Today we’re going to discuss some common habits that can be damaging to children’s teeth, as well as some solutions to help alleviate them.
Baby Bottle Syndrome
Baby Bottle Syndrome is a condition in which the child’s teeth have been exposed to sugary liquids for extended periods of time. The result of this is extreme decay in almost every tooth, especially the front teeth where the child holds the bottle. Often, parents don’t realize the damage until it’s too late. The first baby teeth fall out around 6 or 7 years old usually, the last teeth to come out are usually when the child is 12. So it’s definitely important to keep the baby teeth healthy. It’s often expensive and time-consuming to fix the damage done by Baby Bottle Syndrome, and also negatively impacts the child’s view on oral health.
The best way to fix this is to prevent it. Help your child brush daily, visit the dentist twice a year, and don’t let them fall asleep with or sip from a bottle that has anything other than water in it. The longer your child’s teeth are exposed to sugar, the more damage is done.
Eating too many sugary snacks or chewy, sticky snacks that stay on the teeth can have a similar effect as falling asleep with a sugary bottle. The solution is the same as above: prevention is the key. Offer your kids a variety of foods and teach them from an early age how to make nutritious choices. Sugar is fine for a treat, but be sure to brush after. Establish good habits now that will last a lifetime. Their smile will benefit, and so will their overall health.
Thumb-sucking is a common habit in children. They have a natural inclination to put everything in their mouths and sucking is how they eat. It’s also a calming habit. Most kids stop thumb-sucking on their own by 3 or 4 years old or so. If they continue thumb-sucking until they’re school-age, the permanent teeth might be crooked as they come in. There might be other issues depending on how long the child has been thumb-sucking, how frequently it occurs, etc.
It is easier to discourage putting fingers near the mouth from an early age than trying to break the habit after allowing thumb-sucking for so long. If you notice your baby thumb-sucking, offer a pacifier instead (see below). If you need to break your child of the habit, be calm about the situation, offer positive reinforcement to discourage the habit. Your child will probably forget occasionally, so be prepared to give a gentle reminder. If it’s an ongoing issue, please mention it to the dentist at your child’s next appointment.
Pacifier use is better than thumb-sucking because it’s a lot easier to break the habit. You can start weaning them off the pacifier by simply limiting the amount of time that you let them use it. This isn’t as damaging as thumb-sucking, but there is still the potential of harm to the child’s teeth or jaw.
When buying a pacifier, make sure the size and shape of it fit your child’s mouth (an ill-fitting pacifier can cause pain or malformation). Choose one that is made of rubber so as not to damage your child’s gums. Pacifiers wear and tear just like anything else. If you notice the pacifier starting to break down you should purchase a new one to avoid a potential choking hazard. Only offer the pacifier when the baby needs it; using the pacifier all the time can be habit-forming.
Teething is not a habit, but every child experiences it. Typically, babies start to get their first teeth when they’re 6 to 8 months old. You can usually tell when babies teethe as they become fussy, lose their appetites, drool more than usual, and have flushed cheeks. Chewing on a hard, chilled object will help their gums feel better and help the teeth break through the gums. Try putting a teething ring in the fridge, or massage your child’s gums with your finger. The pharmacy has over-the-counter ointments, but check with your pediatrician or pharmacist before purchasing.
If you have a topic or question that wasn’t covered here, please leave a comment. If you are concerned that your child may suffer from an issue we discussed, please call the office and schedule an evaluation with the dentist. 617-364-5500