- Your Child’s First Dental Visit
- Teeth Grinding
- Sipping, Snacking And Decay
- Improving Your Smile
Your Child’s First Dental Visit
What is the focus of your child’s beautiful SMILE? Strong, healthy teeth! Baby teeth-also called primary teeth-are important in the growth and development of a child. Baby teeth can help your child chew foods and speak. They also hold space in the jaws for adult teeth growing under the gums. Babies are born without teeth. Usually baby teeth start to appear in the mouth when the child is 6 months old. By the third birthday, most children have a full set of 20 baby teeth including incisors, canines and molars.
The chart below tells the names of baby teeth, when they come in (erupt) and when they fall out (are shed). Baby teeth will be replaced by permanent (adult) teeth. However, not all children get the same teeth at the same time. Your child’s teeth may erupt earlier or later than the times shown here.
Tooth decay starts early!
Surprisingly, tooth decay can occur as soon as your child’s first tooth comes in (erupts). So it is very important to start taking care of those “pearly whites” as soon as you see them peeking through the gums. If your child gets decay, your child can suffer pain and infection. Also, if a child is in pain, he may have trouble eating, sleeping and learning.
What causes tooth decay?
The bacteria that cause decay are in everyone’s mouths. Babies get these decay-causing bacteria from their caregivers, mom and dad, just as we all are exposed to germs in our families. These bacteria then stick onto the baby's teeth. Brushing the teeth to clean off the bacteria is important to keep teeth healthy. Bacteria on the teeth use the sugar in foods and drinks and turn it into acid. Each time your child eats or drinks, this acid can attack the teeth for 20 minutes or longer after eating or drinking. Over time, enamel gets damaged, tooth decay develops and cavities appear. Children are more likely to get decay if their teeth are in contact with sugar often or for long periods of time. Babies should not be put to bed with a bottle. If your baby falls asleep with the bottle in his or her mouth, the liquid in the bottle pools around the teeth. Liquids such as fruit juice, soda, and even milk contain sugar. Plain water in a bottle or sippy cup at the end of the day is a better choice.
Begin Dental Visits Early
Protect your child’s teeth by starting dental checkups early. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that the first dental visit should occur when the baby’s first tooth appears, but no later than the child’s first birthday.
Why schedule a visit so early? A dentist can show you how to clean your child’s teeth, talk about feeding, oral habits and recommend dental care products. He or she also can help you make sure your child is getting the right amount of fluoride (FLOOR-ide), a natural mineral that protects teeth. And your dentist can answer questions about your baby’s teeth.
Having a well-baby checkup at this age also connects your child to a dental home. This is a place where you can take your child from year to year. This helps the dentist get to know your child’s and family’s needs, so your child will have the best care.
If your child is a toddler, the dentist will gently examine his or her teeth and gums, looking for decay and other problems. The dentist may also clean the child’s teeth. Your toddler can also be checked for problems related to habits such as thumb or finger sucking.
Fluoride treatments and dental sealants are two important ways your dentist can prevent cavities. Dental sealants are a coating that the dentist puts on the grooves of your child’s back teeth to protect them. Your dentist will let you know if these treatments are right for your child.
Preventive care from your dentist can save time, money and teeth. Your dentist will recommend a schedule for your child’s dental visits.
Tips for a Positive Dental Visit
- Schedule your child’s first dental visit before his or her first birthday.
- If possible, schedule a morning appointment when children tend to be rested and cooperative. Don’t schedule during nap time.
- Stay positive. Don’t show any anxiety that you might feel about dental visits.
- Never bribe your child to go to the dentist or use the visit as a punishment or threat.
- Make your child’s dental visit an enjoyable outing. Teaching your child good oral hygiene habits early can lead to a lifetime of good dental health.
Bruxism is a habit of grinding or clenching the teeth. Clenching means you tightly hold your top and bottom teeth together. Grinding is when you slide your teeth back and forth over each other. Bruxism can happen in children and adults of any age.
Many people with bruxism wake themselves up during the night with a loud clenching or grinding sound. Sometimes the sound is so loud that other people can hear it. For other people, bruxism may be silent.
People who suffer from bruxism may have one or more of these symptoms:
- headache or earache
- sore jaw
- jaw clicking
- frequent toothaches
- sensitive teeth
- facial pain
- worn or cracked teeth or fillings
- tongue indentations
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
What Causes Bruxism?
The causes of bruxism are not known for certain. Stress, sleep disorders and an abnormal bite are some things that may play a role.
Your dentist can diagnose bruxism by checking for unusual wear spots on your teeth and looking at any related symptoms. Regular dental checkups are important to find damage in the early stages. Your dentist can help you manage bruxism and the related symptoms, as well as repair your teeth if necessary and help prevent further damage.
How Is Bruxism Treated?
Treatment depends on each person’s situation. Your dentist may recommend one or more treatments, such as the following:
- stress reduction methods
- a protective nightguard worn over the teeth while sleeping
- medication for pain or muscle spasms
- exercises to relax jaw muscles
- fillings or other dental treatment to repair damaged teeth
Your dentist may recommend that you wear a nightguard during sleep. Nightguards are custom-made by your dentist from plastic or acrylic. The nightguard slips over the upper or lower teeth and prevents them from touching. It protects teeth and helps keep them from wearing down.
Since bruxism has many causes, you may need to try a few different treatments to find out what works for you. You can help manage bruxism by paying attention to the symptoms, having regular dental visits and talking with your dentist.
Sipping, Snacking And Decay
Do you sip soft drinks or other sugary drinks all day at your desk? Do you use breath mints or eat candy often? Instead of eating meals, do you snack all day? Do you often grab a sports or energy drink when you are tired?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be increasing your chances of tooth decay. Keep reading to find out why.
What And How Often You Eat Can Affect Your Teeth
Eating habits and food choices can lead to tooth decay, or cavities. A steady supply of sugary foods and drinks, including sports and energy drinks, can damage teeth. But snacking or “grazing” all day long can also lead to tooth decay.
Plaque (sounds like “back”) is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. When you do not remove plaque from your teeth every day, it builds up. Plaque bacteria use sugar to make acid that attacks enamel, the hard surface of the tooth. The acid can attack tooth enamel for up to 20 minutes after you consume sugary foods or drinks.
When you have sugary foods or drinks many times a day or sip the same sugary drink for a long time, acid attacks the enamel again and again. Repeated acid attacks can cause tooth decay, which must be treated by a dentist.
One way of making smarter food and drink choices is to read their labels to make sure they are low in added sugar.
A Healthy Diet Keeps Your Mouth Healthy
Eating a healthy diet helps keep you from feeling tired, getting sick, being overweight, and having other health problems, like tooth decay. A healthy diet is one that
- is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and nuts
- is low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium), and added sugars
- has foods in the amounts shown on the My Plate picture below
Almost all foods have some type of sugar. You cannot and should not remove all sugar from your diet. Many foods and drinks, like apples, carrots, and milk, naturally contain sugars and have vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs.
For teeth to be healthy, they need vitamins, protein, calcium, and phosphorous.
Reduce Your Risk Of Tooth Decay
- Limit sugary drinks and snacks between meals. Remember, many sports and energy drinks have sugar, too. If you do snack, choose foods low in sugar and fat.
- If you have sugary foods and drinks, have them with meals. Saliva increases during meals and helps weaken acid and rinse food particles from the mouth.
- Chew sugarless gum that has the ADA Seal. Chewing gum for 20 minutes after meals have been shown to reduce tooth decay.
- Drink water. Drinking tap water with fluoride can help prevent tooth decay. And it can help wash away sugary drinks.
- See your dentist regularly.
Improving Your Smile
Look in the mirror.
- Do you like the way your teeth look?
- Do you dislike the color of any of your teeth?
- Are there spaces between your teeth?
- Do you have any chips or cracks on your teeth?
- Are you missing any teeth?
- Do you have any crooked teeth?
- Do you feel your teeth are too long or too short?
- Are you pleased with the shapes and position of your teeth?
If your answers show that you might want a change in your smile, talk to your dentist about Improving Your Smile. A great smile can be the most attractive feature of your face. A smile helps you express health, success, youth and sincerity. It is a great asset in your personal, business and social contacts. So it’s important that you are happy with how your smile looks. But if you are like many people, you may not be. Your dentist has many different techniques to shape, sculpt, and make your smile more beautiful. With a few simple steps, you can have a smile you feel great about. And treatment may be more affordable than you think.
Options For Improving Your Smile Include:
- Tooth-Colored Fillings
Your dentist can use natural-colored materials to restore teeth that have cavities. Options include composite materials, such as resin, as well as lab-made porcelain inlays, inlays and crowns.
- Tooth Whitening
Teeth become stained for many reasons – drinking coffee, tea or wine; smoking; and even aging can discolor teeth. Tooth whitening is a process that makes discolored teeth whiter. The bleach used for in-office (chair side) whitening is stronger than the bleach found in at-home whitening kits. Keep in mind that not everyone’s teeth can become movie-star white. Your dentist can recommend the whitening treatment that is right for you.
Veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells that are bonded, or cemented, to the front of your teeth. They are custom-made of ceramic or composite resin, and look like natural teeth. Veneers can be used to fill spaces between teeth and to cover teeth that are stained, poorly shaped, or a bit crooked.
Braces can help correct crowded or crooked teeth or an uneven bite. Braces have become much smaller and less noticeable over the years. Brackets, the part of the braces that attach to each tooth, can sometimes be attached to the back of the tooth to make them less noticeable. Some brackets are clear or tooth-colored which help braces blend in.
In some cases, treatment may be done without using braces at all. A series of clear, removable aligners are used to move your teeth over time. These aligners are more discreet than traditional braces.
- Enamel Shaping
Your dentist can “reshape” your teeth by contouring tooth enamel, the outer layer of the tooth. When teeth are a little crowded or uneven, or when teeth appear too long, your dentist can use enamel shaping to improve how the teeth look.
If a tooth needs more a dramatic change than veneers or enamel shaping can provide, crowns are an option. The outer part of the tooth is removed and a crown is placed over it. The crown can be made to fit in with your other teeth. It’s like a fresh start for your tooth.
- First Steps to a New Smile
Once you decide to improve your smile, the first step is to visit your dentist. At this visit, you will talk about the best plan for you. If you have any signs of dental disease, your dentist may recommend treatment for this. It’s important to have a healthy mouth before starting cosmetic treatment.
These treatments and others can help you have more natural-looking and attractive teeth. What are you waiting for? Talk to your dentist today about how to make your smile the best it can be.