Family Dentistry in Albany, NY
When should your child first visit a dentist?
Children should first be seen by a dentist within 6 months of their first tooth coming through. Typically, this is around their first birthday. At this time, a child’s primary teeth can be evaluated by a dentist to check for abnormalities, or other issues. More importantly, the earlier a child enters our office, the easier and more comfortably we will be able to ease them into the dental chair. As toddlers, we may have them sit on the lap of their parent as their parent receives their dental cleaning, so that the child can become familiar with the dental cleaning process. Then, when the child is ready, we will try to give them their own appointment, and like to try to polish the teeth by the age of 3, and hopefully take x-rays by age 5, or as soon as their back teeth start to come in.
It’s important for a child to visit a dentist at an early age so that we can check for conditions like gum irritation, thumb-sucking, or “baby bottle tooth decay.” Habits such as thumb-sucking can cause problems such as poorly positioned teeth and bite relationships. “Baby bottle tooth decay” is a condition caused by sugary substances in breast milk, regular milk, and juices, which combine with their saliva to form pools inside the baby’s mouth when the child is sleeping with a bottle or if the child spends a lot time with a bottle in their mouth. If “baby bottle tooth decay” is left untreated, this can lead to premature decay of your child’s primary or baby teeth, which can later hamper the proper formation of their permanent or adult teeth. The best way to avoid “baby bottle tooth decay” is to not allow your baby to have a bottle while they are sleeping. Also, it’s important to avoid dipping pacifiers in sweet substances like honey, because this only encourages the early decay within the baby’s mouth. Start encouraging your young child to drink from a cup as soon as possible, this will help ward off problems associated with “baby bottle tooth decay”.
Teething, Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking
Many children start teething at a young age; this is just a sign that your child’s gums are sore. This is a perfectly normal habit. You can help relieve the pain by allowing the baby to use a teething ring, gently rubbing their gums with the back of a small spoon, or even your finger.
Teething rings and pacifiers are safely used to facilitate the child’s oral needs for relieving gum pain and suckling under the age of four. After the age of four, pacifiers and thumb sucking are generally discouraged because these behaviors may interfere with the proper development of your child’s teeth.
Primary and Permanent Teeth
Every child will grow 20 primary teeth, typically by the age of three. These primary teeth are then replaced by the age of twelve or so with a full set of 28 permanent teeth, and later on by four molars that are called “wisdom teeth.”
It is important that a child’s primary teeth are healthy, because the development of their primary teeth sets the stage for their permanent teeth. If their primary teeth become diseased or do not grow in as they should, chances are greater that their permanent replacement teeth will suffer the same problems. Poorly formed primary teeth that don’t come through properly could take up spaces reserved for other teeth. Spacers can sometimes be used to correct this condition, if the problem is spotted early on.
The gums and teeth of babies can be gently cleansed with special infant toothbrushes that fit over the top of your finger. Water can be used in lieu of toothpaste, as the baby may want to swallow the toothpaste. Parents are advised to avoid any fluoride toothpastes on children or babies under the age of 2.
When your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste properly, their primary teeth can be cleaned with a child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush. Remember to use only small portions of toothpaste (a pea-sized amount is suitable), and to teach your child to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste when they are finished brushing.
Fluoride is an important mineral that helps people form and strengthen their tooth enamel. Fluoride is present in most public drinking water. If you are unsure about your community water’s fluoride content, or learn that it has an unacceptable level (either too much or not enough) of fluoride in it, there are fluoride supplements that can be prescribed by your child’s pediatrician by request. You will want to ensure that your child has enough fluoride so that they will have healthy and strong teeth. Your child may not be receiving enough fluoride from their toothpaste alone.
Toothaches can be common in young children or babies. Sometimes, toothaches are caused by new and incoming teeth, but they may also be a sign of a serious dental problem.
You can occasionally and safely relieve a child’s toothache without the aid of medication by rinsing the mouth with a solution of homemade salt water (warm water and table salt). If the toothache pain doesn’t subside, children’s Tylenol or Motrin may be used to help relieve some of the pain. If such medications don’t help your child, contact your dentist right away.
You can assist your child in preventing oral or dental injuries by closely supervising your child during play. It’s also important not to allow your child to put foreign objects in their mouth. For children that are involved in physical activities or sports, the use of a mouth guard is strongly encouraged. Mouth guards can prevent a number of injuries to the teeth, gums, lips and other oral structures. Mouth guards are small plastic trays that safely fit around your child’s teeth. Many mouth guards are soft and pliable and can be molded to fit your child’s teeth at home. Even with all of the proper precautions, injuries to the face and teeth can always occur. It is important that you contact your child’s dentist as soon as an injury occurs.
If your child suffers trauma to the face or an adult/permanent tooth has been knocked out of place, try to place the knocked out tooth back in its socket or have the child try to hold it in his or her cheek and contact their dentist immediately. It’s important to remember to handle the dislocated tooth by the crown and not by the root of the tooth. If you cannot relocate the tooth in the socket or if you are concerned that your child might swallow the tooth, place it in a container of cold milk, saline or your child’s own saliva. Whenever your child suffers trauma or an injury to the face or their teeth, you should place a cold cloth or compress on the cheek near the site of the injury, as this will help control the swelling of the injured area.
If a child’s primary or baby tooth has been loosened by either an injury or a permanent tooth coming through, it is best not to replace the tooth, and to just leave it alone. It’s imperative to always call your dentist to alert them of any injury your child has suffered to the face or teeth, so that your dentist can help determine what steps should be taken to fix the issue.
Irritation may be caused by retainers or braces that your child uses, and can sometimes be relieved by placing a piece of cotton or gauze (or orthodontic wax if you have it!) on the tip of the wire or object that is protruding on the braces or retainer. If your child suffers an injury from a piece of the retainer or braces lodging into the soft tissue, contact the dental office immediately and avoid dislodging the object by yourself.
Sealants are used to fill in the grooves on the chewing surface of your teeth. This protects and seals the tooth from food and plaque entering these grooves. Sealant is easy to apply and can typically last for several years. This will protect those surfaces from getting cavities over time. It is generally recommended that all of your child’s adult or permanent molars are sealed with a sealant as they come in.