I have heard it over and over again, “but they are just baby teeth, can’t we just pull them?” The very short answer to that is NO. Children’s teeth are important for the long term health of their teeth.
Why are children’s teeth important?
The primary teeth which are compromised of 20 teeth, begin erupting around the age of 6 months and end at somewhere between the age of 2-3 . The baby teeth help your child with phonetics (speaking), chewing properly (aiding in their digestion), facial development, and confidence. Furthermore, primary teeth maintain the space for the adult teeth so that they can erupt in the right position and give your child the best bite that they were genetically gifted with.
How to take care of your baby’s teeth?
Cleansing the mouth should begin at an early age preferably before the first tooth even erupts. Take a clean baby washcloth and dip it in luke warm water. Gently cleanse their mouth after feeding and in particular at night time. This sets the tone for your child getting used to having hands in their mouth. Be sure not to be pushy and if they resist try again at a different time under different circumstances.
When the first tooth erupts it is time to brush and floss those teeth! There are many baby toothbrushes, my favorite is the kind that glides onto your index finger. Use a fluoridated toothpaste the size of a small grain of rice and no more! Gently brush their teeth in circular motion. Be sure to use floss around those teeth to remove plaque underneath their gum. The floss holders work great so that you don’t have to stick your fingers in their mouth. Since decay is caused by bacteria that children are not born with, (S. Mutans), NEVER share utensils or anything that would contaminate their saliva with your germs. Studies have shown that children get their first oral bacteria that causes cavities from their mother.
Around the age of one when their molars come in you have to be extra diligent about brushing the chewing surfaces of those teeth. The anatomy of these teeth are different than the front teeth. They have deep grooves and crevices where food and bacterial byproducts can hide. Make brushing a fun rewarding experience and make it part of their evening and morning routine. By the age of two you can use a pea size amount of children’s fluoridated toothpaste (and no more). Set a good example by brushing and flossing regularly yourself. Supervise brushing and flossing till the ages of 8-10 depending on the child’s maturity level.
Diet is very important. Never ever put your baby to bed with milk, breast milk, juice, soda, or anything other than water after their first teeth erupt. You are basically bathing their teeth in sugar and exposing them to the risk of baby bottle tooth decay. Anything but water, whether it is from breast or bottle will put your child at increased risk of tooth decay. Although breast milk is the best source of food for your baby and is less acidic, it can still contribute to tooth decay if it occurs repeatedly through the night and is not followed by cleansing the baby’s teeth. During the night saliva flow slows down hence the natural cleansing of the mouth by saliva is decreased. Usually the front teeth are affected the most since they are the first teeth to come in. Avoid sugary or starchy foods but if they consume these foods, be sure to brush and floss their teeth as soon as possible. Switch your baby to a sippy cup around the age of one. It is harder to take a sippy cup to bed. Check to make sure your water is fluoridated. Fluoride strengthens teeth and makes them more resistant to tooth decay.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child be seen by a dentist by the age of one. We always make sure that this is a look and see appointment and your child is not upset in any way, shape or form. Early habits and experiences last a life time. We usually recommend that your baby sits on your lap and has fun going up and down for a “ride in the chair”. Keep first appointments short, fun and sweet!
Despite our best efforts, cavities happen! If your child gets diagnosed with a cavity don’t beat yourself up. Be sure to take your child in as soon as you notice any kind of staining on their teeth. Do not impose any of your personal fears or ideas onto your child . As we all know, children are very smart and intuitive and will pick up on the vibe of a nervous parent. Let your dentist do all the explaining. Try to schedule dental appointments in the morning when your child is well rested. Allowing your child to observe another family member during a routine check up appointment is always a good idea so that they can get an idea of what to expect. Of course, if you are a nervous patient, allow them to observe someone else.
How are cavities detected in my child’s teeth?
We use a series of different technologies to aid us in early diagnosis of cavities. Although x-rays remain the main stream of detecting cavities (we use digital x-rays only which is 80-90% less radiation that traditional x-rays), we take it a few steps further. Sometimes it is not possible to take an x-ray on a young child that is diagnostic as the slightest movements can make an x-ray difficult to read. We use the latest camera available in dentistry called “carivu“. It transilluminates throughout the teeth and lets us see early cavities without any doubt. It gives us X-ray vision which I never thought would be possible! We also utilize Diagnodent, which is another great technology that we have been using for over ten years that allows us with confidence to diagnose cavities on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. The use of these tools allows us to treat early cavities, hence saving tooth structure, making for shorter appointments and is more cost effective for the parents.
When it comes to numbing teeth, we take this very seriously. First experiences, shape children’s perception of dentistry for life. We use a computer delivery system called Single Tooth Anesthesia. It is painless, and children don’t even flinch since they have no preconceived notions of being hurt. It looks like a straw and is painless. This allows us to work confidently all the while your child watches a movie on our computer monitor. Never use the word “shot” to your child, or use dentistry or cavities as a punishment. It makes the appointment very difficult for your child.
Dentistry has come such a long way, and I am so proud to be a part of this amazing and growing profession. Call us today at 760-747-1811 to see for yourself how we have changed the face of dentistry to comfortable, painless and rewarding. Don’t forget to check out our new patient promotions!
Dr. Rabee McDonald