dentistry and children

Prenatal care for expectant mothers

Good nutrition before pregnancy helps carry the mother and child through the first few weeks of development, which are critical.

Pregnancy can cause changes in the mucous of the mouth that may be a concern. Hormonal changes can cause pregnancy gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). Maintenance of good oral hygiene and removal of any irritants helps to reduce the inflammation.

During pregnancy, fever and illness can leave marks on the developing teeth. Antibiotics, particularly tetracycline, taken during pregnancy may cause yellow-brownish stain on the primary enamel. The staining does not usually affect the integrity of the teeth and can often be treated cosmetically later in life.

As a precaution, dental x-rays should be avoided during pregnancy. If an x-ray cannot be avoided the mother will be protected with a lead apron with an attached thyroid collar.

 

Child's first visit

Your child will have all of his/her primary teeth by the time that they are 2 years of age. At this age, your child is too young to form a friendship with the dental caregiver and or follow instructions such as 'open your mouth'. At this age, you may wish to make an introductory visit to the dental office before treatment begins.

Your child’s first dental visit should occur at approximately 3 years of age. A 3-year-old is usually more co-operative and able to comprehend and obey commands. The first visit usually consists of a ride in the chair and a thorough examination. The dentist may choose to take x-rays to determine the development of the teeth and introduce the child to the dental equipment so it will be less intimidating.

 

Nursing bottle syndrome

Cavities can occur in very young children who routinely fall asleep while nursing on a bottle. The sugar in the nursing bottle (cow’s milk, juice, formula or sugary drinks) turns to acid, dissolving tooth enamel. Breast-fed babies are also susceptible if they constantly fall asleep with breast milk on their teeth.

Early signs include white spots and tooth discoloration. Damage to primary (baby) teeth can affect the development and proper eruption of the permanent teeth.

You can protect your child by not letting your baby go to bed with a bottle unless it contains clear water. Clean your baby’s mouth regularly and don’t dip pacifiers in honey or other sweet ingredients.

 

Brushing your child's teeth

A newborn’s gums should be massaged daily with clean, moistened gauze.

When the teeth begin to show in the oral cavity a very small soft bristled brush should be used without toothpaste until the child is approximately 18 months of age.

When the child is ready for toothpaste, only a tiny drop should be placed on the brush. Children have a tendency to swallow toothpaste and fluoride may be ingested in excessive quantities. Although fluoride is effective in preventing cavities, it is a toxic substance and should not be ingested. The child should be encouraged to spit out the excess and rinse their mouth with clear water.

Remember to change your child’s toothbrush every 3 months. Make sure the head of the brush fits the child’s mouth. A good way to measure is to place the head of the brush behind the lower teeth. Use light pressure with a soft bristle brush. Brushing should take approximately 3 – 4 minutes. Make tooth brushing an enjoyable activity for the child and they will want to repeat the behaviour.

 

Fluoride

Fluoride absorbs into the enamel of the teeth making them more resistant to acid producing bacteria. It is available in various flavours and can be applied to the teeth either with a fluoride tray that gently rests in the mouth for 4 minutes or the hygienist can apply fluoride by painting it on the teeth, if the child is less co-operative.

Fluoride is also present in the drinking water of many cities across North America. Ensuring your child uses fluoride toothpaste and receives fluoride treatments will help to develop and maintain healthy teeth and bones.

 

Nutrition

Good dental health depends on an adequate supply of nutrients that are properly used by the body. The bacteria in plaque use simple sugars as their food and produces an enzyme (or acid) that will affect the enamel of teeth.

The types of foods that cause tooth decay contains refined sugars such as are found in candy, soft drinks, and crackers.

  • Refined sugars stay in the mouth often long enough to react to the bacteria in plaque.
  • Natural sugars are found in fruits and vegetables but they usually clear the mouth rapidly before the sugar is converted.
  • Dried fruits, such as raisins, contained a concentrated form of natural sugar that sticks to the teeth. If raisins are ingested with nuts or grains as in cereal, the stickiness is generally washed away from the teeth.

The child rinsing their mouth with clear water, whether they are in the form of vitamins or analgesics, should always follow children’s chewable. Aspirin and vitamin C both have an acid base and are mixed with sugar to make it more palatable for the child.

 

Sealants(pit & fissure)

The placement of pit and fissure sealants on the first set of permanent molars is an important part of a total hygiene care program for maximum protection against tooth decay.

Pits of the teeth are the deep grooves on the chewing surface of the tooth.
Fissures are channels that extend down the sides of the teeth, facing the cheek or tongue.

This type of dental treatment is recommended for primary or permanent teeth that contain deep, narrow pits on the chewing surfaces. These pits are traps for bacteria, which will lead to decay. It is difficult, and often impossible, to reach these areas with a toothbrush during normal cleansing.

 

Athletic mouthguards

If your child is involved in sports, it is recommended that he/she wear a protective mouth guard to prevent traumatic injuries to the teeth. Athletic mouth guards are custom fitted and easily fabricated at the dental office. Talk to your dentist before involving your child in a sports activity that could increase the risk of injury.

 

Thumbsucking

Thumb sucking can have a damaging effect on the growth of the jaw, the facial contour and even speech. It causes improper alignment of the jaw, which can be serious. Often this oral habit will disappear, but if it doesn’t and it extends beyond 4 -years of age, corrective action should be taken. It is important to encourage your child to end the habit without causing embarrassment or shame. You should ask your dentist to speak to your child while you are not present. Often children will listen to an adult whom they are less familiar with. If the child continues the habit a habit-correction appliance can be inserted in the child’s mouth as a reminder to keep the thumb out.