Dental decay is a leading health problem for school-age children and an early start to dental care may help prevent many of these problems. That's why Children's Dental Center recommends your child visit a dentist by his or her first birthday and have an orthodontic exam by the age of 7.The importance of primary teeth
It is very important that primary (baby) teeth are kept healthy until they are lost naturally. Primary teeth:
- Help maintain good nutrition by permitting your child to chew properly.
- Are important for pronunciation and speech development.
- Help your child feel good about the way he or she looks to others.
Guard against baby bottle tooth decay
One of the worst threats to a child's dental health is the use of a milk or juice bottle as a bedtime pacifier.
If your child falls asleep with either a bottle containing milk or juice or breast-feeds continually during the night, the teeth will be bathed in a sugar-rich fluid which can cause severe decay, also known as "baby bottle tooth decay." This condition occurs because swallowing decreases at night, allowing liquids to pool around the child's teeth for hours. Sugars in the liquid have enough time to react with bacteria in the mouth to form acids that damage tooth enamel and cause decay.
The teeth most likely to be damaged are the upper front teeth but other teeth may also be affected by this condition. Therefore, pediatric dentists strongly advise parents to discontinue use of bottles and continual night-time breast-feeding by the end of the child's first year.
Be prepared for dental emergencies
The following dos and don'ts are easy to learn and may help you cope with a dental emergency.
Do: Clean the mouth by rinsing it with warm water. Use dental floss to remove any food which might be trapped between the teeth. See your pediatric dentist as soon as possible.
Don't: Place aspirin on the aching tooth or surrounding gum tissues.
Knocked out tooth
Do: Gently rinse a dirty tooth under warm water. Gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket or place the tooth in a cup of milk or cool water. See your pediatric dentist immediately. Remember to bring the tooth to the dentist.
Don't: Scrub the tooth or remove any attached tissue.
Do: Gently clean dirt from the injured area with warm water. Place cold compresses on the face to decrease swelling. See your pediatric dentist immediately.
Bitten tongue or lip
Do: Apply pressure to the bleeding area with a clean cloth. Apply cold compresses to the affected area if there is swelling. Go to a hospital emergency room if the bleeding does not stop.
Information about sucking habits
- Babies begin sucking on their fingers and thumbs before birth. This type of sucking is a completely normal reflex and provides security and oral stimulation.
- No permanent harm is caused to the teeth or jaws of children who stop sucking on their thumbs, pacifiers and other objects by the time they are 4 years old. However, some children continue sucking on these objects and this sucking may cause the upper front teeth to erupt improperly or may push these teeth forward toward the lip.
- Thumbs, fingers, and pacifiers affect teeth the same way. However, a pacifier sucking habit often is easiest to break.
- Do not worry about a sucking habit unless it continues into the period when your child's permanent teeth are ready to come in. Then, contact your dentist who will monitor how your child's teeth erupt and how the jaw develops.
- Most children will stop their sucking habits on their own. If this is not the case, your pediatric dentist can help encourage your child to stop, as well as talk about what happens to the teeth if the sucking continues. This advice, and support from parents, along with positive reinforcement techniques, helps most children quit their sucking habits. If these approaches do not work, your pediatric dentist may recommend a mouth piece that blocks the ability to suck.