Q: Can babies get cavities?
A: Yes, it’s important to take care of your child’s teeth and gums. Infections of any sort, including gum disease or an abscessed tooth, can cause fever, rashes and other symptoms, as well as leave the immune system compromised. Cavities in babies and small children can even have the potential to lead to major surgery under anesthetic.
Here are some effective ways to take care of your infant/toddler’s dental health:
- Wipe the gums with a washcloth after each feeding to get rid of residue milk or pureed food. At around six months of age, the teeth start to appear in the mouth. You need to remove the dental plaque (bacteria, food, cells) from all five surfaces of each tooth. If the teeth have no space between them and are touching, those teeth need to be flossed.
- Sleep only with water. Sugar is very harmful to young teeth and can cause a lot of damage. At night, only put water in the bottle.
- Avoid letting your baby sleep at the breast or with a bottle of juice, formula or milk. The sugar will remain on your child’s teeth throughout their sleep and can damage the enamel and cause tooth decay.
Q: How do I prepare for my baby’s first dentist visit?
A: Make an appointment for your child to see the dentist around the age of one or when the first teeth appear. Having your child see the dentist early will ensure you receive important information on their dental health, and will help stop any disease that may be forming before it becomes a major problem.
To prepare for the first visit:
- Try playing “dentist.” Make this role-playing exercise fun and explain that this is essentially what the dentist will do.
- Explain other things that may happen at the dentist’s office, using non-technical language. Don’t try to explain X-rays, for instance. Talk about X-rays as pictures and try to avoid words like ‘hurt’, ‘shot’, ‘drill’, ‘needle’, ‘yank’, ‘pull’, or ‘pinch’—try to take a positive approach.
- Take your child along with an older brother, sister or friend when they go for a routine checkup or cleaning. This will help introduce your little one to the dentist’s office.
- Treat the appointment as routine
- Tell your dentist about any special needs or medical problems your child may have, such as allergies or bleeding disorders
Q: What are some dental tips for my toddler or preschooler?
A: This is a good time in your child’s life to build habits that will protect the teeth and lay the foundation for future health. Tender gums are associated with each stage of tooth emergence, which can make your child irritable. It helps to rub the gums with your finger, a small cool spoon or a cold teething ring that has been placed in the fridge.
From a young age:
- Limit sugary foods or drinks
- After eating sugary or sticky foods like raisins, brush your child’s teeth, rinse the mouth with water or serve juicy fruits/vegetables to clean the teeth
- Don’t let your child constantly sip on sugary liquids, including milk and juice from sippy cups. Offer these liquids only at mealtimes
- Children under age three should have their teeth brushed twice a day by an adult using a toothbrush moistened only with water. Parents should consult a dentist to determine whether their child under age three is at risk of developing tooth decay before using fluoridated toothpaste. If a risk of tooth decay exists, use a minimal amount (a portion the size of a grain of rice) of fluoridated toothpaste
- Children three to six years of age should be assisted by an adult in brushing their teeth. Only a small amount (a portion the size of a green pea) of fluoridated toothpaste should be used. Encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste, rather than swallow it
- Begin flossing when your child’s teeth are touching
- Change your child’s toothbrush every one to three months or immediately after an illness. Never share toothbrushes in your household
- Let your child watch you brushing your teeth as often as possible. Children are wonderful imitators, and will learn from your habits
Alberta Health Services Fluoride Protection for Eligible Toddlers
Offers free fluoride applications for eligible children 12 to 35 months to protect their teeth from cavities. Children only need to have a few teeth to start getting fluoride. Click here for eligibility information or contact Health Link at 811.
For additional information see the My Health Alberta website or call Health Link at 811.
Q: What are some dental tips for my child's permanent teeth?
A: Permanent teeth will not be replaced, so have your child:
- Brush at least twice per day and floss once per day
- Reduce sugar intake. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feed on sugar
- Limit snacking
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Use a mouthguard to protect teeth when playing sports
Q: How do eating disorders affect teeth?
A: Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia may cause tooth decay. Binging and vomiting cause a double wash of sugars and acids over the teeth; violent vomiting can even result in chipped teeth.
Your dentist can treat your teeth, but if you have — or think you have — an eating disorder, talk to your physician.
Q: What are the risks if I get a grill or tooth jewelry?
A: Grills, also called “grillz” or “fronts,” are decorative covers often made of gold, silver or jewel-encrusted precious metals that snap over one or more teeth and are generally removable.
Tooth jewels are glass crystals or gold, and are secured to teeth using dental composite. They remain attached for up to a year or longer.
Both can result in inflammation of the gums and increase your risk of cavities. Talk to your dentist first about the safest choices and proper care and cleaning.
Q: What are the risks if I get an oral piercing?
A: The following are dental health risks associated with tongue and lip piercings:
- Tongue piercings can often result in severe swelling and pain due to the numerous nerve endings. This can make eating and talking very difficult. A severely swollen tongue may actually block a person’s airway
- Infection is a real danger with oral piercings. Allergic reactions may occur if the stud is not pure metal. Blood poisoning and blood clots are other potential concerns
- Tongue and lip piercing also affect teeth and gums. Teeth can often become cracked or chipped from the barbell moving in the month. Gum tissue may also be damaged by continuous contact with the metal barbell
Talk to your dentist first about the safest choices and proper care and cleaning.
Q: When do wisdom teeth come in?
A: These teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 21, although they can begin causing problems as early as age 13.
Only your dentist can tell whether your wisdom teeth have enough space or if they should be removed.