Posts for tag: pediatric dentistry
If you were to look closely at many of your teeth, you would notice deep, natural grooves in the enamel surface. Often referred to as “pits and fissures,” these are some of the most difficult places in the mouth to keep clean. Toothbrush bristles simply can't reach deep enough into them to be effective; what's more, their warm, moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth. Consequently, pits and fissures are the most common location for tooth decay.
Children are especially susceptible — pits and fissures account for 43% of tooth decay in patients between the ages of six and seven. This is because when children's teeth erupt (first become visible in the mouth) the new enamel is more permeable and less resistant to decay than older teeth. Until the enamel matures, the risk for decay remains high.
Fortunately, in recent years there has been a decrease in the occurrence of tooth decay among children. Better hygiene practices, fluoride products and fluoridated drinking water, better nutrition, and regular dental visits are all factors in this improvement. One development in particular provides children an extra layer of protection — the use of sealants on the tooth surfaces.
Sealants are protective coatings applied to tooth surfaces, especially in pits and fissures that act as a barrier between bacteria and the immature enamel. Although the degree and extent of sealant use varies across the profession, many dentists recommend sealant application in children for all permanent molars and many primary molars soon after eruption.
The accessibility of regular dental care also plays a factor — those who have no or limited access (and thus are at high risk for tooth decay) may benefit from sealants on all of their back teeth, while children with regular care access (low risk) may need only a few. In fact, some dentists only recommend sealants in low-risk children when tooth decay is already present and after first removing as much decay as possible.
The goal, of course, is to prevent decay, or reduce its effects, in children. Sealants can help, but only when coupled with other measures — and a good habit of oral hygiene.
If you would like more information on sealants for children's teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children.”
Even before your infant's first tooth emerges, you can take steps to reduce the risk for cavities!
Cavities occur when decay-causing bacteria living in the mouth digest carbohydrates (sugars) introduced into the mouth via food and beverages. This produces acid, which can eat through the protective enamel surface of teeth and attack the more vulnerable dentin below. Infants aren't born with decay-promoting bacteria; however, they can acquire them from their caregiver(s) through close contact, for example:
- Kissing on the mouth
- Sharing food
- Sharing eating utensils (e.g., a spoon or glass)
- Cleaning off a pacifier by mouth
Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease! It can start as soon as the first tooth erupts — which generally happens around age 6 to 9 months but can be as early as 3 months or as late as 1 year. Besides being potentially painful, severe tooth decay may cause your child to lose the affected primary (baby) tooth before it's due to fall out on its own. That, in turn, can raise the risk of orthodontic problems because primary teeth maintain space for permanent teeth, which also use them as their guide for coming in properly.
It's important to clean your child's teeth regularly once they appear and to refrain from certain feeding activities that have been linked with early tooth decay. For example, use of a sleep-time bottle containing a liquid with natural or added sugars, such as formula or juice, can result in a pattern of severe decay once referred to as “baby bottle tooth decay.” These days, the term early childhood caries (ECC) is more commonly used to also encompass decay linked to continuous sippy-cup use, at-will breast-feeding throughout the night, use of a sweetened pacifier, or routine use of sugar-based oral medicines to treat chronic illness.
We recommend that you schedule a dental visit for your baby upon eruption of his or her first tooth or by age 1. This first visit can include risk assessment for decay, hands-on instruction on teeth cleaning, nutritional/feeding guidance, fluoride recommendations, and even identification of underlying conditions that should be monitored. Your child's smile is a sight to behold; starting early improves the odds of keeping it that way!
If you would like more information about infant dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Age One Dental Visit.”