PRE-NATAL DENTAL CARE
Your Dentist Needs To Know
Much of the baby’s critical development happens in the early weeks, often before you are certain that you are pregnant. Because you don’t want to take chances on having anything go wrong, it is important that you let your dentist know if you even suspect you are pregnant.
Dental Care During Pregnancy
Anything that disturbs the mother’s health, may affect her baby – and your dental health is important to both of you. To prevent a dental emergency from arising, it is important that you see your dentist early in your pregnancy.
Routine and preventive dental care can be provided at any time during a normal pregnancy; however, since most women feel their best during the second trimester of pregnancy, it is usually recommended that any extensive care be scheduled at that time.
If necessary, emergency care can be provided at almost any time during pregnancy, but it is preferable to avoid any such emergency situation. Your toothache can affect your baby’s health and you don’t want that to happen.
Diet And Dental Health
It is not true that the baby absorbs calcium from the mother’s teeth during pregnancy. Your baby is dependent upon your diet to provide the calcium, phosphorus, and other vitamins and minerals necessary for the formation of healthy teeth.
It is important that you carefully follow the well-balanced diet recommended by your obstetrician. Also, you should avoid eating too many sugar-rich foods.
YOUR CHILD’S DENTAL CARE
Cleaning Your Child’s Teeth
Begin cleaning the baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby’s gums either with a clean, wet gauze pad or with a washcloth or towel. This removes plaque and residual food and helps children become accustomed to having their mouth checked.
When your infant’s teeth begin to erupt, it is important to clean them regularly. You may continue to use a gauze pad or cloth to clean the incisors after feedings until the back teeth (molars) begin to erupt (usually around 12 months of age). Once a molar appears, brush all teeth gently with a child’s size soft toothbrush and water. Position your child so you can see into the mouth easily; you might want to sit, resting his head in your lap. When your child can predictably spit and not swallow toothpaste, begin brushing the teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Check your child’s toothbrush often and replace it when it is worn. Bent or frayed bristles will not remove plaque effectively. Begin using floss when adjacent teeth are touching. Flossing is important to prevent cavities from developing between teeth.
First Dental Visit
As your child’s first tooth erupts, you should consider scheduling his or her first dental visit. It is advantageous for the first dental visit to occur within six months after the first tooth erupts, but no later than the first birthday. Treat the first dental visit as you would a well baby checkup with the child’s physician.
During the first visit, the dentist can: (1) review the medical and dental histories; (2) complete a thorough oral examination to assess growth and development, oral hygiene, injuries, cavities and/or other problems; (3) clean the teeth as indicated and provide suggestions about daily care; (4) evaluate and optimize your child’s fluoride exposure because too much or too little can lead to problems; (5) review feeding practices and provide dietary counseling; (6) assess your child’s risk of developing tooth decay; (7) provide information regarding oral development, teething, pacifier or finger/thumb sucking habits and injury prevention; and (8) plan for any needed treatment or the next check up.
Preventing Decay Of Primary (Baby) Teeth
As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, decay can occur. One of the risk factors for early childhood cavities (sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay) is frequent and prolonged exposure of a baby’s teeth to liquids containing sugar, like sweetened water and fruit juice and potentially milk, breast milk and formula. Tooth decay can occur when parents or caregivers put a baby to bed with a bottle – or use one as a pacifier for a fussy baby.
Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday, and discourage frequent or prolonged use of a training cup. If you give your child a pacifier, use a clean one. Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey before giving it to a baby.
Encourage healthy eating habits. This would include a diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits and whole grains. Snacks should be nutritious. Limit sweets to mealtimes.
“Holding Space Open” For Permanent Teeth
Sometimes a primary tooth is lost before the permanent tooth beneath it is ready to erupt. If a primary tooth is lost too early because of cavities or injuries, nearby teeth can tip or shift into the vacant space. When the permanent tooth is ready to emerge into the space, there may not be enough room for it. The new tooth may be unable to erupt – or may emerge in an abnormal position. If your child loses a tooth prematurely, the dentist may recommend a space maintainer, a plastic or metal appliance that holds open the space left by the missing tooth. The dentist will remove this device once the permanent tooth begins to erupt.
Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may suck on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, and other objects. It may make them feel safe and happy or provide a sense of security at difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.
Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with tooth alignment and the proper growth of the mouth. The frequency, duration, and intensity of a habit will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.
Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Instead of scolding children for thumb sucking, praise them when they are not. Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb sucking. Children who are sucking for comfort will feel less of a need when their parents provide comfort. Also, try rewarding children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods. If these approaches don’t work, your dentist may recommend an oral appliance or other device to aid your child in correcting the habit.
Your Child’s Diet
A good diet is essential for a child’s growth and development. Like the rest of the body, the teeth bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. The preschool years are an important time to help your child establish good eating habits. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups in line with the food pyramid:
What you eat and how often you eat can affect your teeth. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on our teeth. When we eat food or drink beverages that contain sugar, the bacteria produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of plaque keeps the harmful acids against the teeth, which can contribute to tooth decay. Frequent snacking may mean frequent acid attacks and an increased risk for tooth decay. Other factors that promote tooth decay are the amount of bacteria in your mouth and lack of exposure to fluoride. Limit snacks. If your child does need a snack between meals, offer nutritious foods from the main food groups.
Focus On Fluoride
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in all water sources, including the oceans. Research has shown that fluoride not only prevents cavities, it also helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay is visible.
During childhood, when teeth still are forming, fluoride works by making tooth enamel more resistant to the acid that causes tooth decay. After teeth erupt, the benefits are just as great. Fluoride helps repair, or remineralize, areas where the acid attacks have already begun.
Fluoride is obtained in two forms: topical and systemic. Topical fluorides may be found in toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride applied in the dental office. Systemic fluorides are those that are swallowed. They include fluoridated water and dietary fluoride supplements in the form o tablets, drops or lozenges. The maximum reduction in tooth decay is achieved when fluoride is available both topically and systemically.
Water fluoridation provides both topical and systemic benefits for preventing tooth decay. Community water fluoridation is an extremely effective and inexpensive means of obtaining the fluoride necessary for optimal prevention of tooth decay.
Children who regularly drink bottled water, well water, or unfluoridated tap water may be missing the benefits of fluoride.
Before you give your child any vitamin or supplement that contains fluoride, check with the dentist to see if one is needed.
A sealant is a material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth (premolars and molars), and sometimes to deep pits and grooves of front teeth, where decay occurs most often. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth from accumulating plaque that results in acid attacks and tooth decay.
Pits and fissures are depressions and grooves in the surfaces of the teeth that often are difficult to keep clean because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into them. The sealant forms a thin covering that keeps out plaque and food and decreases the risk of tooth decay.
Sealing a tooth is fast and there is virtually no discomfort. The dentist conditions the chewing surfaces to help the sealant adhere to the tooth and then applies the sealant to the tooth enamel.
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. Both primary and permanent teeth can benefit from sealants.
When a child participates in sporting and recreational activities, injuries can occur. Mouth protectors, also called mouthguards, are an important piece of protective face gear. You’ve probably seen mouth protectors used in contact sports, such as hockey, football, or boxing. Coaches and team members know that mouth protectors cushion blows that would otherwise cause broken teeth, injuries to the lips and face, and sometimes even jaw fractures. Non-contact sports such as soccer, volleyball, basketball, and gymnastics and leisure activities such as bicycling, roller skating, and skateboarding also place a child at risk for dental injuries. If your child participates in such pastimes, you may consider asking the dentist about custom fitted and store-purchased mouth protectors.
PRE-NATAL DENTAL CARE
Dr. Kirscher specializes in personalized service. We treat all ages including children! We look forward to seeing you for your next cleaning or pediatric dentals needs!