Children's Oral Health
2 AnswersYou play an important role in helping your dentist deliver the safest possible care. Always tell your dentist about any health conditions you or your child may have including allergies, asthma, diabetes or other trouble maintaining blood sugar levels, blood pressure or heart problems, or any other medical condition, even if it seems unimportant or unrelated to dental care.
10 AnswersThe good news is that tooth decay is almost completely preventable. You can help prevent tooth decay for your child by following the tips below:
- Lower the risk of the baby's infection with decay-causing bacteria. This can be done two ways -- by improving the oral health of the mother/caregiver which reduces the number of bacteria in her mouth and by not sharing saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers and giving them to babies.
- After each feeding, wipe the baby's gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This will remove plaque and bits of food that can harm erupting teeth. When your child's teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child's size toothbrush and water. (Consult with your child's dentist or physician if you are considering using fluoride toothpaste before age two.)
- When your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste (usually not before age two), begin brushing the teeth with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. The American Dental Association recommends fluoride toothpaste; ask your dentist about your child's fluoride needs.
- Brush your child's teeth until he or she is at least six years old.
- Place only formula, milk or breast milk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottles before going to bed.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean -- don't dip it in sugar or honey, or put it in your mouth before giving it to the child.
- Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and discourage frequent or prolonged use of a training (sippy) cup.
- Encourage healthy eating habits that include a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Serve nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes.
- Ensure that your child has adequate exposure to fluoride. Discuss your child's fluoride needs with your dentist or pediatrician.
2 AnswersTooth decay is a disease that begins with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) who has these bacteria in their mouth to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby's feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria are passed to the baby.
Another factor for tooth decay is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby's teeth to liquids that contain sugar, like sweetened water and fruit juice and potentially milk, breast milk and formula. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. The sugary liquids pool around the teeth while the child sleeps. 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 multiple attacks, the teeth can decay.
Pacifiers dipped in sugar or honey can also lead to tooth decay since the sugar or honey can provide food for the bacteria's acid attacks.
Infants and toddlers who do not receive an adequate amount of fluoride may also have an increased risk for tooth decay since fluoride combines with the outer covering of the tooth (enamel) and makes the tooth more resistant to the acid attack.
3 AnswersYour child's baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear-which is typically around age six months. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay or Early Childhood Caries (cavities). It most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected. In some unfortunate cases, infants and toddlers have experienced decay so severe that the teeth cannot be repaired and need to be removed. The good news is that decay is preventable.
2 AnswersYour 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. Starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.
As their teeth erupt, it is normal for babies to become fussy, irritable, lose their appetite or drool more than usual. What is not normal is diarrhea, rashes and fever. If your teething baby has a fever or diarrhea while teething or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, call your physician.
When teeth first come in, some babies may have sore or tender gums.
- Do gently rub your child's gums with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze pad can be soothing. You can also give the baby a clean teething ring to chew on.
- Do consult your dentist or physician if your child is still cranky and in pain, consult your dentist or physician.
- Don't assume that just because baby teeth fall out that they don't need proper care.
- Do schedule a first dental appointment by age one. A dental visit at an early age is a "well-baby checkup" for the teeth. Besides checking for tooth decay and other problems, the dentist can show you how to clean the child's teeth properly and how to evaluate any adverse habits such as thumb sucking.
2 AnswersWhen scheduling health care appointments, don't overlook a dental checkup for your child. A dental exam should be a regular part of back-to-school preparations. Some states may require dental checkups for school-age children at certain grade levels. All children need to see their dentist no later than their first birthday and then at intervals recommended by their dentist.
Many parents and caregivers don't realize that tooth decay is an infectious disease for which there is no immunization. Tooth decay affects more than 25 percent of U.S. children 2 to 5 years old and 50 percent of U.S. children 12 to 15 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A painful tooth or chronic dental problem can lead to difficulty in eating, speaking and concentrating. Children with chronic dental pain may not always voice their problem. They may appear anxious, depressed or tired, but teachers may not recognize their pain. Dental problems also cause many children to miss school.
Regular dental checkups and preventive dental care, which can include cleaning, fluoride treatments or sealants, uncover problems that can be treated in the early stages, when damage is minimal. For example, when tooth decay is treated early, your child may only need a small filling. Left untreated, the cavity could progress to needing a crown or baby root canal. Think of regular dental visits as providing your child with “smile insurance!”