Dental Care for Babies and Kids
Taking care of your newborn’s teeth is very crucial to determine his/her future teeth setting and spacing. It also ensures that the gums and teeth are healthy and away from infections. A newborn needs its first set of teeth to be as healthy and germ free as its permanent teeth and taking care of it is as crucial as the adult teeth.
Let us look at ways in which one can nurture and keep the milk teeth of a baby healthy, odor and infection-free.
It is very essential that the baby is taken to a dentist after his/her first birthday. This way, the dentist can check and ascertain whether the teething process is normal and the gums are healthy beforehand to avoid complications after the teeth erupt.
Oral hygiene starts even before the infant starts teething. Due to the presence of sugar in the natural milk, care must be taken to ensure that the kid’s gums/teeth are cleaned with a soft cloth after the feeding process.
Post teeth eruption, one must ensure that the baby’s teeth are brushed everyday with a soft bristled toothbrush ideal for that age using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
When the baby has two or more teeth close to each other, the flossing procedure must be started to ensure there is no plaque and germ build up in the teeth.
The baby must be brushed with an adult supervision and help and care must be taken to ensure that he/she doesn’t swallow the toothpaste.
Toddlers can be made to use a little bit more of the toothpaste for a slightly longer duration as they would have started on solid food and are prone to plaque and germ build up.
The entire process must be supervised and the toddler reminded not to swallow the paste during brushing.
Junk food and aerated drinks do not do any good for the toddler. There are many parents who come under the pressure of tantrums and get their kids aerated drinks, chocolates and chips. This leads to faster decaying of teeth and sensitivity in gums. A baby/toddler’s newly formed teeth and gums can’t take the brunt of these preservatives and chemicals. Also, the high sugar content in these junk items can lead to plaque and irreversible decay of teeth and gums. It is not even healthy for the body as a whole.
Healthy habits like brushing twice a day, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, calcium rich food, etc helps the child in acquiring a healthy set of shining teeth and avoid later dental complications.
A dentist can prescribe calcium supplements in certain cases to improve or speed up the teething process. Consulting with the dentist would also help you in understanding what is good and what is not for the toddler’s teeth and gums.
Brushing and flossing are key steps to ensure a healthy and odor-free dental health. The baby must be taught to diligently take care of his/her dental health right from the beginning and no shortcuts must be encouraged. This not only prevents spreading of germs but also ensure healthy and well maintained teeth which is always smile-ready.
Again, it need not be said that all good habits start from home and to ensure a healthy teeth for your baby, the parents must also follow all the rules to a good dental health diligently without resorting to shortcuts.
The size and shape of teeth setting might differ from person to person. But the stage wherein it erupts and sheds remains almost consistent to everybody. The teething process is correlated to one’s dietary requirements and starts from the age of 6 months for most of the babies. Some late bloomers however, do not get their first teeth till the first 12-14 months of their age. The milk teeth or the primary set of teeth is shed at various intervals of the childhood which might not be the same for everybody. An approximation can be established in determining the average age at which each tooth will erupt, shed and be replaced with the permanent teeth. The whole process of transition from primary teeth to permanent teeth is completed before 21 yrs of age.
The first set of teeth or the primary teeth starts with the eruption of central incisors at around 8-12 months which is then shed at 6-7 years. This is then followed by lateral incisors and canines at around 1.5 years and 2 years respectively which is then shed at around 7-8 years and 10-12 years respectively.
After the canines come the first molars and second molars at 13-19 months and 2-3 years. It is shed at around 10-12 years. The whole teething process starts with central incisors of the lower jaw and usually a set of teeth erupts simultaneously in one part of the jaw and proceeding with the same on the other part. For e.g. All 4 central incisors erupt at almost the same time duration of 6-12 months with the lower jaw getting it before the upper jaw.
The primary teeth are replaced by the permanent teeth as and when the shedding process occurs. The eruption chart for the permanent teeth looks like this:
- Eruption starts with the central incisors again at around 6-8 years followed by the first molars at 6-7 years, lateral incisors at 7-9 years, canines at 9-12 years, first pre-molars and second pre-molars at around 10-12 years, second molars at 11-13 years and finally the wisdom teeth or the third molar at 17-21 years. These wisdom teeth are the last to erupt and don’t have a shedding process.
- This chart is an approximate one and there are cases of eruption starting earlier and later than mentioned. There is no reason to panic in such cases as they differ from individual to individual and is also influenced by genetics.
- A visit to the dentist after the first birthday of the baby will help you in determining whether the teething process is happening as per schedule and if there is any concern. A regular dental check up is very important to catch any issues and glitches in dental health as soon as it happens before it can cause any further damage or complications. As important the eruption process is, so is the shedding process and should also be monitored carefully. Delays in shedding of one tooth might result in the permanent teeth to grow behind it and would lead to irregular teeth formation. Through regular check-ups one can ensure that the teeth eruption and shedding process is carefully monitored and any irregularities may be corrected as soon as possible before it can affect the whole teeth frame.
Healthy and strong teeth are very essential for everybody throughout their lives not only for chewing food and have a healthy smile but also for the ability to speak. For an infant most of the nutrients would come from mother’s milk but as the baby grows up, a proper balanced diet is very essential to manage the growing baby’s nutritional requirements. One must ensure that the baby gets the daily dosage of every nutrient and eats a balanced, no-junk food. It should also be carefully ensured that the over-the-counter food products and canned items which we give our babies have low added sugar and does not contain too many preservative. An all-natural and fresh diet is the key to a balanced and healthy diet.
Too much of sugar or carbohydrates in food items not only make the kids tired, lethargic and adds unwanted and unhealthy weight but also leads to tooth decay.
A healthy and balanced diet must contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals needed by the baby on a daily basis. It must essentially be a combination of the following:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits: This is a very important part of a baby’s meal. On an average, a baby must be consuming an amount of vegetables and fruits which constitutes half of his solid meal intake every day. 2-3 servings of cut fruits with each serving accounting to a minimum of half cup and increased as per the age of the baby is very essential for the baby’s dietary requirement. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain adequate amount of fiber which helps in saliva secretion, good digestion and also in keeping the mouth clean from germs and residual food
- Grains: A daily intake of whole grains like oatmeal, barley, maize, millets, corn and rice is very essential for a baby. Dairy foods: Milk and milk based food products are very essential for a baby in his/her early growth years. It is the main source of nutrient for an infant and an important part of daily fluid intake for a fussy toddler. It is a rich source of calcium and potassium which is very essential for strong bones and teeth. The lactose present in milk is a rich source of energy and is easily digestible. As the baby grows older a fat-free or less fat version of dairy products would be more beneficial than the full cream milk as it tends to add unwanted fat in the diet. Cheese and yoghurt increases saliva secretion in the mouth resulting in removal of food particles stuck in the mouth and thus inhibiting bacteria build-up.
- Lean proteins: A lean protein which has lesser cholesterol and saturated fat should be an essential part of a baby’s daily dietary intake. A lean protein ideally contains only 2-3gm of cholesterol and saturated fat content in 1 ounce of portion. Meat like lean beef, skinless poultry and fish are rich source of lean proteins. For the vegetarians, beans, peas and legumes are alternate substitutes which can provide for the daily protein requirement.
In addition to these, one must keep the kids away from sweetened food, junk food and high fat food. Bottles and pacifiers must not be given to the kids during bedtime as it promotes the build-up of cavities. Bottles with formula or milk must be offered before the kid is put to bed and definitely not during sleep as long duration of the sweetened milk or formula might lead to tooth decay. Usage of pacifiers must be avoided especially during bedtime.
The main aim of regular brushing and flossing is to keep our teeth and gums safe from germs and cavity. But it isn’t always easy to brush away those left over remnants of food which gets stuck to our grinding teeth and in between the canines. These remnants produce acid build-up and lead to rotting and decay of teeth. Plus, they also lead to foul mouth odor and nasty looking yellowing teeth. The molars are an easy prey to such leftover bits of food due to its rough and uneven structure. In such cases, a sealant is our one stop solution for dental protection.
What is it and how is it applied?
The sealant is a cover over the uneven molars which would keep it safe from the leftover and residual food particles which stick to it. Ideally, a sealant is most effective when applied as soon as the molars appear. The dentist evaluates the dental structure, dry the teeth and apply an acidic gel over it. This would act as a friction creator by making the surface of the teeth rough. This would then provide a strong binding to the sealant. The gel is then rinsed off and the teeth dried again. After this, the sealant is applied onto the uneven surface of the teeth and hardened using a special blue light.
Who can take this procedure?
This procedure can be done on adults and kids alike. It is recommended that these sealants be applied as soon as the molars appear to avoid any possible damage to it on a later stage. A proper dentist consultation would help one decide if using sealants would be beneficial for the patient and his/her family.
These sealants can be used effectively over teeth showing early signs of decay. Once applied, these are clear and transparent which would enable the dentist to monitor its effectiveness over time and ensure that it is protecting the teeth cavity.
Things you must know before getting the sealants
- Sealants can be taken at any age after the molars erupt
- The entire procedure of sealant application is pain free and quick. It doesn’t require much time and any additional post procedure precautions.
- The application of sealants might lead to mild allergic reactions in some patients and one must consult a dentist before taking this treatment.
- There are no other known side-effects of this procedure observed on the patients and it completely safe and effective.
- There is a tiny amount of BPA or Bisphenol A in the sealant which is also found in polycarbonate plastics. These are the plastics from which storage containers are made. That being said, the amount of BPA found is really very negligible and will not cause any harm to the body. A proper consultation with a certified dentist will help you in understanding the impact of this negligible quantity of BPA so as to enable you in making a learned decision.
- These dental sealants last for many years before one has to redo the procedure. Regular visits to a dentist will help you understanding its condition and to know when the treatment has to be repeated.
- While regular flossing and brushing is a fool-proof and most effective way of dental hygiene and care, sealants will help one in keeping the molars safe from decay and cavities for a long time without much of a trouble. It however doesn’t mean that one can forego brushing and flossing post this treatment!
Thumb sucking is definitely the most prevalent of all problems concerning babies. It is also the unhealthiest and most harming of all habits. Infants predominantly suck thumbs and pacifiers to feel secure and when they feel hungry. Some find a soothing effect and do it to help fall asleep.
Thumb sucking and Dental Health
Thumb sucking and the usage of pacifiers may alter the structure of teeth formation and alignment of the teeth in the gums. The alteration in the teeth alignment occurs mainly when the baby resorts to vigorous sucking. It mostly affects the front teeth and is not found in passive thumb sucking babies.
Though the habit of pacifiers are easier to forget and less addictive for babies, using it for long durations tend to cause more damage due to the presence of honey or sweeteners in it which tends to lead to tooth decay.
This habit of using thumb or pacifiers for comfort is usually forgotten by the age a toddler reaches 3-4 years and for some, much earlier also. It is advisable to stop this habit from developing at the initial phase. Parents can praise the kid frequently for not sucking thumb. They are advised to ensure that the reason for thumb sucking be identified and prevented. While some look for comfort and security, some kids do it when hungry and some others while they are sleepy. There are some kids who suck thumbs when they feel bored and have nothing to do. Identification of the reason and eliminating it would ensure that that the kid doesn’t resort to thumb sucking.
For older kids, involving them in choosing the method of eliminating the habit would encourage them in stopping or minimizing it. Some parents have even tried bandaging and covering the finger or area which the kid is habituated in sucking. It is worth noting that the kid will be comfortable in using only that finger or hand and won’t adjust with the other hand if the usual one is bandaged or covered.
Trying to talk the kid out of the habit is the best approach to the problem and will lead to permanent results. Persistent sucking of thumb is not only bad for the dental health but also leads to decaying of the skin and bad smell in that area which would be repulsing and embarrassing for the kid. This would have detrimental effects on the kid’s morale.
Schedule a dentist’s appointment and help the kid come out of the thumb sucking habit. It is very important that the kid understands the ill effects of the habits and resolves to eliminate the habit. For smaller kids, this habit has to be eliminated before it turns more aggressive leading to changes in teeth alignment. There are bitter medicines and oils which can be applied on the area to stop the baby from sucking and to discourage doing it in the future. Understanding the cause and opting for the most suitable method of eliminating the habit will ensure that the kid’s morale is not affected and the habit is eliminated permanently.