Children's teeth Q & A
Is breast-feeding better than bottle-feeding in preventing early childhood cavities?
Many experts recommend breast-feeding over bottle-feeding for the overall health of your child. However, breast-feeding can lead to Early Childhood Cavities in the same way that bottle-feeding can.
How do I prevent early childhood cavities?
Avoid overnight feeding, such as bringing baby to bed with you and allowing him/her to nurse at will. Milk can "pool" in the child's mouth and cause acid to form continuously throughout the night. This acid leads to decay.
Is it okay if my child sucks his or her thumb?
Thumb-sucking is normal for infants; most stop on their own by age 2. If your child sucks their thumb beyond age 2, try to discourage it by age 4. Thumb-sucking beyond age 4 can lead to crooked, crowded teeth and bite problems.
Is it okay for my baby to use a pacifier?
Yes, but don't dip it in sugar, honey, or sweetened liquid. In addition, try to have your child give up the pacifier by age 2. Keep in mind that while a pacifier and thumb-sucking create no health difference for the child, a pacifier may be a better choice because it can be easier to wean your child from a pacifier than from thumb-sucking.
What is the best way to brush a toddler's teeth?
Use a small, soft-bristled brush. Use a circular or wiggling motion on all tooth surfaces, especially where the tooth meets the gum-line. Once your toddler is able to spit out, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on the brush. Families should ask their dentist to demonstrate proper toothbrushing during the child's dental visit.
When should I start using fluoride toothpaste for my child?
When your child is able to spit. Fluoride is safe and necessary to keep teeth strong, but only at appropriate levels. Younger toddlers tend to swallow toothpaste in excessive amounts, and this may lead to fluorosis, which causes discoloration of the teeth. And remember, even if your water is fluoridated, you still need to use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is necessary in both "topical" forms like toothpaste, and "ingested" forms like water or fluoride supplements.
I use bottled water at home, and it's not fluoridated. Is this okay?
If you use bottled water for drinking and cooking, or if your community water is not fluoridated, be sure to tell your doctor or dentist. They may prescribe fluoride supplements for the baby.
What is baby bottle decay and how can I prevent it?
Baby bottle decay is caused by frequent exposure, over time, to liquids containing sugars. These include milk, formula, and fruit juices. The sugary liquids pool around the teeth for long periods of time as your baby sleeps, leading to cavities that first develop in the upper and lower front teeth. For this reason, you shouldn't let your baby fall asleep with a bottle of juice or milk in his mouth.
THE TOOTH ERUPTION PROCESS
At about 5 weeks gestation, the first buds of primary teeth appear in the baby’s jaws. At birth babies have a set of 20 primary teeth (10 in the upper jaw, 10 in the lower jaw) hidden within the gums. Primary teeth are also known as baby teeth, milk teeth or deciduous teeth.
Each type of tooth is named for ease of identification, including:
• Incisors – are the front teeth located in the upper and lower jaws. Each incisor has a thin cutting edge. The upper and lower incisors come together like a pair of scissors to cut the food.
• Canines – are the pointy ‘vampire’ teeth, on both sides of the incisors in the upper and lower jaws. They are used to tear food.
• Premolars – have flat surfaces to crush food.
• Molars – are larger than premolars. These teeth have broad, flat surfaces that grind food.
The term ‘eruption’ refers to the tooth breaking through the gum line. In babies, tooth eruption is also called teething. The timing of tooth eruption differs from child to child. One child may cut their first tooth when only a few months old, while another may not start teething until they are 12 months old or more. While the timing may vary, the order of tooth eruption is generally the same. This includes:
• The two front teeth (central incisors) in the lower jaw are usually the first to erupt somewhere between the ages of six and 10 months.
• The two front teeth (central incisors) in the upper jaw erupt between the ages of eight and 13 months.
• The lateral incisors, which are the teeth on each side of the central incisors, erupt in both the upper and lower jaws between the ages of eight and 16 months. The lower set tends to erupt before the upper set.
• The first set of upper and lower molars (flat-surfaced back teeth) erupt between the ages of 13 and 19 months.
• Canine or ‘eye’ teeth sit beside the lateral incisors and erupt in both the upper and lower jaws between the ages of 16 and 23 months.
• The second set of upper and lower molars erupts between the ages of 25 and 33 months.
Generally, the average child has their full set of 20 primary teeth by the age of three years.
Usually between the ages of about six and seven years, the primary teeth start to shed with the he central and lateral incisors in the upper and lower jaws usually the first to go.