Sucking is a normal reflex for infants and is present even before birth. It helps infants self soothe. As they get older, the habit may be discontinued. In some toddlers, the habit persists. Every effort should be made to help your child break the habit by age 4 or 5. Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can result in orthopedic changes such as a narrowed arch. As the adult front teeth begin to come in, if the habit persists, the teeth can be flared.
Infant Oral Health
Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle of milk, juice and/or nursing a baby to sleep can be harmful to the teeth. The normal mechanisms that help keep teeth clean during the day like salivary flow is much lower at night. The teeth are bathed in the sugar that provides a perfect environment for decay. Children who frequently continue to bottle or breast feed while napping, sleeping or in between meals, run the risk of developing extensive tooth decay. Fruit / citrus juices, and sweetened beverages cause the most damage. You can brush the baby’s teeth after the last feed at night with a soft bristled toothbrush and use a washcloth to wipe the teeth if your infant has multiple feeds at night.
For infants, you can use a washcloth and water to clean the teeth, but once the back molars begin to erupt, a soft bristled toothbrush can be introduced. The current ADA and AAPD guidelines recommend that fluoridated toothpaste can be used for this age group.
Teething occurs when the baby teeth begin to grow in. While this is relatively problem-free for most children, others may experience some discomfort. We recommend frozen wash cloths, frozen teething rings and if needed some Tylenol or Motrin to provide comfort through this process. You may notice a drop in appetite, but it’s important to ensure that your little one is well hydrated.
It is always wise to contact your dentist or health professional if you have additional questions or concerns about teething.
Teeth development in general begins before birth for baby teeth and at around birth for permanent teeth. Typically, the lower front teeth will begin to erupt at approximately 6 months on average.
The permanent teeth typically erupt at age 6 with the lower front teeth and the adult molars and will end at around age 12.