Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. It may make them feel secure and happy or provide a sense of security at difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.
Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.
Children should cease thumb sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.
Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, consult your pediatric dentist.
A few suggestions to help your child get through thumb sucking:
Parents are often concerned about the night grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often, the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the parent may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. One theory as to the cause involves a psychological component. Stress due to a new environment, divorce, changes at school; etc. can influence a child to grind their teeth. Another theory relates to pressure in the inner ear at night. If there are pressure changes (like in an airplane during take-off and landing, when people are chewing gum, etc. to equalize pressure) the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure.
The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do not require any treatment. If excessive wear of the teeth (attrition) is present, then a mouth guard (night guard) may be indicated. The negatives to a mouth guard are the possibility of choking if the appliance becomes dislodged during sleep and it may interfere with growth of the jaws. The positive is obvious by preventing wear to the primary dentition.
The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding gets less between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you suspect bruxism, discuss this with your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
Tooth decay is another name for the disease known as "caries," or cavities. A cavity is the result of your tooth enamel, dentin, or cementum being destroyed over long-term exposure to harmful bacteria.
Many cavities are preventable Tooth decay is promoted by your teeth being frequently exposed to foods rich in carbohydrates (starches and sugars) like soda, candy, ice cream, milk, and cakes.
When these foods break down in your mouth, they provide food for the bacterial film on your teeth and gums called plaque. The plaque interacts with deposits left on your teeth from sugary and starchy foods to produce acids. These acids break down tooth enamel over time by dissolving, or demineralizing, the mineral structure of your teeth. This leads to tooth decay and weakening the teeth.
Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums after eating foods that produce acids. These foods may include carbohydrates (starches and sugars), such as candy and cookies, and starchy foods, such as bread, crackers, and cereal.
Tooth decay leads to cavities and occurs when plaque remains on your teeth for an extended period of time, allowing the bacteria to "eat away" at the surfaces of your teeth and gums. Ironically, the areas surrounding restored portions of teeth (where fillings have been placed) are particularly vulnerable to decay and are a breeding ground for bacteria.
In addition to causing cavities, plaque can lead to gum irritation, soreness, and redness. Sometimes, your gums may begin to bleed as a result of plaque accumulation. Long-term, plaque can lead to serious problems. Sometimes, the bacteria can form pockets of disease around tooth structures, eventually destroying the bone beneath the tooth.
Consistency of a person's saliva also makes a difference; thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person eats diets high in carbohydrates and sugars, they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn produces more of the acid-producing bacteria that causes cavities.
In regards to early childhood caries, avoid putting your baby or small child to sleep with a bottle containing anything but water, because juices and milk contain sugars that can be harmful to teeth. When a child sleeps, these liquids "pool" in the mouth and bathe the teeth.
Early childhood caries may occur when sweetened liquids, such as milk, formula, and fruit juice, are given and are left to pool in an infant's mouth for long periods of time. Baby bottle tooth decay can lead to severe cavities in your child's mouth, and destroy the teeth if left untreated.
Avoid allowing your child to fall asleep with a bottle and avoid breast feeding at will after the first baby tooth begins to erupt.
There are several reasons why some people's teeth grow in crooked, overlapping, or twisted. Some people's mouths are too small for their teeth, which crowds the teeth and causes them to shift. In other cases, a person's upper and lower jaws aren't the same size or are malformed, resulting in either an overbite, when there is excessive protrusion of the upper jaw, or an under bite, when the lower jaw protrudes forward causing the lower jaw and teeth to extend out beyond the upper teeth.
Most often crooked teeth, overbites, and underbites are inherited traits just as the color of your eyes or size of your hands. Other causes of misaligned bites are early loss of baby or adult teeth; improper fit of dental restorations (for example, fillings or crowns); gingivitis (gum disease); undue pressure on the teeth and gums; misalignment of the jaw after an injury; tumors of the mouth or jaw; or common oral health problems in children such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, pacifier use beyond the age of three, or prolonged use of a bottle.
Crooked teeth and misaligned bites can:
While you can see for yourself if teeth are crooked, your dentist can determine if the problem warrants treatment. Your dentist will look for the following signs:
Periodontal disease is a condition in which the structures that support the teeth, including the gums and bone surrounding each tooth, become infected and begin to break down. Periodontal disease (also known as "periodontitis") can be influenced by the body's response to infection caused by the bacteria in plaque. Poor oral hygiene in children could set the stage later on for gum disease – the major cause of tooth loss in adults. It is most often caused by bacteria.
In the early stage of gum diseases, called gingivitis, the gums can become red, swollen and easily bleed. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.
Like some diseases, gum disease isn't painful until it reaches a more critical stage, in which treatment options narrow. If it goes unchecked, inflammation begins to allow surrounding bone to demineralize and dissolve. As the bone dissolves around the teeth in the more advanced stages of gum disease, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth can become loose, fall out, or have to be removed.
Early symptoms of gum diseases:
If your child currently has poor oral health habits, work with your child to change these now. It's much easier to modify these habits in a child than in an adult.
Serve as a good role model by practicing good oral health care habits yourself and by scheduling regular dental visits for family checkups, periodontal evaluations and cleanings. A healthy smile, good breath and strong teeth all contribute to a young person's sense of personal appearance, as well as confidence and self-esteem.
Let's take a closer look at a tooth. The crown is the part that can be seen in the mouth, while buried in the bony socket of the jaw firmly enclosed is the root. The crown of the tooth is covered with the enamel. Enamel is one of the hardest natural substances known and forms the outermost protective layer. The Dentin, which lies just under the enamel is yellowish and is not as hard as enamel. This forms the bulk of the tooth. The soft tissue that fills the chamber of the center of the tooth and the canals that extends down the roots forms the pulp of the tooth. It contains nerves and blood vessels. Cementum is a thin bone like tissue which covers and protects the tooth root.
Why are the Primary Teeth so Important?
There are twenty primary teeth, which can be seen, in a baby's mouth, 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 molars. These are called as milk teeth or more scientifically deciduous teeth. These primary teeth are designed to function during the childhood years. Some of them until the child is 10 or 12 years old - and they have several important jobs to do. Primary teeth are foundation teeth.
They are in fact as important as the permanent teeth. Let us see why -
Six months of age is when most babies start teething. By two years of age, they will have all 20 baby teeth. During this time, your child may show the signs of teething including drooling, sucking, biting, gum rubbing, facial rash, irritability, restlessness, decreased appetite and possibly even a mild elevation in temperature. Symptoms typically last from 4 days before a tooth emerges until 3 days afterward. During these periods, comfort your baby with teething rings or a cold washcloth to bite on. Massaging the gums, increasing fluid intake and providing non-aspirin analgesics will also help provide relief to our youngest of patients.
Although many parents don't think too much about their toddler's or preschooler's teeth, it is important to do so, because 20 percent of them develop cavities before they are 5 years old.
Good dental hygiene habits should begin before your child's first tooth comes in. Wiping your baby's gums with a soft damp cloth after feedings helps to prevent the build up of bacteria. When teeth appear, start using a soft children's toothbrush twice a day.
Once your child is preschool-age, start using fluoride toothpaste. Don't cover the brush with toothpaste; a pea-sized amount is just right. Young children tend to swallow most of the toothpaste, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause permanent stains on their teeth.
The first permanent molars (which are not preceded by primary teeth) begin erupting around the age of six. Extra care should be given to this first set of molars; they have a significant impact on the structure and position of future erupting teeth and, consequently, the shape of your child's lower face in later years.
Throughout your child's formative years (up and through the age of 21), the bones and muscles the face are constantly growing, shifting and changing. Most important (and visible to no one because it happens so gradually) is the fact that a child's jaw expands over a period of time, making way for an increase of 12 additional teeth. By about age 14, your child should have a full set of 28 permanent teeth, plus four additional teeth, called wisdom teeth, that grow behind the permanent teeth in late adolescence.
When babies are teething, usually between the ages of four months and 2.5 years, they often have sore and tender gums. The pain usually can be soothed by gently rubbing the baby`s gums with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze. A clean teething ring, but never dipped in sugar or syrup, for the baby to chew on also may be helpful.
Contrary to common belief, fever is not normal for a teething baby. If your infant has an unusually high or persistent fever while teething, call your physician.