Laughter is sweeter than candy.
(And it lasts longer.)
As parents, you play a big role in your child’s dental health. We’re here to partner with you so you have the knowledge and the resources you need to help your child make good dental hygiene decisions.
Does my child have soft teeth?
We often hear the term “soft teeth” from moms and dads who say they had soft teeth or their family is known for its soft teeth. “Soft teeth” implies an inherited condition that is evident in all the teeth, not just some.
The majority of the children we see don’t have soft teeth; they have the effects of poor oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) and inappropriate feeding practices. Poor eating and brushing habits lead to bacteria growth on the teeth and gums. Bacteria excrete acid, which degrades teeth enamel and leads to tooth decay (cavities).
There are rare disorders that affect the enamel of all the teeth. Among these are amelogenesis imperfecta, dentinogenesis imperfecta and osteogenesis imperfecta. Because some of these disorders have associated health risks, we strongly advise you to bring your children in for evaluation if any of your relatives have been diagnosed with one of these conditions.
What is ECC?
ECC refers to early childhood caries. Caries, the medical term for tooth decay, begins with an accumulation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that grows on teeth and produces acid. The acid removes calcium from enamel and dentin, ultimately causing cavities. Because caries is progressive, it can spread from tooth to tooth.
Will my child have problems with his or her permanent teeth?
We get asked this question frequently, especially after a child has been diagnosed with severe early childhood caries, or S-ECC.
Children who have been diagnosed with ECC have a higher risk of developing cavities in their adult teeth. Consequently, these children have more frequent hospitalizations and emergency room visits, insufficient height/weight development, increased school absences, reduced learning skills, and decreased oral health-related quality of life.
Seek prompt dental care for your child if diagnosed with ECC, especially S-ECC, and follow up with preventative, routine dental care.
By extracting a baby tooth early, will the permanent tooth come in sooner?
Baby teeth can be removed due to trauma, severe decay or infection. Proximity to the expected time of loss determines when the permanent tooth will fill in the space. Usually a tooth removed within six months of its expected loss will result in speedier replacement by its permanent successor. If a baby tooth is removed a year or more from the expected time of loss, permanent tooth development may take up to a year longer than normal.
What causes cavities?
Cavities, or dental caries, are caused by four factors:
- Tooth or a host
- Bacteria, primarily mutans streptococci (MS)
- Food or substrate
All four factors must be present to develop cavities. The bacteria (MS) are found in most human mouths; in fact, there is strong evidence that the initial bacterial transmission comes from a child’s primary caregiver. MS cannot be removed once it is in your child’s mouth, and the more often your child eats, the more bacteria grow on your child’s teeth. The bacteria produce plaque and acid, which weaken the teeth and eventually cause cavities.
Follow these steps to protect your child against the growth of bacteria:
- Keep your own mouth healthy and clean, even before your baby is born.
- Decrease the amounts of sugar and acid in your child’s diet. Since lactose is milk sugar, wean your child from the bottle and breast by age one.
- Never give your child soda, and limit fruit juices to mealtime only. Both liquids are full of acid.
- Brush your child’s teeth as soon as you see them, even if your child is only six months old. Use a soft-bristled brush with a smear of toothpaste only.
- Brush your child’s teeth before bed and allow only water afterward; never put your child to bed with a bottle of juice or milk.
- Start your child’s dental care before he or she is 12 months old.
Will my child need braces?
Only you and your dentist can answer that question.
There are certain types of irregular bite patterns that may allow the front teeth to be prone to injury. These types of malocclusions, or teeth misalignments, require orthodontic treatment and should be treated by braces.
Just because your child’s teeth aren’t perfectly straight does not mean they are unhealthy. Most malocclusions are cosmetic problems; though they may be unsightly, they are not necessarily detrimental to your child’s dental health.
Have your dentist review your child’s occlusion, or bite. If you feel appearance is a problem, then an orthodontic consultation may be appropriate.
Recommended Reading List
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist (ages 4-8)
- Doctor De Soto (ages 4-8)
- David Decides About Thumbsucking: A Story for Children, a Guide for Parents (kindergarten through grade three)
Find More Information for Parents
Minnesota Parents Know, a site provided by the Minnesota Department of Education, provides searchable child development and health information from trusted online sources.