Bedtime, Bottles, and Baby Teeth
January 1st, 2020
Your beautiful baby is finally asleep, bottle clutched in tiny hands, dreaming sweet dreams with a charming milky smile.
Unfortunately, this lovely fantasy might lead to a rude awakening. If your child goes to sleep every night with a bottle, the chance of childhood cavities greatly increases. In fact, there is even a name for it—baby bottle tooth decay.
How Can Bottles Lead to Tooth Decay?
Cavities are created when oral bacteria produce acids that erode enamel, the protective outer coating of the tooth. These bacteria love to feed on sugar. Baby formula and even breast milk contain carbohydrates in the form of sugars. And this is not a bad thing!
Carbohydrates are essential for babies (and adults as well) for growth and development. Lactose, the sugar found in breast milk, is a carb that is easy for your baby to digest and helps good bacteria in the digestive system grow. Formulas with cow’s milk also contain lactose, and even the other kinds of sugars found in formula provide your baby with necessary, easily digestible carbohydrates.
But when your child goes to sleep with a bottle, those healthy sugars aren’t all being digested. Liquid can pool in the mouth bathing those perfect new teeth with sugar all through the night. That’s why we don’t recommend letting your child go to sleep with a bottle of formula.
And if your older child’s bottle is filled with juice or other sugared drinks, the effects are potentially much more harmful. Eventually, sugar left in the mouth all night will lead to the development of cavities, and in severe cases, to infection and even tooth loss. The upper front teeth are most often affected, but other baby teeth can become decayed as well.
How Can You Help Prevent Baby Bottle Decay?
- Start early by gently wiping your baby’s gums and erupting teeth after each bottle or breast feeding with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad. (Even though breastfed babies have a reduced risk of early cavities, it’s still a good idea to clean their gums and teeth after feedings.)
- Once those little teeth have come in, use a baby-size toothbrush to gently clean them. Talk to us about toothpaste—when and how much is appropriate for your child.
- Babies generally require breastfeeding or formula at night to get the nutrition they need. It’s best if they finish their feeding before naps or bedtime so you have a chance to clean little mouths. If your toddler carries a bottle or sippy cup through the day, or insists on a bottle at night, talk to us or your pediatrician for ideas on how and when to substitute tooth-healthy options such as water.
- Limit unnecessary or unhealthy sugars. Never put sugar-heavy juices and sodas in your child’s bottle or cup, or sugar or honey on a pacifier.
Your Child’s Baby Teeth Are Important
Your child will start losing those baby teeth around the age of six, but primary teeth provide many irreplaceable benefits before they are, well, replaced. Using the teeth to bite and chew food helps form proper eating habits and develop jaw and facial muscles. Baby teeth help with speech development, and they serve as place holders to make sure the adult teeth erupt in the right spot. Losing baby teeth too early can interfere with all of these goals.
As soon as that first tooth makes its appearance, or by the age of one, bring your baby to our Briarcliff Manor, NY office for a first checkup. Drs. Ann Guerra and Jessica Levy and our team will not only make sure everything is going according to schedule, but we will check tiny teeth for enamel erosion and even cavities. Most important, we’ll suggest ways to prevent cavities and tooth decay with proactive dental care. We have many great ideas on making sure your little one’s teeth are healthy from bottle to baby teeth, preparing your child for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles. And that’s a dream come true!
Smile! It’s Time for Arts & Crafts!
December 25th, 2019
If you have a child who loves arts and crafts, try some of these creative projects with a dental twist. One of these activities is sure to give your child something to smile about!
Why throw away that used toothbrush when you can help your young child make art with it? Give it one more cleaning and a second life. The easy-to-grip handle and the wide bristles make a toothbrush easy for young hands to hold and paint with. If you are in an adventurous mood, use the brush to make splatter art. Your child can splatter an entire sheet of paper for an abstract effect, make a sky full of stars with a flick of the brush, or add splatter leaves to a tree scene. Cut out a stencil with a favorite shape (an animal, a flower, a toy), place it on a sheet of paper, splatter around it, remove the cutout, and—instant silhouette!
If your child is an origami enthusiast, there are some challenging dental-themed examples available online. These might be too advanced for beginners, but more experienced origami fans can make molars with roots and even molars lined with pink paper to symbolize the interior pulp. Younger paper artists might enjoy making construction paper models of an actual tooth, with white enamel, yellow dentin, and pink pulp layered in their proper order.
For the scientifically minded young artist, clay can be used to make a 3D model of a tooth, with different colored clays representing the different layers of the tooth. Younger children learning about their teeth might enjoy fitting little white clay teeth into a pink clay crescent to show how baby (or adult) teeth fit into the gums. And for non-dental inspiration, old, clean toothbrushes can once again help out if your child likes sculpting art work with modeling clay. Add interesting texture by using the brush bristles on damp clay to create grooves, lines, or indentations.
Welcome the Tooth Fairy
If the Tooth Fairy is a regular visitor, make her welcome with a box decorated with paint or fabric to hold that special baby tooth. Or craft a pouch or a bag with fabrics scraps, and add a fabric tooth so that the Tooth Fairy will know she has come to the right spot. If you use felt and fabric glue, no sewing necessary! If your Tooth Fairy is an under-the-pillow traditionalist, decorate an envelope with a letter to the Tooth Fairy inside.
If some of these projects sound just right for your child, check out online craft sites for even more ideas. And, please be sure to have your children show and tell the next time they visit our Briarcliff Manor, NY office. That will put a smile on our faces!
Does my child need two-phase treatment?
December 18th, 2019
You might be surprised to see one of your second grader’s friends with a dental appliance. Isn’t orthodontic work just for teenagers? And, if not, should your seven-year-old be sporting braces right now? The answer to both of those questions is “Not necessarily.” Two-phase treatment is a process designed to correct issues that arise during different times in your child’s life.
First Phase Treatment
We recommend that every child have an orthodontic evaluation around the age of seven to determine if there is a problem that would benefit from early treatment. First phase orthodontics is not the same as orthodontics for older patients. The focus here is on the developing bone and muscle structures which form your child’s bite and provide space for the permanent teeth when they arrive.
There are some clear-cut orthodontic goals that are much easier to attain when children’s bones are still growing.
- Reducing Crowding
If your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth will have little room to fit in when they arrive. We may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander. This device will provide room for the adult teeth, and could potentially shorten second phase treatment time. Sometimes the extractions necessary to create more room for permanent teeth in later years can be avoided, as well as the possibility of an impacted tooth—one which doesn’t erupt because it is blocked by other teeth.
- Dealing with Jaw and Bite Concerns
Bones and muscles do not always develop properly, leading to problems with jaw and facial structure. Your younger child still has growing bones, so this is a great time to gently re-form the jaw into a healthy shape. Problems caused by crossbites, underbites, open bites, and other malocclusions can be reduced with early treatment.
- Protecting Teeth
If your child has protruding front teeth, these teeth are more likely to be damaged in falls, at play, or while participating in sports. We can gently reposition them.
Second Phase Treatment
Second phase treatment is designed for your older child. After a resting period, when the permanent teeth finish erupting, we should see your child to evaluate any further orthodontic needs. This is the time to finish the process of straightening the teeth and making sure that each tooth fits together properly for a comfortable and healthy bite. This phase usually makes use of braces or aligners, and can take approximately 12-24 months.
Two-phase treatment is not necessary for every child. But there are some unique reasons that early orthodontics might be recommended for your child, even if it’s clear that more orthodontic work will be needed later. Make an appointment with Drs. Ann Guerra and Jessica Levy at our Briarcliff Manor, NY office, and let’s evaluate your child’s orthodontic needs, whether now or in the future, for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.
Caring for Your Dog’s Teeth
December 11th, 2019
It may come as a surprise to learn that dogs, like humans, have both baby and adult teeth. Most dogs, unlike humans, have all of their adult teeth by the time they are seven months old, so it’s time to start looking after their dental health when they are still puppies.
While dogs generally don’t develop cavities, periodontal disease is the one of the most common diseases affecting dogs. Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria in your pet’s mouth form plaque. The plaque can harden into tartar, and, if plaque and tartar spread under the gum line, can be responsible for a number of serious problems. Veterinarians warn that tooth loss, tissue damage, bone loss and infection can be the result of periodontal disease. Professional dental treatment is important if your dog is suffering from periodontal disease, and your vet can describe the options available to you. But the time to act is before disease develops. Let’s bone up on some preventative care!
There are brushes and toothpastes designed especially for your dog. Train your puppy from an early age to open his mouth to allow you to examine his teeth and gums. (This will also come in handy if you ever need to give him medicine.) Most dogs will accept brushing, and toothpastes come in dog-friendly flavors. Human toothpaste should never be used because it contains cleaners and abrasives that should not be swallowed by your pet. There are also dental wipes available that can be used once and thrown away. Your vet can advise you how to ease your pet into a brushing routine.
Gels and Rinses
Whether you rub an antiseptic gel on your dog’s teeth or squirt an antiseptic rinse into his mouth, these formulas can reduce the build-up of plaque. Not all dogs take to the taste of these solutions, but in general they are safe and effective. Ask your vet for recommendations if you would like to try this method.
Several dietary products offer anti-plaque ingredients or a kibble shape designed to reduce the formation of plaque. Talk to your vet for the best possible diet and nutrition suggestions for your unique pet.
Chewing can help reduce plaque build-up if done consistently, and chew toys should be chosen for tooth and digestive safety. Some animal-based products and hard plastic toys are so rigid that they can cause damage to teeth or gums, so be sure to look for safe toys. Dogs shouldn’t be left alone with toys due to choking or swallowing hazards—if the chew toy becomes small enough to cause choking, or your dog is swallowing large chunks that might not be digestible, time to replace it.
Your veterinarian is the best resource for maintaining your dog’s health and developing a dental routine both you and your pet can live with. When your four-legged friend goes for his next check-up, ask your vet what you can do to keep him and his smile fetching for a long, long time.