Primary, or "baby," teeth are important for many reasons. If children have cavities and are experiencing tooth pain, they may not know how to communicate that they are in pain. Instead they learn to adapt to living with the pain, this can affect their overall moods and quality of life. Not only do baby teeth help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a healthy path for permanent teeth to follow when they are ready to erupt (enter the mouth). If a child loses their baby teeth too early, this can lead to crowding issues that will often need to be corrected with braces in the future. Pediatric dentists are trained to identify space maintainance issues and can preserve the spaces after baby teeth are prematurely lost with simple timely appliances that allows the permanent, "adult," teeth to continue erupting into their proper healthy position.
In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist within six months of when their first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday.
Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years of additional specialty training following dental school and limits his/her scope of practice to treating children exclusively. Pediatric dentist are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.
A check-up every six months is recommended in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems. However, your pediatric dentist can tell you when and how often your child should visit based on their personal oral health.
First, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. Over the counter children's pain medication can be given, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for any pain, (however, do not attempt to alleviate pain by placing aspirin on the teeth or gums directly because this can lead to chemical burns). Finally see a dentist as soon as possible.
Thumb and pacifier sucking habits are natural and will generally only become a problem if they continue the habit for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers past the age of three, a habit-breaking mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.
Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bed-time bottle. Also, learn the proper way to bursh and floss your child's teeth. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his/her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled by your child's first birthday.
A toothbrush will help remove the plaque/bacteria that cause tooth decay. Any soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants, should be used at least once a day at bedtime (twice a day is even better and recommended).
The sooner the better! At birth, start cleaning your child's gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a small "smear" of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For the 2-5 year old, use a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child's toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability/dexterity to brush their teeth effectively on their own, so you should help them. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including one serving of each food group: fruits & vegetables, breads & cereals, milk & dairy products, and meat/fish & eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay. You can also ask your pediatric dentist to help you select foods that protect your children's teeth.
Sealants work by filling in the fissures and crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This blocks out food particles from getting caught in the tooth surfaces that are ordinarily prone to getting cavities. The application of sealants is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.
Have your pediatric dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your child's primary source of drinking water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride internally through water (especially if the fluoride level is deficient in your area or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), then your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.
Soft plastic mouthguards can be used to protect a child's teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sport related injuries. Generic "boil-and-bite" mouthguards can be purchased from most sporting goods stores or a custom-fitted mouthguard can be fabricated by a pediatric dentist to help protect your child from injuries to the teeth, face, and even provide protection from severe injuries to the head.
The most important thing to do is to remain calm, then find the tooth. Hold it by the crown rather than the root. If there is dirt or debris on the tooth, lightly rinse the tooth with water, but do not scrub the tooth vigorously because that will remove the natural proteins (periodontal ligaments) on the root surfaces of the tooth that are needed for the tooth to be successfully re-integraged in the mouth. Try to reinsert the tooth in the socket with gentle finger pressure (this only applies to permanent adult teeth, never try to re-insert a baby tooth into the mouth because you may actually harm the permanent tooth). If that is not possible, put the permanent tooth in a glass of milk and take your child and the tooth immediately to the pediatric dentist. Time is the most important factor when it comes to successfully re-inserting a permanent tooth, so don't delay. The most successful re-insertion cases occur when the tooth is only out of the mouth for less than one hour.
There is very little risk involved due to routine dental X-rays. Pediatric dentist are especially careful when it comes to limiting the amount of radiation a child is exposed to. Lead aprons and high-speed films are typically used to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation. Digital radiography decreases the radiation exposure even futher and offers the lowest amount of radiation to your child. At Petite Dental, we only use digital radiography.
Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly, beginning with the eruption of the first tooth. Then, the dentist can recommend a specific program of brushing, flossing, and other treatments for parents to supervise and teach to their children. These home treatments, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, will help give your child a lifetime of healthy oral habits.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have an evaluation by an orthodontist by the age of 7. Early evaluation can help prevent potential problems before they occur. The earlier issues are diagnosed, the more conservatively they can be treated by the orthodontist and ultimately reduce the amount of time your child may need to wear braces. Early treatment can save you money and save your child from more extensive orthodontic treatment in the future. You should also seek an Orthodontic consult if your child: loses their baby teeth early, is a mouth breather, sucks their thumb or fingers beyond age 3, has jaws that shift to the sides while opening or closing, or (s)he demonstrates an inability to comfortably close their lips without straining, etc.