Even though they are temporary, your child’s baby teeth are important, and are still susceptible to cavities. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, or Early Childhood Caries. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Their first teeth also help make sure their adult teeth come in correctly. It’s important to start infants off with good oral care to help protect their teeth for decades to come.
What causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.
There are many factors which can cause tooth decay. One common cause is the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby.
Tooth decay is a disease that can begin with cavity-causing bacteria being passed from the mother (or primary caregiver) to the infant. These bacteria are passed through the saliva. When the mother puts the baby’s feeding spoon in her mouth, or cleans a pacifier in her mouth, the bacteria can be passed to the baby.
If your infant or toddler does not receive an adequate amount of fluoride, they may also have an increased risk for tooth decay. The good news is that decay is preventable.
People have been chewing gum since the ancient Egyptians, Mayan Indians, and early American Indians chewed resin from trees. Not all of us appreciate chewing gum, especially when you have to watch or listen to someone constantly chew away. But are those people noisily chewing gum actually doing something that is good for them, such as preventing tooth decay?
They are, if it is sugar-free gum, says Professor Laurence Walsh, head of the Dental School at the University of Queensland.
Walsh, an advocate for sugar-free gums, says, “there is now very good evidence that sugar-free gum has positive benefits on dental health above and beyond other measures such as using fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water”.
Increasing the flow of saliva
Chewing gum increases the production of saliva, which helps protect your teeth by keeping them clean and by helping to strengthen enamel.
Walsh says chewing gum regularly is a bit like going to the gym. Just as strength training leads to larger-sized muscle fibres, chewing gum makes your saliva gland cells larger and more efficient.
This means you not only create more saliva while you are chewing the gum, but also during ‘rest periods’ when you’re not chewing anything. And it’s during these rest periods that saliva has a big influence on the sorts of bacteria that grow in your mouth.
Chewing sugar-free gum can also really help those at high risk of tooth decay, such as teenagers (whose diet is often not as good as it should be); people who drink a lot of soft drinks or sports drinks; and those whose saliva production is affected by medication, exercise, or lifestyle.
Gum with benefits
And if you want to chew gum that’s really good for your teeth, then you might want to try sugar-free gum with special milk proteins, which carry and release minerals to help repair teeth. Walsh says research has found gum containing these ingredients – known as CPP-ACP – can slow the decay process.
“Where decay is early and has not yet broken into a large cavity, this gum can slow down the decay process. This is important because until a cavity forms, the decay process is reversible. This technology is a clever way of reversing decay and returning the structure of teeth to as good, or even better, than what it originally was.”
Although you cannot as yet buy this special gum from supermarkets in Australia, you can get it from your dentist or via the Internet. But in other countries, it’s popular enough to be sold at supermarket check-outs.
However, the CPP-ACP gum isn’t for everyone and you should use it with caution if you have a milk protein allergy, cannot have artificial sweeteners, or have severe jaw joint pain (which means you should probably avoid extended periods of chewing).
So the good news is you can add chewing sugar-free gum to your list of healthy habits. But don’t throw away your toothbrush just yet; you will still need to brush and floss to remove plaque from your teeth.
An oral irrigator (also called a dental water jet or water pick) is a home care device that uses a stream of pulsating water to remove plaque and food debris between teeth and below the gumline and improve gingival health.
The first oral irrigator was developed in 1962 by a dentist and an engineer, both from Fort Collins, CO. Since that time, the oral irrigators have been evaluated in more than 50 scientific studies. It has been tested and shown effective on people in periodontal maintenance, and those with gingivitis, diabetes, orthodontic appliances, crowns, and implants.
The strongest evidence on the oral irrigator shows that it is extremely effective at reducing bleeding and gingivitis. Recent studies have demonstrated that it is superior to dental floss in reducing bleeding and as effective in reducing plaque.
A study at the University of Southern California found that a 3 second treatment of pulsating water (1,200 per minute) at medium pressure (70 psi) removed 99.9% of plaque biofilm from treated areas. Clinical efficacy has been shown through the medium setting and above.
Space maintainers help “hold space” for permanent teeth. Your child may need one if he or she loses a baby tooth prematurely, before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt. If a primary tooth is lost too early, adult teeth can erupt into the empty space instead of where they should be.When more adult teeth are ready to come into the mouth, there may not be enough room for them because of the lost space. To prevent this from happening, the dentist may recommend a space maintainer to hold open the space left by the missing tooth.