Infant Oral Care

When should my child first see a dentist?
 
"First visit by first birthday" sums it up. Your child should visit Dr. Cathy when the first tooth comes in, usually between six and twelve months of age. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.

Why so early?

The most important reason is to begin a thorough prevention program. Dental problems can begin early. A big concern is Early Childhood Caries (also know as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries).  This is a serious form of tooth decay among young children.  Your infant risks this form of severe decay from frequent and long exposures  to liquids that contain sugar, such as milk(including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and any other sweetened drinks.  Long exposures to these drinks occur while using a bottle during naps or at night or when infants nurse continuously from the breast. Protect your child from severe tooth decay by putting them to bed with nothing more than a pacifier or bottle of water. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily, learn to speak clearly, and smile with confidence. Start your child now on a lifetime of good dental habits.

How can I prevent tooth decay from a bottle or nursing?  Children should not fall asleep with a bottle.  Putting a baby to bed at night or a nap with a bottle with a liquid other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child's teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water.  If your child won't fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle's contents with water over a period of two to three weeks. At-will nighttime breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begins to erupt. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday.  Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. When juice is offered, it should be in a cup.  

When should bottle-feeding  be stopped? Children should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.

When should I start cleaning my baby's teeth? The sooner the better! Starting at birth.  After each feeding, wipe the baby's gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child's head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child's mouth easily.   You may also clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush and water. Remember that most small children do not have the dexterity to brush their teeth effectively.

When should I start using a fluoride toothpaste? Dentists used to recommend nonfluoridated toothpaste until the age of 2 becasue too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, a conditon that discolors the enamel.  However, since fluoridated toothpaste can lower a child's risk of decay by up to 30 percent, the AAPD now recommends using it  as soon as the first tooth pops through the gums.  You would only use  a tiny smear on the tooth brush twice a day.

 When will my child start getting  teeth? Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. Some babies get their teeth early and some get them late. In general the first baby teeth are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth and usually begin erupting between the age of 6-8 months.

Any advice on teething? From six months to age 3, your child may have sore gums when teeth erupt. Many children like a clean teething ring, cool spoon, or cold wet washcloth. Some parents swear by a chilled ring; others simply rub the baby’s gums with a clean finger.

What about thumb-sucking and pacifiers?

Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. It provides a sense of security, and often begins before birth. Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.Children should cease thumb sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.

Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, consult your pediatric dentist.

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