Early Dental Care

s-pediatric3.jpg

The ABC’s of Teething

Teething's to blame. At least that's what many parents think when babies cry, drool or just put objects in their mouths. But actually teething is a perfectly natural process and not the painful childhood experience many think it to be.

Just how long a baby teethes depends on the child. But usually babies teethe for about two years after the first tooth appears. It's a period when the teeth grow into place gradually. They don't really "cut" through the gums as many parents imagine.

Check to see if your baby's teething. Just look in his or her mouth and if the gums appear irritated, red and puffy, then nature's right on course…your baby is teething.

And now while you are looking in the mouth, a white blanched area means a tooth is ready to come through the surface. Sometimes, you'll be able to see the tip of the tooth in the gum.

Now if you looked but did not see any of baby's new teeth, then simply press your thumb firmly on the gums and quickly take it away. The shape of the unexposed tooth will appear for just a second beneath the tissue.

There may be some discomfort in teething. If so, a recommended procedure is to clean the baby's mouth with a damp gauze pad about three or four times a day. Follow that by giving baby something to bite on - a proper teething ring, toast or even soft toothbrush. If the baby resists eating for a while, don't worry. The situation should soon improve.

If the condition worsens and other symptoms appear, such as fever and nausea, don't assume teething's to blame. When these symptoms appear, it's time to call your pediatrician.

Finally, don't be concerned if your baby drools heavily. That's normal for healthy children, who haven't yet developed the necessary muscle control to keep saliva in their mouths. Many things stimulate excessive saliva production, including foods, smells and strange tastes so again, don't worry. As with teething, drooling is a natural process that your child will soon outgrow.

The Right Way to Use a Nursing Bottle

There are right and wrong ways to use a nursing bottle. Your baby's dental future may depend upon it.

Pediatric dentists agree that the best kind of bottle is the kind most clearly resembling the human nipple. The key is to get the infant to exercise the muscles in his cheek and tongue. This helps prevent crooked teeth by developing strong muscles that guide teeth into their proper place.

Many pediatric dentists suggest that bottles should be fitted with nipples that make the baby work to get the milk. Bottle-fed babies also should be fed sitting upright - not lying down - so that the muscles work against gravity as nature intended.

Another important recommendation: don't give the baby a bottle except at feeding time. Specialists in pediatric dentistry have witnessed an epidemic of tooth decay in children who were given bottles as pacifiers to help the child go to sleep. This problem is called "early childhood caries."

Children with "early childhood caries" may have a mouthful of cavities. These cavities are caused by the sugar naturally present in the fruit juice or milk contained in the bottle. This sugar is turned to acid by the bacteria in the child's mouth. Because the liquid is in constant contact with the child's mouth, the acid works to dissolve part of the child's teeth away.

The effects of "early childhood caries" may not be noticeable until the child reaches the age of 2. But the damage starts as soon as the first teeth come into the mouth. It is not uncommon for a child who uses a bottle as a pacifier to have 10 or more decayed primary (baby) teeth requiring special treatment.

The best way to avoid "early childhood caries" is not to give your infant a bottle at bedtime…and not to allow toddlers to carry bottles around during the day. The bottle with its milk or juice should only be given to the baby at feeding time.

If the bottle serves as a pacifier, then fill it with water. Water will not harm teeth as other liquids do and its natural amount of the mineral fluoride will strengthen the baby's teeth against decay.