General Prevention Tips
Children find comfort from sucking a thumb, finger or a pacifier. This is normal. However, if the infant or child is doing this often, it can cause misaligned teeth and an irregular bite pattern.
Thumb sucking engages powerful muscles that can alter the shape of the palate. This, in turn, can affect the position of the teeth and lips. If the child continues to suck their thumb or fingers after the four anterior teeth have erupted, conditions can worsen and it may require surgery to be corrected.
It is recommended that if by 4 years of age a child is still sucking their thumb or fingers you should seek the advice of your dental professional.
BABY BOTTLE TOOTH DECAY
Baby bottle decay is caused by sugars found in breast milk, formula and in fruit juice. Natural sugars found in milk and 100% fruit juice will have the same effect as refined sugar on the teeth. When an infant drinks from their bottle, the bacteria in their mouth will mix with the sugars from the drink. This mixture creates a mild acid that will attack the enamel of their teeth and form cavities. We can control this damage by managing how much sugar is given to the infant and controlling how long it stays there. Children that go to bed with a bottle of milk or juice are at an increased risk of decay. The sugars will pool in their saliva and have all night to work on destroying the outer layer (enamel) of the teeth. Be sure that you are using a clean damp washcloth over your finger and wiping the baby’s gums and or teeth. It is also risky to give a child juice between meals as this is just a continuous coating of sugar on the teeth throughout the day. Water is the best choice to give between meals and at bedtime if the child is meeting nutritional needs throughout the day. Do not dip pacifiers into sweet substances and, as early as possible, teach your child to drink from a cup. Baby bottle tooth decay can interfere with the proper formation of the permanent teeth if it is left untreated.
Babies can begin teething as early as three to four months of age. This is a period where the teeth begin to sequentially erupt. The pain that children feel varies. Some babies can become irritable while others don’t seem to be bothered at all. Symptoms of teething are swollen gums, drooling, crankiness, difficulty sleeping, bum rash, and loss of appetite. You can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of teething by gently massaging your child’s gums with a clean finger, a small cool spoon or a wet gauze pad. A teething ring may also help.
PRIMARY AND PERMANENT TEETH
Most children at two years of age have 20 primary teeth. These teeth eventually get replaced by permanent teeth by the time the child turns 12 years of age. Somewhere between the age of 17-31, the wisdom teeth may emerge. It is very important that a child’s primary teeth are kept healthy because they will determine the placement for the permanent teeth. If the primary teeth become diseased or do not properly erupt, it can alter the growth pattern for the permanent teeth, leading to overcrowding.
Cleaning your baby’s mouth before teeth erupt
It is important to start cleaning a child’s mouth before they even have any teeth. This develops the habit of keeping the mouth clean, which provides a clean and healthy environment for the primary teeth to erupt.
With the baby in a comfortable lying position, make sure you can see clearly into the baby’s mouth. With a clean damp washcloth over your finger, wipe the baby’s gums. You can also buy special infant toothbrushes that fit right over your finger. Do not use toothpaste as the baby may swallow it. Once the teeth have grown through the gums you can clean the teeth with a child size, soft bristled toothbrush and a pea size amount of toothpaste. It is important to teach the child to spit out the paste when finished. It is recommended to avoid toothpastes containing fluoride on children under the age of two.
Proper technique for brushing your teeth
Use a soft bristled toothbrush with rounded edges. Make sure the toothbrush allows you to reach all the way to the back of the mouth. Hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to your teeth. The bristles of the brush should be directed towards the gum line. Brush all three surfaces of the teeth, the chewing surface, the cheek side, and the tongue side. Brushing your teeth should take a minimum of 2 minutes to complete. Most people will miss the same spots repeatedly. To avoid this, change up your usual brushing pattern. The Canadian Dental Association recommends that you replace your toothbrush every three months.
Fluoride is a mineral found in food and most drinking water systems. Fluoride is important to our oral health because it makes our teeth more resistant to decay. If your drinking water does not have acceptable levels of fluoride there are supplements that your dentist could recommend. A fluoride toothpaste sometimes is not enough. Too much fluoride can also pose a problem. Dental fluorosis, a condition that can affect the look of the tooth is the result when too high an amount of fluoride is ingested in early childhood.
If someone has sustained a dental injury, and in the case of a tooth that is avulsed (knocked out), hold the tooth by the crown and try to re-implant it into the mouth. Never touch the tooth by the root. Then bite on a clean cloth or gauze to hold the tooth in place and go directly to your dental office. If the tooth cannot be put back into the socket, submerge the tooth in saline, cold milk or the victims own saliva and go to the dental office. This is an emergency visit and you should be seen as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that the tooth can be re-implanted into the socket. When there is an injury in your mouth make sure you rinse your mouth to remove any blood or particles. In order to control the swelling, place a cold cloth or cold compress on the cheek near the injury site. If the tooth is fractured, do a warm water rinse and apply a cold pack or compress. A cold pack along with Ibuprofen will help to control the swelling until you are seen by a dental professional.
Links to Heart Disease in Adults
Poor dental hygiene (lack of brushing and flossing) can lead to other health problems not related to the mouth, including problems associated with the heart. Inflammation, which is the human body’s natural response to irritation, injury, or infection of tissue, has been shown to be a is a major risk factor for heart disease. While inflammation is meant to have a protective effect, untreated chronic inflammation can lead to more severe health complications. Both periodontal disease (severe, chronic gum disease) and cardiovascular disease are inflammatory diseases, and inflammation is the common factor that connects these two disease states.
This is why it is so important to practice good oral hygiene at home, including a twice daily routine of brushing and once daily regimen of flossing. By sustaining this habit of cleaning at home, you will keep the level of harmful bacteria low, thereby reducing the level of infection and resulting inflammation.