INFANT DENTAL CARE

New Leaf Pediatric Dentistry along with the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), recommends a first “well-baby” dental visit around the age of twelve months (or six months after the first tooth emerges).  This visit acquaints the infant with the dental office, allows the pediatric dentist to monitor development, and provides a great opportunity for parents to ask questions.

Most frequently asked questions and topics of discussion include (but are not limited to):

  • What is Perinatal Dental Care?
  • How can I care for my infant’s gums and teeth?
  • Why are primary teeth important?
  • Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth
  • Sippy Cups
  • Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

PERINATAL DENTAL CARE

Pregnancy is an exciting time. It is also a crucially important time for the unborn child’s oral and overall health.  The “perinatal” period begins approximately 20-28 weeks into the pregnancy, and ends 1-4 weeks after the infant is born.  With so much to do to prepare for the new arrival, a dental checkup is often the last thing on an expectant mother’s mind.

Research shows, however, that there are links between maternal periodontal disease (gum disease) and premature babies, babies with low birth weight, maternal preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes.  It is of paramount importance therefore, for mothers to maintain excellent oral health throughout the entire pregnancy.

Why are perinatal dental checkups important?

Maternal cariogenic bacteria is linked with a wide range of adverse outcomes for infants and young children.  For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) advises expectant mothers to get dental checkups and counseling regularly, for the purposes of prevention, intervention, and treatment.

To learn more and read helpful tips, please visit the articles arranged further down below.

TAKING CARE OF YOUR INFANT’S GUMS AND TEETH

Parents should also adhere to the following guidelines to enhance infant oral health:

  • Brush – Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny sliver of ADA approved non-fluoridated toothpaste (for children under two), gently brush the teeth twice each day.
  • Floss – As soon as two adjacent teeth appear in the infant’s mouth, cavities can form between the teeth.  Ask the pediatric dentist for advice on the best way to floss the infant’s teeth.
  • Pacifier use – Pacifiers are a soothing tool for infants.  If you decide to purchase a pacifier, choose an orthodontically correct model (you can ask the pediatric dentist for recommendations).  Be sure not to dip pacifiers in honey or any other sweet liquid.
  • Use drinking glasses – Baby bottles and sippy cups are largely responsible for infant and toddler tooth decay.  Both permit a small amount of liquid to repeatedly enter the mouth.  Consequently, sugary liquid (milk, soda, juice, formula, breast milk or sweetened water) is constantly swilling around in the infant’s mouth, fostering bacterial growth and expediting tooth decay.  Only offer water in sippy cups, and discontinue their use after the infant’s first birthday.
  • Visit the pediatric dentist – Around the age of one, the infant should visit a pediatric dentist for a “well baby” appointment.  The pediatric dentist will examine tooth and jaw development, and provide strategies for future oral care.
  • Wipe gums – The infant is at risk for early cavities as soon as the first tooth emerges.  For young infants, wipe the gums with a damp cloth after every feeding.  This reduces oral bacteria and minimizes the risk of early cavities.

If you have further questions, please contact us.

WHY ARE PRIMARY TEETH IMPORTANT?

Primary teeth, also known as “baby teeth” or “deciduous teeth,” begin to develop beneath the gums during the second trimester of pregnancy.  Teeth begin to emerge above the gums approximately six months to one year after birth.  Typically, preschool children have a complete set of 20 baby teeth – including four molars on each arch.

One of the most common misconceptions about primary teeth is that they are irrelevant to the child’s future oral health.  However, their importance is emphasized by the American Dental Association (ADA), which urges parents to schedule a “baby checkup” with a pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth emerges.

What are the functions of primary teeth?

Primary teeth can be painful to acquire.  To soothe tender gums, biting on chewing rings, wet gauze pads, and clean fingers can be helpful.  Though most three-year-old children have a complete set of primary teeth, eruption happens gradually – usually starting at the front of the mouth.

The major functions of primary teeth are described below:

  • Speech production and development
  • Eating and nutrition
  • Self-confidence
  • Straighter smiles
  • Excellent oral health

ERUPTION OF YOUR CHILD'S TEETH

The eruption of primary teeth (also known as deciduous or baby teeth) follows a similar developmental timeline for most children.  A full set of primary teeth begins to grow beneath the gums during the fourth month of pregnancy. For this reason, a nourishing prenatal diet is of paramount importance to the infant’s teeth, gums, and bones.

Generally, the first primary tooth breaks through the gums between the ages of six months and one year.  By the age of three years old most children have a “full” set of twenty primary teeth.  The American Dental Association (ADA) encourages parents to make a “well-baby” appointment with a pediatric dentist approximately six months after the first tooth emerges.  Pediatric dentists communicate with parents and children about prevention strategies, emphasizing the importance of a sound, “no tears” daily home care plan.

Although primary teeth are deciduous, they facilitate speech production, proper jaw development, good chewing habits, and the proper spacing and alignment of adult teeth.  Caring properly for primary teeth helps defend against painful tooth decay, premature tooth loss, malnutrition, and childhood periodontal disease.

SIPPY CUPS

Many pediatric dentists believe that frequent, prolonged sippy cup use contributes to toddler tooth decay.  Sippy cups are an excellent tool to help ease the transition between baby bottles and regular adult drinking glasses.  However, sippy cups have become so effective in preventing spills and leaks, that the majority of parents continue to use them – often well into late toddlerhood.  As a consequence, pediatric cavities (often called “baby bottle cavities”) are becoming increasingly prevalent in children between the ages of two and five.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) advises parents to make a “well-baby” checkup with a pediatric dentist approximately six months after the first tooth has emerged.  At this visit, the pediatric dentist is able to educate parents about sippy cup use and general oral care routines, as well as provide strategies for eliminating unwanted oral habits.

BABY BOTTLE TOOTH DECAY

Maintaining the health of primary (baby) teeth is exceptionally important.  Although baby teeth will eventually be replaced, they fulfill several crucial functions in the meantime.

Baby teeth aid enunciation and speech production, help a child chew food correctly, maintain space for adult teeth, and prevent the tongue from posturing abnormally in the mouth.  When baby teeth are lost prematurely, adjacent teeth shift to fill the gap, causing impacted adult teeth and the potential need for orthodontic treatment.  This phenomenon can lead to impacted adult teeth, years of orthodontic treatment, and a poor aesthetic result.

Babies are at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first primary tooth emerges – usually around the age of six months.  For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends a “well-baby check up” with a pediatric dentist around the age of twelve months.

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