Early Infant Oral Care
Perinatal & Infant Oral Health
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling. Talk to your doctor or dentist about ways you can prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy, as research has shown evidence that this condition can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Additionally, mothers with poor oral health may be at greater risk of passing the bacteria which causes cavities to their young children. These simple steps should be followed to decrease this risk:
- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Brush and floss on a daily basis to reduce bacterial plaque.
- Maintain proper diet, limiting beverages and foods high in sugar and starch.
- Use a fluoridated toothpaste recommended by the ADA and rinse every night with an alcohol-free, over-the-counter mouth rinse containing .05 % sodium fluoride.
- Don’t share utensils, cups or food, since this can result in the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to your children.
- Use xylitol chewing gum (4 pieces per day by the mother), as it can decrease a child’s decay rate.
Establishing A "Dental Home"
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all recommend establishing a “Dental Home” for your child by one year of age. Those who have this relationship are more likely to receive appropriate preventive and routine oral health care.
Making the first visit to the dentist an enjoyable experience can go a long way in establishing a positive association for years to come. Try to put your child’s mind at ease by explaining what the appointment will be like, while refraining from the use of words that might cause unnecessary fear. Another great reason to choose a pediatric dentist is that they are highly skilled at explaining concepts to children in pleasant, non-threatening terms and help young patients feel comfortable right away.
When Will My Baby Start Getting Teeth?
Teething, the process of primary (baby) teeth coming through the gums, varies among babies. In general, the first baby teeth to appear are the lower front (anterior) teeth and usually begin erupting between 6 and 8 months of age.
See Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth for more details.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque.
Sucking is a natural reflex for infants and young children and it is common for them to use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects. This provides a sense of security and relaxation and, for many, induces sleep. Proper tooth alignment and growth of the mouth can be influenced by this practice. How intensely children suck their thumbs, coupled with how old they are when they stop, can determine whether dental problems may result. While most children stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of two and four, it is important that the habit is broken by the time their permanent teeth are ready to erupt.
Pacifiers can affect teeth in essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of a pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, consult your pediatric dentist.
Here are a few suggestions to help your child stop thumb sucking:
- If insecurity is the catalyst for sucking, focus on correcting the cause of anxiety instead of the thumb sucking behavior itself.
- Those who suck for comfort will feel less of a need when comfort is provided by their parents.
- Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from parents.
- Your pediatric dentist can encourage children to stop sucking and explain the possible outcomes of continuing the behavior.
- Bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night can help to remind the child of the habit.
- If these strategies do not help, your pediatric dentist may recommend the use of a mouth appliance.
Facial Piercing - Is It Really Cool?
You might not be surprised anymore to see people with pierced tongues, lips or cheeks, but you might be surprised to know just how dangerous these piercings can be.
There are many risks involved with oral piercings. The human mouth contains millions of bacteria, so infection is a common complication. Infections can cause the tongue to swell large enough to close off a person’s airways. Other symptoms include pain, increased flow of saliva, injuries to gum tissue, chipped or cracked teeth, receding gums and scar tissue. If a blood vessel or nerve bundle is in the path of the needle, difficult-to-control bleeding or nerve damage can result. In some cases, more severe problems can arise from what seems like a simple piercing, such as blood clots, blood poisoning, heart infections, brain abscess, and nerve disorders (trigeminal neuralgia).
Encourage your teens to follow the advice of the American Dental Association and skip the mouth jewelry.
Tobacco - Bad News In Any Form
Tobacco in any form can jeopardize your child’s health and cause irreversible damage. Teach your child about the dangers of tobacco use.
Smokeless tobacco, also called spit, chew or snuff, is often used by teens who believe it to be a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. This is an unfortunate misconception. Studies show that spit tobacco may be more addictive than smoking cigarettes and more difficult to quit. One can of snuff per day delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes. In as little as three to four months, smokeless tobacco use can cause periodontal disease and produce precancerous lesions called leukoplakias.
If your teen is a tobacco user, you should watch for the following early signs of oral cancer:
- A sore that won’t heal.
- White or red leathery patches on the lips or on/under the tongue.
- Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue.
- A change in the way the teeth fit together.
Because the early signs of oral cancer are not always painful, people often ignore them. If not caught in the early stages, oral cancer can require extensive, sometimes disfiguring, surgery. Even worse, it can kill.
Help children understand the dangers of bringing cancer-causing substances in direct contact with their mouths and encourage them to avoid tobacco use in any form.