Infant Dental Care, Baby Teeth

Author: Jeff Salmeri

It is a common misconception that dental health
becomes an issue only after the eruption of the first primary, or baby teeth. Tooth
development actually begins during the second month of prenatal life, and
pregnancy conditions can have lifelong consequences on dental health. Baby
teeth are almost fully formed at birth, and begin to erupt after about six
months to one year. Usually, all 20 primary teeth break out by the age of
three; they are not less important than the later, permanent teeth, and need to
be cared for accordingly.

 

The first step in caring for your yet unborn
child’s dental health is having a dental examination of your own as soon as
possible. Infections are causal factors of numerous abnormal dental development
issues, so ensuring that your own teeth and gums are in good condition is a
must; seek treatment for any potential oral infection sources, such as cavities
or gum disease, as these may be accentuated by the physiological demands of
pregnancy and affect your baby’s health.

 

A mother’s diet is another major component of healthy
tooth formation. In general terms, a varied, well balanced diet represents the
foundation of your child’s dental health. Nutritional deficiencies during
pregnancy can lead to abnormal tooth development and mineralization issues. Vitamins
and minerals are particularly important for the development of all soft and
hard structures of teeth, and should be supplied in sufficient quantities.

 baby teeth

In particular, calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride
are required for the formation of hydroxyapatite crystals, which are essential
mineral components of teeth and bone tissue. Vitamin D is required for the
management of calcium of phosphorus intake and concentration levels, and
vitamins C and A are needed for the development of the tooth’s protein
components. Normally, vitamin D is primarily acquired from exposure to
sunlight, and pregnant women who mostly stay indoors must insure sufficient
intake from dietary sources.

 

In some communities, fluoride is provided in adequate
quantities through public water sources. Get in touch with your local water
provider or health department for information; if fluoridated water is not
readily available, consider using supplements. Both fluoride deficiency and
excess must be avoided, so consult your health care provider for advice on the
best local sources and optimal intake values. After birth and the eruption of
baby teeth, fluoride related issues can be identified and addressed by the
dentist.

 

Baby teeth begin to erupt during the second half
of the first year of life. Oral hygiene, however, should begin earlier. An
important first step is maintaining high hygiene standards for the entire
family. Caregivers must ensure that their hands and all objects that come into
contact with the child’s mouth are clean. Also, thumb sucking should be guarded
against, as it can lead to the introduction of microbes or parasites, or
develop into a habit that may cause dental health problems later on.

 

Saliva is a medium for the transmission of bacteria
and other pathogens, and practices that involve saliva exchange are as common
as they are undesirable. Sharing a spoon during feeding and even kissing can
introduce microbes to your child’s mouth, potentially bringing about tooth
decay or various other health issues; as saliva exchange is likely to occur
sometimes, caregivers should never neglect their own oral hygiene. Discouraging
visiting friends and acquaintances from kissing or touching the baby’s mouth
with unwashed hands is also advisable.

 

Before primary teeth erupt, wipe the baby’s gums
gently with a soft, moist cloth or gauze at least twice a day; this will
disrupt the formation of microbial plaque, which can harm the gums and attack
teeth as they emerge. As baby teeth begin to push through, the gums often become
sore; using a moist piece of gauze or the clean finger, massage the gums softly
to alleviate the discomfort. Teething rings can also be helpful, but ask your
pediatrician to recommend a safe model.

 

After the first teeth have erupted, you can begin
to use a small, soft toothbrush; simply wet the brush until your baby is at
least one year old, after which you can begin using toothpaste. Fluoridated
toothpaste is generally not recommended for children under the age of two, and
even later you should only use a pea-sized amount and ensure that the child
does not swallow any; ask your dentist for detailed advice on toothpaste choice
and brushing technique.

 

Baby teeth may be temporary, but should not be
neglected on that account; they help your baby speak and chew, and hold place
for the developing permanent teeth as bone structures continue to form. Issues
with baby teeth can affect the permanent teeth which are just below.  Prenatal health and infant dental care lay
the ground for later oral health, and health care authorities recommend regular
dental check-ups for infants. The first examination should take place by the
child’s first birthday; problems like tooth decay or abnormal development can
usually be more easily corrected if detected early on.

Posted in: Pediatric Dentistry | Dental Health and Wellness