By Kathy Hubbard
Sometimes you see the darnedest things. Just the other day, in a local grocery store there was a woman walking around with a pacifier in her mouth. It’s hard not to be judgmental. But eventually this binky biting woman walked over to a carriage, took the pacifier out of her mouth and put it right smack dab in her baby’s mouth.
I’m sure she didn’t know it, but she could be causing her baby to have tooth decay and tooth decay can have a detrimental effect on the child’s quality of life, performance in school and success in life. Too dramatic? Read on.
“Cavities are contagious,” an article in Science Daily says. “Dental caries, commonly known as tooth decay, is the single most common chronic childhood disease. In fact, it is an infectious disease. Mothers with cavities can transmit caries-producing oral bacteria to their babies when they clean pacifiers by sticking them in their own mouths or by sharing spoons.
“Parents should make their own oral health care a priority in order to help their children stay healthy. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) encourages parents to find a dental home for their baby as soon as the child’s first tooth erupts. Regular visits to a pediatric dentist will help parents become familiar with their child’s dental and oral health milestones. They’ll inform parents about teething, proper oral hygiene habits, normal tooth development, and trauma prevention. Nutritional counseling also will be a part of the discussion,” Science Daily concludes.
This is a great opportunity to segue into pediatric dentistry and children’s dental health. First off, you may ask, what’s the difference between a pediatric dentist and a dentist other than a preference to work with children? Besides the four years of dental school, pediatric dentists have completed at least two additional years of residency training with a focus on infants, children, teens and children with special needs.
Besides assessing caries in mothers and children, a pediatric dentist will provide preventive dental care, habit counseling (pacifier use and thumb sucking), assessment and treatment for straightening teeth and correcting an improper bite and repairing tooth cavities or defects.
The pediatric dentist will also diagnose “oral conditions associated with diseases such as diabetes, congenital heart defect, asthma, hay fever, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder; management of gum diseases and conditions including ulcers, short frenulae (membrane from the mouth to the underside of the tongue), mucoceles (mucus cysts), and pediatric periodontal disease; care for dental injuries (fractured, displaced, or knocked-out teeth)”, HealthyChildren.org says.
Babies’ teeth are actually forming before they’re born so good oral health dictates that you begin cleaning your baby’s mouth as soon as he or she is born by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
The first tooth will typically pop out around the six month mark, although I’ve heard of babies being born with teeth and MouthHealthy.org says it’s not unheard of for a first tooth not to appear until the child is 12 or 14 months old.
As soon as that first tooth appears decay can occur. Often called “baby bottle tooth decay,” it most often affects the upper teeth, but other teeth can be affected and sometimes the decay is so severe the teeth can’t be saved.
“For children younger than 3 years, caregivers should begin brushing children’s teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician,” MouthHealthy says.
“For children 3 to 6 years of age, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.”
Most children will have all twenty of their baby teeth by the time they’re three. Then when they’re five or six they’ll all start to fall out to be replaced by their permanent teeth. If you’ve taught your children well, these teeth will last them a lifetime.
We’re lucky to have pediatric dentists in our area, call one of them.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org