FAQ's for New Moms

FAQ's for New Moms

 When do the teeth break through the gums (erupt)?

Normal eruption of the first tooth is generally around 6-7 months of age +/- 6 months.  This means that it is normal for a baby to be born with teeth (6 months old minus 6 months = birth) or to have no teeth until they are 1 yr old (6 months old plus 6 months = 1 yr old).  You can see that “normal” encompasses a pretty wide range.  If your baby’s first tooth is later than the average, you can expect them to also lose teeth later than most of their peers.  This is still considered normal. 

Teething: What can be done, and when will it end? 

Teething causes intermittent discomfort, irritability and excessive salivation as new teeth are erupting in your baby’s mouth.  It can be managed with over-the-counter analgesics, such as Tylenol Infants’ Drops, or allowing the baby to chew on a soft, chilled teething ring.  Use of teething gels containing topical anesthetics such as benzocaine is NOT recommended due to potential toxicity of these products in infants.  Teething happens intermittently as teeth are erupting, so you may notice that it is off-and-on until the child is around 2 years of age or until all the teeth have erupted.

When should I start cleaning my baby’s teeth? 

As soon as a tooth appears!  The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste on a soft, infant-sized toothbrush twice a day.

Wait a minute! I thought I wasn’t supposed to use fluoride until the child is old enough to not swallow it? 

Yes, that used to be the case.  However, the recommendations were changed due to research showing that the benefits of fluoride, preventing devastating dental disease, far outweigh the risks.  Fluoride has been deemed safe and effective by both the American Dental Association and the American Association of Pediatric Dentists.  It should always be stored out of the reach of young children and should be used under adult supervision for children under age 5.

What kind of toothbrush should I use? 

There are many products available to clean your baby’s teeth.  You may have to try out a few different types to see which you like the best.  As the teeth first erupt, a soft wet washcloth is adequate to remove the soft buildup that accumulates on the teeth and gums.  There is a type of “toothbrush” for infants that includes a sleeve that fits over the parent’s finger with small rubbery bristles to clean the teeth.  An infant toothbrush is simply much smaller in size with very soft bristles.  Do not ever use a medium or hard toothbrush on your baby!

What about baby bottles or sippy cups? 

Baby bottles are a great way to nourish your child.  Once your child has moved on to a sippy cup and is no longer receiving all of his or her nutrition via bottle, the sippy cup should contain only water.  Anything else that your child sips throughout the day and/or night can greatly increase his risk for tooth decay.  A common cause of cavities in very young children is having a bottle or sippy cup in bed with milk or juice.

What about pacifiers and thumb-sucking? 

These habits constitute a behavior known as non-nutritive sucking because it stems from the sucking reflex babies have and does not provide any nutrition.  Pacifiers and thumb-sucking are a common method very young children use to self-soothe.  Please read our earlier blog on pacifiers and thumb-sucking below to learn more about these habits.

When should my baby visit a dentist?

The American Association of Pediatric Dentists recommends that every child should see a dentist by his or her first birthday or when the first tooth comes into the mouth.  This will enable the dentist to give you, the parent, valuable information and education regarding how best to care for your child’s teeth.  It will also familiarize your child with the dental office.  You will be shown how to properly clean your child’s teeth and given tips on how to best accomplish this as your child grows and becomes more mobile.

 Do you have other questions about your baby’s teeth?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers

Thumb sucking and Pacifiers

Parents of our littlest patients frequently ask us about oral habits such as thumb sucking and pacifiers.  These perfectly normal behaviors in an infant can become damaging to an older child’s facial growth and development.  There are many different opinions and treatment options, and this blog will give you a general overview as to the most widely accepted philosophies and treatments for prolonged habits.

Non-Nutritive Sucking Behaviors

Both thumb sucking and pacifier use are classified as “Non-Nutritive Sucking Behaviors” or NNSB.  All infants exhibit sucking behaviors because it is necessary for their nutrition, through either breastfeeding or a bottle.  Non-nutritive sucking behavior is performed with the same sucking motion, but no nutrition is received.  Its purpose is solely comforting or soothing.

What is “normal”?

Any non-nutritive sucking behavior in infancy is considered normal.  There are ultrasounds showing babies sucking thumbs or fingers in the womb.  Over 90% of children exhibit NNSB at some point during the first 2 years of life.  Researchers differ on what age at which NNSB is considered “prolonged”.  Most agree that by age 4 years, any NNSB should have naturally stopped.  On average, most children will discontinue thumb-sucking or pacifier use on their own at some point from ages 2 to 4 years.  Prolonged thumb-sucking or pacifier use is anything past 4 years of age. 

Why is prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use bad?

Short explanation: It causes improper development of the jaws and positioning of the teeth that can only be corrected with orthodontics.

Long explanation: During growth, the jaws are very susceptible to outside influences.  The suction forces can distort the shape of the upper jaw and the position of the teeth causing an incorrect bite (malocclusion).  The pressure of a thumb or pacifier on the roof of the mouth can increase the height or vault and narrow the dental arch, which reverses the proper bite relationship between the upper and lower teeth (a posterior crossbite).  The constant presence of a thumb or pacifier in between the upper and lower teeth pushes them into a position that accommodates the habit and leaves an opening (called an anterior open bite) rather than allowing the upper and lower front teeth to contact in the appropriate way.  This open bite can lead to tongue thrusting and lisping, as well as not being able to bite into foods with the front teeth. 

What should a parent do about prolonged NNSB?

The first step to take in aiding your child to discontinue sucking thumbs or using pacifiers is talking to him or her about the negative effects of the habit.  Your child thinks the habit is a good thing because it makes him feel good, and he may not be able to understand the cause and effect relationship between the habit and the consequences to their teeth, jaws and face.  Children who verbalize that they are ready to stop the habit will have the quickest success.

  • Gently discourage the habit and use positive reinforcement when he or she is successful.

  • Start small with goals that are easier for him to meet, such as watching a movie without sucking his thumb.

  • Do not punish the child for continuing the habit. Negative reinforcement is not recommended as a technique because the habit is something that comforts or soothes him. Shaming or scaring him will only cause him to feel a greater need to suck his thumb or use his pacifier.

  • Because stress or anxiety can increase the child’s need to self-soothe by thumb sucking or pacifier use, try to identify situations that make him feel anxious and address them as needed.

  • If possible, gently and quietly remove the thumb or pacifier from his mouth after he has fallen asleep.

Pacifier.jpg

Pacifiers have one benefit over thumbs: they can be taken away or made dysfunctional (cutting the tip off a pacifier renders it useless).  If the child claims he is ready to stop, simply remove any pacifiers from his possession and go “cold turkey”. 

Thumb sucking is a bit more difficult because the thumb is always available.  Because of this, thumb sucking typically persists longer than pacifier use.  Some try applying bitter-tasting nail polish or wrapping the thumb in a Band-Aid or covering the entire hand with a sock. 

Ask your dentist and pediatrician for their input on the habit.  There are many different techniques used to help in stopping the habit before it causes long-term damage.

As a last resort, a dentist, pediatric dentist or orthodontist can fabricate a dental appliance that prevents the habit by removing the ability to create a suction and impeding the insertion of the thumb or pacifier.  The appliance does not contain sharp spikes or anything that would harm the child’s tongue or fingers; it simply prevents them from being able to enjoy the sensation of the habit.

Concerned about your child’s thumb-sucking or pacifier habit?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!