
  • Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids.
  • If your child needs a comforter between regular feedings, at night, or during naps, fill a bottle with cool water or give the child a clean pacifier recommended by your dentist or physician. Never give your child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid.
  • Avoid filling your child's bottle with liquids such as sugar water and soft drinks.
  • If your local water supply does not contain fluoride (a substance that helps prevent tooth decay), ask your dentist how your child should get it.
  • Start dental visits by the child's first birthday. Make visits regularly. If you think your child has dental problems, take the child to the dentist as soon as possible.

Photos, Dr. Theodore P. Croll, Doylestown, PA, Dr. David Johnson, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, Case Western Reserve University.