Importance of Primary Teeth
Preventing future problems
Baby teeth do not last forever, but they are vital to your child’s lifelong health. When you take good care of baby teeth, you can prevent costly and complicated dental procedures in the future.
Baby teeth serve the obvious function of helping your child get proper nutrition. If your child’s teeth hurt, they may choose only foods that may be soothing but that contain no nutritional value. Painful cavities or sore gums can prevent proper chewing, which will upset your child’s digestion.
Baby teeth are important for speech development. Healthy, well-aligned teeth help your child form words and speak clearly.
One of the most important jobs baby teeth perform is to hold space for the permanent teeth that will replace them. If a baby tooth is lost or has to be removed prematurely, the neighboring teeth can drift into the open space. This can block the permanent tooth coming in and result in teeth that are crooked or misaligned.
If a tooth is lost prematurely, we might attach a space maintainer to save room for the permanent tooth to move into position. The space maintainer can usually be removed once the permanent tooth pushes through the gums. A space maintainer can help prevent costly orthodontics later on.
Parents typically provide oral hygiene care until the child is old enough to take personal responsibility for the daily dental health routine of brushing and flossing. A proper regimen of home preventive care is important from the day your child is born.
- Clean your infant's gums with a clean, damp cloth.As soon as the first teeth come in, begin brushing them with a small, extra soft-bristled toothbrush.
- To avoid baby bottle tooth decay and teeth misalignment due to sucking, try to wean your child off of the bottle by one year of age, and monitor excessive sucking of pacifiers, fingers and thumbs. Never give your child a bottle or sippy cup of milk, juice or sweetened liquid as a pacifier at naptime or bedtime.
- Help a young child brush at night - the most important time to brush, due to lower salivary flow and higher susceptibility to cavities and plaque. Perhaps let the child brush his teeth first to build self-confidence, then the parent can follow up to ensure that all plaque is removed. Usually by age 5 or so, the child can learn to brush his or her own teeth with proper parental instruction. We recommend monitoring their broshing technique until age 8.
- The best way to teach a child how to brush and floss is to lead by good example. Allowing your child to watch you brush and floss your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene.
- Make sure your child comes to see us twice each year. Good dental habits now can prevent problems for years to come.
First Year First Visit
Your child’s first birthday
When should you first take your child to the dentist? Sometime between when your baby’s teeth come in and your child’s first birthday.
One reason is cost savings. If you bring your child to the dentist by the first birthday, studies show you will spend less money on your child’s dental care than parents who delay their child’s visit until after the first birthday.
But the main reason is because baby teeth are important. They help your child eat nutritious foods, speak clearly and look good. They also hold space for the permanent teeth that will come in.
The first check-up is usually just to make sure your child’s teeth, mouth and airways are growing normally. We also check for plaque and early decay. We would rather prevent a problem than fix one, and it’s important we see your child before there is a problem.
What to expect
Most children do better in the morning, so you may want to schedule your visit for early in the day after they’ve had a good breakfast. However, if the child becomes overly anxious or fussy, we can finish the exam another day. The first visit should not be when your child is in pain.
In the exam room, we might put a bib on your child and offer a pair of sunglasses. There may even be a ride in the dental chair.
We will talk to you about homecare, including brushing and flossing techniques and nutrition. We will also discuss your child’s oral health, how it affects a child’s overall health and how you can help prevent decay.
When we are done, your child will get to choose a special toothbrush and a toy to take home.
Give your child the gift of good dental health early for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy teeth.
Our dental staff should be able to answer any questions you have and try to make you and your child feel comfortable throughout the visit. Our entire dental team will provide a relaxed, non-threatening environment for your child.
When should the next visit be?
Children, like adults, should see one of our dentists every six months.
Fluoride prevents cavities in children and adults. It is especially important for children 6 months to 16 years old to get enough fluoride to protect their teeth.
When bacteria build up on teeth, they produce acids that dissolve the tooth’s enamel, eventually forming a cavity. Fluoride strengthens the enamel and protects against the acid attack. In some cases, it can add minerals back to the enamel and reverse the damage from the acid attack.
Fluoridated water supplies
Many communities add low doses of fluoride to the local drinking water, which helps greatly in reducing tooth decay. If your water does not have fluoride, we can prescribe a fluoride pill or drops that deliver safe doses of fluoride to help strengthen teeth.
Fluoridated oral care products
Older children and adults should use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on a soft toothbrush. Older children can benefit from fluoride mouthwash.
We may recommend a more concentrated dose of fluoride that we apply here in the office. We will use a tray to apply either fluoride foam or gel, or we may use a small brush to apply a fluoride varnish.
Fluoride is a strong weapon in the fight against decay and can help your child be cavity-free for a lifetime.
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, and maintain your regular dental checkups.
Protect your child's teeth with sealants
What are sealants?
A dental sealant is a thin plastic film painted on the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars (the teeth directly in front of the molars). Sealants have been shown to be highly effective in the prevention of cavities. They were developed through dental research in the 1950s and first became available commercially in the early 1970s. The first sealant was accepted by the American Dental Association Council on Dental Therapeutics in 1972.
How effective are sealants?
Scientific studies have proven that properly applied sealants are 100 percent effective in protecting the tooth surfaces from caries. Because sealants act as a physical barrier to decay, protection is determined by the sealants' ability to adhere to the tooth. As long as the sealant remains intact, small food particles and bacteria that cause cavities cannot penetrate through or around a sealant. In fact, research has shown that sealants actually stop cavities when placed on top of a slightly decayed
tooth by sealing off the supply of nutrients to the bacteria that causes a cavity. Sealant protection is reduced or lost when part or all of the bond between the tooth and sealant is broken. However, clinical studies have shown that teeth that have lost sealants are no more susceptible to tooth decay than teeth that were never sealed.
How are sealants applied?
Sealant application involves cleaning the surface of the tooth and rinsing the surface to remove all traces of the cleaning agent. An etching solution or gel is then applied by one of our dentists to the enamel surface of the tooth, including the pits and grooves. After 15 seconds, the solution is thoroughly rinsed away with water.
After the site is dried, the sealant material is applied and allowed to harden by using a special curing light. Sealant treatment is painless and could take anywhere from five to 45 minutes to apply, depending on how many teeth need to be sealed and how cooperative the child is.
How long will a sealant last?
Sealants should last five years, but can last as long as 10 years. One study reported that seven years after application, an impressive 49 percent of treated teeth were still completely covered. Sealants should not be considered permanent. Regular dental check-ups by one of our dentists are necessary to monitor the sealants' bond to the tooth.
Who should receive sealant treatment?
Children, because they have newly erupted, permanent teeth, receive the greatest benefit from sealants. The chewing surfaces of a child's teeth are most susceptible to cavities and the least benefited by fluoride. Surveys show that approximately two-thirds of all cavities occur in the narrow pits and grooves of a child's newly erupted teeth. This is because food particles and bacteria cannot be cleaned out. Other patients also can benefit from sealant placement, such as those who have existing
pits and grooves susceptible to decay. Research has shown that almost everybody has a 95 percent chance of eventually experiencing cavities in the pits and grooves of their teeth.
Importance of baby teeth
Baby teeth serve many important functions, and one of the most important functions is to hold space for the permanent teeth. As a permanent tooth comes in underneath a baby tooth, the roots of the baby tooth dissolve away, and the permanent tooth pushes out the baby tooth.
Effect of early tooth loss
If a baby tooth is lost early, the neighboring teeth can drift into the space. This crowds the permanent teeth out of their proper alignment and will require extensive orthodontic treatment in the future.
We can use a space maintainer to hold the empty space open and allow the permanent tooth to grow in normally. A space maintainer is custom made. There are several different types, and we will discuss which is right for your child.
Making the space maintainer
To make a typical fixed maintainer, we place a metal band around the tooth and take impressions. The impressions are sent to a lab to create the space maintainer.
At the next visit, we place the maintainer and cement it to your child’s tooth. A wire loop holds the empty space open and just touches the tooth on the other side of the empty space.
We want to monitor the progress of the incoming tooth, so, we will need to see your child regularly and take X-rays.
We will keep the space maintainer on until the permanent tooth is ready to erupt.
To avoid damage to the space maintainer, your child should avoid gum, sticky candies and chewing ice. Hard foods, like raw carrots and apples, should be cut into small pieces.
A space maintainer is a good way to keep your child’s teeth growing toward a straight, healthy smile.
If you play hockey, you wear shoulder pads. If you catch baseball, you wear a helmet. At a skate park, you wear a helmet. But, no matter what sport you play, the one thing you always need is a mouthguard. Here’s why.
A mouth missing front teeth means you cannot eat some of the foods that you like; you probably won’t smile much, and you might not speak very well.
If you are hit in the mouth with a hard object like a ball or an elbow or even get pushed to the ground, a mouthguard can cushion the blow.
A mouthguard is like a seatbelt for your mouth. It will prevent cuts to your lips, tongue and the inside of your cheeks. It cushions any blow to your mouth, which can help reduce damage from a concussion, and it will protect against getting a broken jaw. Wearing a mouthguard is less expensive than repairing a broken tooth, and, of course, it helps keep your teeth in your mouth.
Types of mouthguards
You can buy a stock mouth protector at many stores. It is ready to wear, but it can be uncomfortable and bulky and make it difficult for you to breathe or talk.
A boil-and-bite mouthguard is also easy to find at many stores. Place it in hot water; let it cool for a few seconds, and then, bite down on it to shape it to your mouth. This is better than a stock mouthguard, but it can be difficult to fit correctly.
The best mouthguard is made by your dentist. We take an impression of your teeth. If you wear braces, we may recommend one for your lower teeth as well as your upper teeth. The impression is sent to a lab to make a mouthguard that is an exact fit for you. You might be able to request special colors or design. You will come back in a few days. We will make sure the mouthguard fits you well and give you a special case to keep it in to protect the mouthguard and make it easier to keep track of.
To care for your mouthguard, rinse it with water before and after wearing it; brush it with a soft toothbrush, and use toothpaste. You should occasionally wash it in mild dish soap. Do not leave it in the hot sun, and regularly check it for tears or damage.
A mouthguard is an important piece of equipment for any sport. It can keep you in the game for years to come.