Your Child’s First Visit
Your child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around their first birthday. One of the most important reasons of this visit is to familiarize your child with the dental office environment and to ease any anxiety associated with future visits.
During this time the dentist can examine your child’s dental development and address dental issues such as baby bottle decay, or any teething tenderness while providing preventive care when needed. On this first visit, a gentle but thorough examination will be performed to monitor growth and development and address any problem areas.
Early examination provides your child with preventive dental care while establishing healthy dental habits at an early age. Ensure that your child’s future smile is a healthy, confident one.
Nursing or “Baby Bottle” Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is the result of frequent, prolonged contact with liquids that contain sugars such as fruit juices, milk, formula or any other sweetened drinks. Human breast milk is also a contributor to baby bottle tooth decay. As the sugars break down in the mouth, bacteria start feeding on the sugars, produce acids and cause tooth decay.
If left untreated, decayed teeth can cause pain and discomfort. Not only can decayed teeth affect your child’s comfort, primary teeth also help guide permanent teeth into place. If the teeth are damaged or absent, they are unable to help guide permanent teeth into their proper position, possibly affecting future crowding or crooked teeth of adult teeth. Badly decayed baby teeth could lead to an abscessed tooth, with the infection spreading to between the teeth and the gum or affecting the root of the tooth. Listed below are some tips
to preventing baby bottle tooth decay:
- To calm your baby, don’t give abottle filled with sugary liquids; instead, give plain water or use a pacifier.
- Don’t coat your baby’s pacifier in a sweetener of any kind such as sugar, orhoney as a way to comfort them.
- Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottlefilled with sugary liquids. Plain water is best.
- Use a wet cloth or gauzeto wipe your child’s teeth and gums after each feeding. This helps remove anyexcess sugar preventing the chance for bacteria to form.
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Why Primary Teeth Are Important
Many parents ask why baby teeth are so important to their child’s health when they fall out on their own eventually. Primary teeth stay in place until a permanent tooth underneath erupts, pushing it out and taking it’s place.
These teeth are important to the natural development and growth of what will become your child’s permanent smile. Emphasizing healthy oral habits at an early age also promote good nutrition and encourage a positive self-image.
In some instances, when a child loses baby teeth too soon, a space maintainer may be recommended to prevent space loss and future dental damage.
Primary teeth stay in place until a permanent tooth comes in from underneath its position and pushes it out, taking it’s place in the mouth. Some children lose their primary teeth too early due to accidents or dental disease. When this is the case, a space maintainer may be recommended by your dentist to prevent space loss and future dental problems. It is important to remember the fact that
some teeth are not replaced until a child is 12 or 14 years old.
Space maintainers are appliances made of metal or plastic that are custom fit to your child’s mouth. Most children adjust to them quickly. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. With empty space, the teeth beside the gap may tilt or shift into the empty space. When adjacent teeth shift into the empty space, they create crowding in the permanent teeth and they come in crooked. If left untreated, the condition may require future orthodontic treatment. Space maintainers hold open the empty space left by a lost tooth. They steady the remaining teeth, preventing movement until the permanent tooth takes its natural position. It is more affordable to keep teeth in their normal positions with a space maintainer than to move them back in place with orthodontic treatment.
Even though they aren’t visible, children’s primary teeth begin forming before they are even born. At around the four month mark the primary teeth begin pushing through the gums. By the age of three, all 20 primary teeth have erupted.
Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32 including wisdom teeth.
Even before your baby’s first tooth erupts you can use a warm clean washcloth to gently swab the gums clean after every meal. When the first tooth erupts you can gently brush with a soft toothbrush to get them used to having something in their mouths. Do not use toothpaste until your child is at least 2 years old. At around age two you can begin applying a pea-sized amount. Emphasizing healthy dental habits at an early age contributes to better oral health in the future.
Pulp Therapy (for baby teeth)
The pulp of a tooth is the inner, central core of the tooth and contains blood vessels and nerves. Dental caries (cavities) and trauma to the tooth are the primary reasons for children to undergo pulp therapy. Your child may need pulp therapy if he/she has
- Tooth pain for no apparent reason
- A tooth that is sensitive to temperaturechanges
- A broken tooth
The main purpose of pulp therapy is that the tooth is not lost. Primary teeth are needed for chewing and speaking and serve as space savers for permanent teeth. Without the primary teeth to guide them, existing neighboring teeth can crowd in, causing permanent teeth to grow in crooked or tilted.
The two forms of pulp therapy for children’s teeth are: vital pulp therapy for primary teeth (pulpotomy) and non-vital pulp therapy for primary teeth (pulpectomy).
Vital Pulp Therapy for Primary (Baby) Teeth
Vital pulp therapy is for cases in which the tooth’s pulp may be salvaged. The main purpose is to maintain and protect existing healthy pulp by removing the diseased pulp tissue within the crown portion of the tooth. Next, an agent is placed to prevent bacterial growth and to calm the remaining nerve tissue. This is followed by a final restoration (usually a stainless steel crown).
Non-Vital Pulp Therapy for Primary (Baby) Teeth
Non-vital pulp therapy is required when the entire pulp is diseased (into the root canal(s) of the tooth). During this treatment, the diseased pulp tissue is completely removed from all parts of the tooth.
The canals are cleansed and filled with a special material meant to be naturally absorbed by the body while the root prepares for the primary tooth to fall out and be replaced by a permanent tooth. A crown is placed on the tooth to prevent fractures.
If the pulp is severely damaged then your doctor may recommend removing the tooth entirely. If this is a case ask if space maintainers are necessary for future development.