AGES AND STAGES
Baby’s First Visit
Dr. Sayali really enjoys treating children and believes that, although keeping your child’s teeth healthy is the primary goal, creating a good dental patient is equally important in the long run. Your baby’s first visit includes a simple visual exam to evaluate your child’s oral health and to determine his/her risk for developing dental disease. A gentle tooth cleaning is performed, and a fluoride application is given by one of our child-friendly dental assistants. Usually, no radiographs (X-rays) are taken at this appointment.
Feel confident about your child’s care as Dr. Sayali also looks for relatively common and uncommon infant oral conditions that you may not have heard of, such as tongue-tie, missing teeth, abnormal teeth, inclusion cysts, natal teeth, iron stains, and more.
You will receive guidance to help you prevent potential problems, including dental disease, in your child’s future. Along the way, feel free to ask any questions you may have about your child’s new teeth and about his/her overall oral health. Let your infant become familiar with the dental office setting in a positive way before he/she gets bombarded with negative propaganda from older siblings, peers, or even from dental-phobic parents. Enjoy this primary prevention visit where dentistry is “fun”, and where future dental disease can be prevented.
Good general health depends partly on the development of good habits, such as sensible eating, good sleeping routines, and exercise. In addition to these same good habits, good dental health also depends on proper brushing, regular dental visits, and a good diet. These points and others can be discussed thoroughly during your child’s appointment.
One Year-Old Exams
Like any parent, you worry about your child’s health. Don’t forget about their oral health as well. Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you take your child to the dentist by his or her first birthday? While that may seem a bit early for your child to receive dental treatment, it’s important to remember that baby teeth are essentially placeholders for the adult teeth that are soon to come.
A lifetime of happy smiles starts at year one. Schedule your baby’s one-year dental appointment today, and give your child a healthy start.
A: When your baby was born, all 20 primary teeth were already present and developing in his/her jawbones. The first tooth to arrive is usually the lower front incisor, which usually erupts into the mouth at around six months of age (though it could be earlier or later). In fact, a few babies are even born with lower front teeth, which are called natal teeth.
A: Be prepared to deal with your child’s first oral event…teething! It usually happens without problem and is a completely natural occurrence. However, during the time your infant’s teeth start to come in, your child may become restless and fretful. Your baby may also start to excessively salivate and to exhibit the desire to put hands and fingers into his/her mouth. Relieve your baby or child with a clean teething ring; with a cold, wet washcloth; or with a toothbrush. If your infant has a fever, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, or other unusual problem, those symptoms may not be related to teething. In that case, consult your family physician as soon as possible to rule out any other common diseases and conditions of infancy.
A: Thumb-sucking is a habit that often starts while your child is still in the womb. It is a natural instinct that helps prepare your infant for nursing. Infants and young children often use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or other available objects to satisfy their sucking needs. This can give your child a sense of security, happiness, and relaxation that can even lull them to sleep.
Most children quit their thumb/pacifier-sucking by age four, or at least by school age (due to peer pressure). At this stage, any dental problems (e.g.,tooth movement, or jaw-shape changes) that have resulted from your child’s thumb-sucking habit will usually correct on their own. If your child’s thumb-sucking or pacifier use continues past five years of age (or when permanent teeth arrive), full self-correction is far less likely, and there are other possible issues that should be explored that may be perpetuating the habit. Stress may exacerbate the thumb-sucking problem, therefore, scolding your child for thumb-sucking is not recommended. It is better to use positive reinforcement to motivate your child to quit the habit. Finding and eliminating the source of stress can also be really helpful.
Other helpful tips:
- Breastfeeding – wean your children from the bottle and breast at 12-14 months of age.
- Sippy cup beverages – don’t let your child walk around with a sippy cup filled with anything but water for prolonged periods of time during the day.
- Juice – don’t allow your child to drink more than 4-6 oz. of juice per day.
- Pacifiers – never dip a pacifier into honey or into anything sweet before giving it to a baby.
- Cleaning infant’s gums – after feedings, wipe your infant’s gums with a clean, damp cloth or with a baby “finger” brush…(even before the first teeth erupt).
- Brushing teeth for children up to two years of age – once teeth appear, brush your child’s teeth with a soft toothbrush twice a day – once after breakfast and again before bedtime. Use only fluoride-free toothpaste at this age. Most infants under the age of two have not yet learned to “spit out” after brushing, and excessive swallowing of toothpaste can damage the adult teeth that are still growing under the gums at this time. Your baby can be placed with his/her head on your lap (with their legs facing away from you) in order to facilitate cleaning.
2-5 Years of Age
- Brushing teeth: When your preschool child is between the ages of 2-5, you should brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste once after breakfast and once at night right before bedtime. The last thing your child’s teeth should touch before going to bed and for the rest of the night is the toothpaste from their brush. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, and smear it into the bristles with your finger to minimize the chance of swallowing the toothpaste. Brush your preschooler’s teeth for approximately two minutes each time. Teach your child to “spit out” the toothpaste as soon as possible after brushing.
- Proper toothpaste: For very young children (ages 2-3), avoid sweet-tasting children’s toothpaste that your child may be more apt to swallow, and instead use a pea-sized amount of adult toothpaste like Colgate Total®, which contains triclosan with additional antibacterial, anti-tartar, and gum health benefits.
- Supervision during teeth brushing: Young children should always be supervised while brushing and should be taught to spit out rather than to swallow toothpaste. You should brush your child’s teeth until they are 7-8 years old because your child lacks the manual dexterity to do so properly by him/herself until that age. Brushing should last for approximately two minutes. Once you have observed that your child can properly brush on his/her own, let them brush independently.
- Flossing: Flossing should begin when and where teeth are touching. Back molars usually begin touching at ages 3-5. At this point, food can easily get trapped between the teeth, leading to cavities.
A: A sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids and guarding against disease-causing bacteria.
Thorough brushing and flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. However, toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to efficiently extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.
KIDS AND TEENS
6-11 Years of Age
It’s tooth fairy time! At around age six, your child will begin to lose primary teeth in the front, while also gaining permanent teeth in the front and back. Once the teeth start to touch (could be around ages 3-5), you should floss your child’s teeth (flossers work well). Children typically don’t brush along the gum line or by the back teeth, so pay special attention to these problem areas. However, almost 90% of cavities in permanent molars occur in the grooves; consequently, dental sealants are a great way to protect the permanent molars and the other teeth that are at risk of getting decay. Sealants are a white coating that is placed over the grooves of the teeth to prevent plaque and food from getting stuck, thereby, causing cavities.
Up until your child is 7-8 years old, you should assist him/her while brushing because children often lack the motor skills to do it properly. After that, observe your child’s technique, assisting when necessary, until he/she can effectively brush without supervision. Brush your teeth at the same time to help teach your child to brush by mimicking you. Although a regular children’s brush is perfectly fine for cleaning teeth, sometimes a children’s electric brush can make the experience more fun for your child, increasing motivation to brush. Once again, tooth brushing should occur twice a day once in the morning after breakfast and again right before bedtime. Brushing after snacks is ideal, too. At age six and above, brushing should take two minutes each time.
When brushing your teeth and your child’s teeth, place the toothbrush at a 45˚ angle towards the gum-line, using small, circular strokes. Brush the front of the teeth, behind the teeth and on the chewing surfaces. Don’t forget to brush the tongue to remove potential bad breath bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. Take two full minutes to brush properly.
During the ages of 6-11 and older, children become more active with sports, and dental injuries are very common. Ask our team about mouth guards to protect your child’s teeth during sports.
12-13 Years of Age
By 12-13 years of age, all of your child’s baby teeth are usually gone, and all of the permanent (adult) teeth have arrived except for the third molars (wisdom teeth), which most often arrive by age 21. As teens grow more independent and have further control of their diet and habits, it is common to see an increase in cavities. Soda, candy and lack of consistent or effective brushing and flossing is typically the culprit. Also during this time, self-awareness becomes more prominent, and your teen may notice if they have discolored or crooked teeth. Talk with our team about options for both braces and for whitening.
Unfortunately, substance abuse may also begin during these ages (90% of adult smokers began smoking before age 19), so monitor your child for signs of tobacco or alcohol use. Finally, eating disorders are also common and can damage the teeth…in addition to causing many other serious issues. Please talk with our office regarding assistance with any of these common issues of adolescence.
A: Dr. Sayali has a number of ways to improve the look of your front teeth without the use of unsightly braces. For slightly crooked or unevenly worn teeth, a bit of reshaping and the addition of composite or porcelain veneers may be sufficient to give them a bright, uniform look. Whitening is a conservative option to make your teeth whiter. Some patients choose Invisalign® which allows you to straighten your teeth without brace appliances. We would be happy to talk with you further about the option that best suits your individual situation.