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CaringSmiles 4u | Dental Topics in Indianapolis

                Juanita R. Taylor, DDS

                                        4615 Lafayette Rd.  Suite B
                                     Indianapolis, IN 46254


Dental Topics

Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth
Children’s teeth begin forming before birth. As early as 4 months, the first primary (or baby) teeth to erupt through the gums are the lower central incisors, followed closely by the upper central incisors. Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, the pace and order of their eruption varies.Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21.Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32 including the third molars (or wisdom teeth).

The Importance of Primary Teeth
It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth.  Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems which affect developing permanent teeth.  Primary teeth or baby teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles.  Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance.  While the front 4 teeth last until 6 – 7 years of age, the back teeth (premolars and molars) aren’t replaced until age 9-12.

What is the Best Toothpaste for my Child?
Tooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health.  Many toothpastes, and/or tooth polishes, however, can damage young smiles.  They contain harsh abrasives which can wear away young tooth enamel.  When looking for a toothpaste for your child, make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association.  These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use.  Also, you should consider whether or not the child likes the taste of the toothpaste.  If the child does not like the taste, he or she will not use it, thus not getting the benefits of a fluoridated toothpaste.

Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride.  If too much fluoride is ingested, a condition known as fluorosis can occur. If your child is too young or unable to spit out toothpaste, consider providing them with a fluoride free toothpaste or infant tooth gel.  You should us a pea size amount of toothpaste.  You may begin using fluoride toothpaste when your child can spit outconsisitently.

Does Your Child Grind Their Teeth at Night (Bruxism)?
Parents are often concerned about nocturnal 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 definition.  One theory as to the cause of bruxism involves a psychological component.  Stress due to anew 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 bruxism in children 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 chocking if the appliance becomes dislodged during sleeping and it may interfere with eruption of permanent teeth or growth of the jaws.  The positive is obvious by preventing wear to the primary definition.

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 the dentist.

Thumb Sucking and Finger Habits
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:

  • Instead of scolding children for thumb sucking, praise them when they are not.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb sucking.
  • Children who are sucking for comfort will feel less of a need when their parents provide comfort.
  • Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from their parents.
  • Your pediatric dentist can encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue.

If these approaches don’t work, remind the children of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your pediatric dentist may recommend the use of a mouth appliance.


Pacifier Habit
Babies have a strong sucking reflex and some babies will accept a pacifier for their comfort.  Babies should be weaned off a pacifier around the age of 2 as the child is getting older.  Pacifier, just as fingers, can cause the teeth to shift and result in malalignment of the teeth.  Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking.  They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs.  However, the use of a pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb and finger habit. 

How Do I Prevent Cavities?
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left-over food particles that combine to create cavities.  For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums.  Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water.  For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss daily.  Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give to your children.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends six month visits to the dentist beginning at your child’s first birthday.  Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.

The dentist may also recommend protective sealants or fluoride treatments for your child.  Sealants can be applied to your child’s molars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.  A sealant is a clear or shaded plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found.  The sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.


Good Diet = Healthy Teeth
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth.  Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the major food groups.  Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation.  The more frequently a child snacks, the greater chance for tooth decay.  How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role.  For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel.  If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, yogurt, cheese, and fruit which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.

Limit juice, sodas and sports drinks (even sugar free drinks are a problem because of their ACID content) **ACID causes CAVITIES**!  WATER and MILK are better choices for strong teeth and bones.  NEVER swish soda or sports drinks!  Avoid sticky candies (Starbursts, Skittles, Fruit Snacks, Gummies, Gummy Vitamins, Twizzlers, etc.)--- chocolate that melts easily or ice cream are better choices.  Sour candy is sour because it is rolled in acid powder! Be careful eating granola bars or breakfast bars and snacks such as chee-tos.  They easily get caught on the grooves of your teeth and between your teeth and cause cavities if you are not flossing.

What is the Best Time for Orthodontic (Braces) Treatment?
Developing malocclusions, or bad bites, can be recognized as early as 2-3 years of age.  Often, early steps can be taken to reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment at a later age.

Stage I – Early Treatment: This period of treatment encompasses ages 2 to 6 years.  At this young age, we are concerned with underdeveloped dental arches, the premature loss or primary teeth, and harmful habits such as finger or thumb sucking.  Treatment initiated in this stage of development is often very successful and many times, though not always, can eliminate the need for future orthodontic/orthopedic treatment.

Stage II –Mixed Definition: This period covers the ages of 6 to 12 years, with the eruption of the permanent incisor (front) teeth and 6 year molars.  Treatment concerns deal with jaw malrelationships and dental realignment problems.  This is an excellent stage to start treatment, when indicated, as your child’s hard soft tissues are usually very responsive to orthodontic or orthopedic forces.

Stage III – Adolescent Definition: This stage deals with the permanent teeth and the development of the final bite relationship.