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Establishing a "Dental Home"
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Dental Association (ADA) support the concept of a “Dental Home,” which is the ongoing relationship between the dentist who is the Primary Dental Care Provider and the patient, and includes comprehensive oral health care, beginning no later than age one.
Establishing a Dental Home means that a child’s oral health care is managed in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, coordinated and family-centered way by a licensed dentist. The concept of the Dental Home reflects AAPD and ADA policies and best principles for the proper delivery of oral health care to all, with an emphasis on initiating preventive strategies during infancy. An infant oral health exam is simple, easy and effective.
Caring for Infant Teeth
The AAPD also recommends that you clean your baby's gums with a dampened gauze, at least once a day at bedtime. As soon as teeth begin to appear, brush them gently with a soft infant toothbrush.
As your child approaches toddler age it is good to supervise them as they "brush" their own teeth, however, it is important to remember that young children do not have the ability to do this properly. After they take a turn, be sure to go behind them and do a thorough job. At age 3-5, a very small, pea-sized amount of toothpaste may be used with supervision, as fluoride should not be swallowed.
Prolonged use of baby bottles/pacifiers, or thumb-sucking habits that continue beyond age 3 or that are aggressive before age 3 can create orthodontic issues as your child matures. Consult Dr. Lee, Dr. Sengel, or your pediatrician for tips on eliminating these habits.
Why are Baby (Primary) Teeth important?
Children typically develop their first teeth around 6-8 months of age.
By age 3, they have a full complement of 20 baby teeth. Some of
these teeth are retained until age 12.
Tooth decay at an early age can lead to serious infection,
sickness and premature loss of teeth, excessive space loss and
orthodontic needs. Protecting these teeth and allowing them to
serve their developmental purpose is an important part of managing
your child's oral health.
Baby teeth hold space in the jaw for adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost
too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. When its
time for adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room for
them. This may cause adult teeth to be crowded and crooked. Crooked
teeth may be difficult to keep clean.
Early Childhood Caries (Decay)
Frequent and long exposures of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar, can lead to early childhood caries. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other acidic drinks. Terms often used for infant decay are Nursing Bottle Caries (NBC) or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (BBTD.) The cause of decay, regardless of the method of delivery (bottle, sippy cup, breast), is the frequent exposure to acidity.
Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle filled with a liquid other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Acidic liquid pools around the child’s teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water. Chronic exposure to acidic drinks or snacks throughout the day (sippy cups with acidic drinks) can also produce enamel weakness and subsequent tooth decay. Acidic drinks, foods, and treats are best enjoyed at a set time (specific meal or snack) which can be followed by brushing. If this is not possible, choose less acidic foods/drinks (veggies over fruits and drink water between meals.
After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap or lay the child on the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily.
Why does my Child need Dental X-rays?
Dental x-rays allow Dr. Lee and Dr. Sengel to view areas that the naked eye cannot see, such as between the teeth and underneath the gum tissue. We use digital x-rays in addition to protective lead barriers in our practice; this allows us to acquire computerized images with minimal radiation exposure.
Our goal is to minimize radiation exposure. We utilize digital x-ray machines, lead aprons, thyroid collars, and adhere to ADA guidelines.
"Smile Friendly" Eating Habits
Perhaps most importantly for parents is to pay close attention to drinks and snacks that their child's baby teeth are exposed to, and how frequently.
Having a clean mouth at bedtime is critical – the combination of slowed saliva movement and accumulated sugars in the mouth can foster harmful bacteria. Avoid nursing infants to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle.
Avoid habits such as sippy cups and bottles with fruit juice that are consumed "all day", as well as frequent snacking. These habits create a constant nutrient source for decay-causing bacteria.
Many child liquid medications contain flavored syrups, so be sure to clean your child's mouth after these are taken.
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water.
For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child’s first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.
Dr. Lee or Dr Sengel may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child’s molars to help prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.
When a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your child’s smile, and should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.
Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.
Ask Dr. Lee or Dr. Sengel about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.
Sports drinks and other acidic drinks are very widely available to kids these days. When they are at sporting events, school, and at home. Normal saliva tends to have a neutral pH. When acid is consistently introduced to the mouth, the saliva in our mouth will become acidic, therefore, promoting the risk of decay. Sometimes evidence of this shows up on teeth in different ways. White patches at the gum-line, or around an orthodontic bracket may be early signs of enamel weakness due to acid exposure. Decay can also occur between teeth where they touch one another (flossing areas.)
As with some of our favorite foods, having these kinds of drinks is best in moderation. If a child is sipping on a soda, sports drink, or flavored water for a couple of hours at a time, the body never has a chance to recoup from the high acidic level. When this happens repeatedly the enamel that protects our teeth starts to weaken and eventually turns to decay.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children and adolescents. Drinking water before, during and after sports will help to minimize dental problems.
If sports drinks are consumed:
reduce the frequency and contact time
swallow immediately and do not swish them around the mouth
neutralize the effect of sports drinks by alternating sips of water with the drink
rinse mouth-guards only in water
seek out dentally friendly sports drinks