With all the care a new baby needs, it’s easy for parents to forget about dental care.

The truth is, a child’s baby teeth play a vital role in his or her first year of growth and development.  For instance, baby teeth:

  • Enable your child to chew food properly and gain the nutrition they need to grow
  • Assist in speech development
  • Provide a path for the permanent teeth to follow

That’s why good dental care is so important during the first year of your child’s life.

Keys to Oral Health in the First 12 Months

Baby teeth are vulnerable to tooth decay from their very first appearance, typically between the ages of six and 12 months.

That’s why doctors and dentists agree — including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Children should have their first dental visit by age one.

Otherwise, cavities can go undetected and untreated, which leads to infection, loss of teeth, pain and discomfort.

Benefits of the Year One Dental Visit

Visiting a pediatric dentist by the time the first baby tooth appears is the first step toward smart preventive care.

For one thing, a pediatric dentist can detect early tooth decay and provide parents with important information on oral care and facial development.

For another, the year one dental visit can actually save parents money.

A recent study showed that children who visit a dentist before age one have 40 percent lower dental costs in their first five years compared to those who don’t.

In other words, when parents wait until the age of two or three before a child’s first visit, the child is much more likely to need costly treatments and emergency visits.

Dental Care at Home During Year One

Good habits start early.

Even before baby teeth appear, infants need proper oral care and fluoride supplements to help developing teeth grow strong and avoid early childhood cavities.

— Parents should clean infant mouths and gums regularly with a soft baby toothbrush or cloth and water.

— Children older than six months need fluoride supplements if their drinking water does not contain enough fluoride. Fluoride has been shown to reduce tooth decay by as much as 50 percent.

— Infants should be encouraged to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday — and be weaned from the bottle by 12-14 months of age.

— Baby teeth should be brushed at least twice a day with an aged-appropriate sized toothbrush using a “smear” of fluoridated toothpaste.

If you have any questions about your children’s oral health, always consult your pediatric dentist.

 

Q: Why does my child have gaps between her baby teeth?

A: Understandably, mothers want their children’s teeth to be pretty and straight.

But gaps between baby teeth are actually good. That means your child will have room for her bigger permanent teeth to come in properly without crowding.

Q: Why does my child only have two teeth? His friend is the same age and he’s got five teeth. What’s wrong?

A: In all likelihood, nothing is wrong.

There are age ranges when kids’ baby teeth fall out and permanent teeth come in, rather than a specific age. So it’s different for every child – even different for each child in a family.

Q: In what order do the permanent teeth come in? Do the bottom front teeth come in first? Or is it the top two in the front?

A: The first permanent teeth usually come in between the ages of six and seven. For that reason, they often are called the “six-year molars.”

The six-year molars are in the very back, behind all the baby teeth, so a baby tooth is not lost in order for them to come in.

Then comes the bottom two teeth in front – the lower front incisors – and then the upper incisors.

Then it’s the back teeth (pre-molars/molars) and the canines. The canines or cuspids are the eye teeth – they’re on the corners.

Q: Why worry about baby teeth? They are just going to fall out anyway.

A: You should be concerned about the health of your child’s baby teeth for a couple of reasons.

First, if baby teeth have disease or cavities, they can cause the child pain, infection, loss of function – in other words, the child is not able to eat well and gain the proper nutrition.

Also, problems with baby teeth can lead to problems with permanent teeth.

When cavities in baby teeth are left untreated, permanent teeth entering that environment are prone to the same thing – cavities, decay, pain, loss of function.

Baby teeth also serve another important purpose – they save space for the child’s future permanent teeth. If the baby teeth aren’t there, there can be problems, because the permanent teeth don’t know where to go.

That’s why it’s just as important to take care of baby teeth as it is to maintain healthy permanent teeth. We can easily avoid problems by starting preventive care at first tooth / first birthday.

Q: My child’s front teeth are coming in behind their baby teeth. Should I be concerned?

A: It’s normal for the permanent teeth to come in behind baby teeth, especially the ones on the bottom.

Most of the time, the baby teeth will fall out on their own, and the tongue will push those permanent teeth forward into their proper position.

If the child is having a hard time losing the teeth on the front on the bottom, then we can take those baby teeth out for them.

We see this a lot, and it’s usually nothing to be concerned about. The best thing to do is bring your child in and let us take a look.

If you have any questions, always consult your pediatric dentist.

 

No matter how well your child brushes her teeth, if she’s consuming too much sugar on a daily basis, she will get cavities.

Sugar grabs on to teeth and destroys the enamel before kids have a chance to brush. On the contrary, children with little or no sugar in their diets rarely have cavities.

Everyone knows sugar isn’t healthy. Yet Americans in general are still eating too much sugar, and kids are no exception.

You don’t need to forbid all sweets all the time.  The occasional sugary treat is likely OK.  The trick is to gradually swap out sugary snacks for healthier choices.

10 Simple Changes You Can Make

1.  Be a label looker — and teach your kids to read labels too.  Look for the amount of sugar listed on the “Nutrition Facts” panel of the foods you buy. It will be listed in grams.

2.  Beware of the following ingredients on the label – they’re all forms of sugar:

Corn syrup, corn sweetener, molasses, honey, fruit juice concentrate, fructose, glucose, lactose and maltose.

3.  Limit processed foods as much as possible.  Make a practice of this, and you won’t need to spend so much time staring at food labels and counting sugar grams.

4.  Use fruit to satisfy your child’s sweet tooth — it’s much lower in calories than sugar-laden foods. Substituting fruit for candy bars — even just some of the time — can eliminate an enormous amount of sugar over time.

5.  Cut back on fruit juices. If you substitute water for sugary drinks, that’s a huge step in the right direction.

6.  Cut back on sports drinks like Gatorade. In general, kids don’t need anything but plain water to drink while participating in sports.

7.  Keep the cupboard and refrigerator stocked with low-sugar choices:

Fruits instead of cookies, 100 percent juice bars (with no added sugar) instead of ice cream.  Graham crackers and unfrosted animal crackers can satisfy a cookie craving with less sugar than most cookies. Dried fruit can stand in for candy.

8.  Plan ahead. When you’re always eating on the fly, you end up eating too many processed foods.  The more healthy alternatives you have ready, the less likely you are to grab sweets on the run.

9.  Choose unsweetened foods as much as possible, such as unsweetened applesauce. Mix fresh or dried fruit into plain yogurt. Many fruity yogurts are loaded with added sugar.

10.  Avoid heavily sweetened breakfast cereals.

Remember, even simple changes can make a huge difference on your child’s dental health.

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