Your baby's first (primary) teeth play an important part in overall health, growth and development. Primary teeth allow your child to chew properly, are important for speech and attractive appearance, and help guide the permanent teeth into place.
Starting a routine of regular daily home care during infancy can help your child maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime. At your child’s first visit, we will recommend a personalized daily home care program to prevent decay and other dental problems.
The first teeth ususally begin to erupt between ages 6 to 12 months. Babies may have sore gums, tenderness and occasional irritability from teething until age 3 years. Massaging sore gums gently with a clean finger or cold, damp terry cloth can help soothe the gums. Avoid topical medicines unless prescribed by your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the new teeth for signs of decay. Examine the new teeth regularly for dull, chalky spots or lines which are often the first signs of early childhood decay.
Nursing aids in the growth of facial muscles and bones. The facial muscles and shape of the jaws affect the positioning of the primary teeth, which guide the eruption of permanent teeth.
Any liquid other than water can trigger decay when left in a child's mouth at sleep time. With the exception of plain water, almost all liquids, including milk, formula, fruit juice and even mother’s breast milk, contain sugar. Bacteria in dental plaque can convert this sugar to acid, which in turn causes decay. Saliva helps wash away acid when the child is awake. Saliva flow decreases during sleep and liquids pool around the teeth for longer periods, covering the teeth in acids. Therefore, if done improperly, bottle and breastfeeding can cause extensive decay.
Before the teeth erupt, clean your baby's mouth and gums with a soft cloth or infant toothbrush at bath time. This helps ready your baby for the teeth cleaning to come.
As soon as the first tooth begins to come into the mouth, begin cleaning your baby's teeth and gums at sleep time using a plain, soft toothbrush designed for babies. Avoid allowing your child to nurse to sleep.
Thumbsucking & other oral habits
The most common forms of oral habits are thumb and pacifier sucking. These habits should end by age 5 years. The longer oral habits are continued, the greater the chance they can affect the shape of jaws and alignment of teeth.
Injuries to the primary teeth and mouth
Two groups of children most at risk of mouth injury are toddlers learning to walk and athletes playing contact sports. What should parents do? Child-proof your home, insist on mouthguards for budding athletes, and keep handy the phone number of your pediatric dentist.
Although a child may not complain of pain or discomfort, falls and bumps to the teeth should not be ignored. Mouth injuries should be evaluated and treated early to decrease the likelihood of more serious problems developing. For example, a discolored or fractured primary tooth can become infected, which in turn can damage the permanent teeth.
A child should be seen by a pediatric dentist, no matter how young that child is, if the parent thinks there could be a dental problem. No child is too young for good dental health.