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Dental Care & Week in Review

Dear Debi,
What should I know about infant teething and a babyís first trip to the dentist?
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Child's first dental visit should be by age of 12 months
  • Prevent tooth decay by avoiding sugary foods like sodas
  • Drinking fluoridated water makes teeth stronger
  • Teething infants need enough liquids to avoid dehydration
  • Teething is best treated with cold pressure
And donít forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Jennifer Holtzman, DDS
Jennifer Holtzman, DDS
It used to be suggested that kids see a dentist around 3-years-old. That age was selected because of the ability for three years olds to cooperate in a dental office. But if you wait that long, it may be too late to avoid dental procedures that could easily have been prevented.

Tooth decay can start as soon as kids have teeth. By the time a child is 12-months-old, they need to have already had their first dental visit, to allow your childís dentist time to talk to you and for you both to develop a plan for your childís health. Why is time such an important factor?

Baby teeth are substantially different than adult teeth. They have less enamel and the nerves of the teeth are relatively bigger than in adult teeth, so a small cavity has a greater potential for damage and it can develop very quickly. If you wait until theyíre 3, theyíll have terrible cavities.

The actual examination for a child at infancy may well happen with the baby supported on your lap with the babyís head resting in the dentistís lap, with yours and the dentistís knees touching. The dentist will look in your childís mouth to see if everything is developing as it should. How often your child will return for subsequent examinations is determined by what the dentist sees in your childís mouth, as well as your childís potential for developing dental disease.

It's important that parents understand that tooth decay is the result of a transferable bacterial infection which usually occurs from mother to child. If the mother has a clean mouth and transfers little bacteria, it's most likely the baby will have relatively little bacteria in their mouth. It's the bacteria which feeds off the food in our mouths that causes tooth decay.

Drinking fluoridated water throughout the day is good because fluoride takes minerals from the saliva and repairs the damage, making the tooth stronger than it was in the first place. It's the little bits of fluoride throughout the day that are the most effective at "fixing" teeth.

Tooth decay is preventable by starting good dental habits early on. Parents and child care providers can do inexpensive things like making sure kids brush their teeth twice per day. Also, be aware of what youíre feeding kids. Try to give them water, instead of soda. Also, think about the snacks you give kids. Kids should be fed food that doesnít donít stick in the mouth.

A lot of teeth growth occurs in a baby's first nine months. Baby teeth emerge around the babyís seventh month Ė the bottom teeth usually erupting before the top teeth. When teeth break through the gum, the gum may be sensitive, and itís tempting to avoid cleaning the area. But as food and debris collect, the inflammation worsens and causes greater discomfort. A thorough cleaning usually resolves the problem. By the time the baby is 2 years old, all their baby teeth should be in. The first of the permanent teeth arrive around 6 years of age.

Teething infants can have many seemingly unrelated symptoms like an elevated temperature, diarrhea, and increased saliva. Skin eruptions may occur as well as stomach problems. The most important thing for a child care provider to know about teething is that when your infant has pain in the mouth, he or she can become dehydrated. There are serious consequences of dehydration, so itís important to make sure that teething infants get enough liquids.

Teething is best treated with cold pressure. It may be helpful to let the infant chew on cold teething rings or washcloths. Non-aspirin pain relievers can also be very beneficial. If the situation lasts longer than 24 hours, have the child see a physician to rule out other possible causes of distress.

The thing that will clue dentists into whether a child will have cavities in their permanent teeth is whether they have cavities in their baby teeth. Healthy babyís teeth are good indicators of proper development of the muscles and bones of the face, speech development, proper nutrition, as well as good self-esteem.

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