Early Dental Care (ages 0-5)
Dental health problems can begin at a very early age. The Massachusetts Dental Society recommends scheduling a baby’s first visit within 6 months of the eruption on the first tooth, and no later than his/her first birthday. The key to this first visit is to educate and guide parents on a child’s oral health based on their child’s developmental needs. During this first visit, your baby will often sit in your lap while the dentist examines his/her mouth, teeth, and gums; demonstrates how to efficiently clean your baby’s teeth and gums; evaluates and adverse habits, such as thumb sucking and liquids at bed time; identifies your child’s fluoride needs; and suggests a schedule of dental visits for your child’s future. You can establish a positive relationship between your child and the dentist by starting dental visits early and continuing check-ups regularly.
Nursing/Bottle Tooth Decay: Because a baby’s teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they appear in the mouth, it is very important for caregivers to understand what nursing bottle tooth decay is and how to prevent it. Nursing/ Bottle decay is a dental condition that occurs when a child’s teeth are over-exposed to sugary liquids such as breast milk, formula, fruit juice, and milk. Remember, it’s not just what your child drinks but also how often and how long his/her teeth are exposed to decay-causing acids. Parents who repeatedly offer their baby milk through a bottle or through nursing, either as a pacifier or at bedtime, can do serious harm to their child’s dental health. If your child needs a comforter between regular feedings, the Massachusetts Dental Society recommends giving him or her a bottle with water.
Teething: Teething usually occurs between the ages of 4 months and 2 years, causing sore and tender gums. Common signs of teething include: Irritability, loss of appetite, restlessness, or waking up during the night. Chewing on finger and toys is also associated with teething, along with excessive drooling. Parents should be sure to give children plenty of fluids to keep them well hydrated. The Massachusetts Dental society recommends gently rubbing baby’s gums with a clean finger, a small soft-bristled toothbrush, or a wet wash cloth to soothe pain. A clean teething ring to chew on, especially a cold one, may also be helpful. Teething should not cause a fever. If you child develops a fever, it should be addressed as a different medical concern. If your baby continues to be uncomfortable, even after you attempt to ease his/her teething pain, call your physician.
Thumb sucking and Pacifiers: Thumb sucking and pacifiers are both a normal, soothing reflex for babies and young children. However, as permanent teeth come in, these habits may cause improper tooth alignment. Different factors determine if dental problems will occur resulting from these habits; including how often your child sucks his/her thumb or pacifier and how much force the child uses. Children should stop sucking before their permanent teeth erupt. The Massachusetts Dental Society recommends positive measures, such as praise and small rewards, be given to encourage children to stop these habits. Negative reinforcement or constant nagging can actually have the opposite effect, making children more self-conscious to suck more. The dentist can provide support and guidance towards cessation of your child’s habit. Parents should keep in mind that sucking during childhood is normal and children will likely give up the habit when they are ready. Also, keep in mind the longer a habit lasts, the more difficult it will be to end it.