Our Blog

Bedtime, Bottles, and Baby Teeth

February 20th, 2020

Your beautiful baby is finally asleep, bottle clutched in tiny hands, dreaming sweet dreams with a charming milky smile.

Unfortunately, this lovely fantasy might lead to a rude awakening. If your child goes to sleep every night with a bottle, the chance of childhood cavities greatly increases. In fact, there is even a name for it—baby bottle tooth decay.

How Can Bottles Lead to Tooth Decay?

Cavities are created when oral bacteria produce acids that erode enamel, the protective outer coating of the tooth. These bacteria love to feed on sugar. Baby formula and even breast milk contain carbohydrates in the form of sugars. And this is not a bad thing!

Carbohydrates are essential for babies (and adults as well) for growth and development. Lactose, the sugar found in breast milk, is a carb that is easy for your baby to digest and helps good bacteria in the digestive system grow. Formulas with cow’s milk also contain lactose, and even the other kinds of sugars found in formula provide your baby with necessary, easily digestible carbohydrates.

But when your child goes to sleep with a bottle, those healthy sugars aren’t all being digested. Liquid can pool in the mouth bathing those perfect new teeth with sugar all through the night. That’s why we don’t recommend letting your child go to sleep with a bottle of formula.

And if your older child’s bottle is filled with juice or other sugared drinks, the effects are potentially much more harmful. Eventually, sugar left in the mouth all night will lead to the development of cavities, and in severe cases, to infection and even tooth loss. The upper front teeth are most often affected, but other baby teeth can become decayed as well.

How Can You Help Prevent Baby Bottle Decay?

  • Start early by gently wiping your baby’s gums and erupting teeth after each bottle or breast feeding with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad. (Even though breastfed babies have a reduced risk of early cavities, it’s still a good idea to clean their gums and teeth after feedings.)
  • Once those little teeth have come in, use a baby-size toothbrush to gently clean them. Talk to us about toothpaste—when and how much is appropriate for your child.
  • Babies generally require breastfeeding or formula at night to get the nutrition they need. It’s best if they finish their feeding before naps or bedtime so you have a chance to clean little mouths. If your toddler carries a bottle or sippy cup through the day, or insists on a bottle at night, talk to us or your pediatrician for ideas on how and when to substitute tooth-healthy options such as water.
  • Limit unnecessary or unhealthy sugars. Never put sugar-heavy juices and sodas in your child’s bottle or cup, or sugar or honey on a pacifier.

Your Child’s Baby Teeth Are Important

Your child will start losing those baby teeth around the age of six, but primary teeth provide many irreplaceable benefits before they are, well, replaced. Using the teeth to bite and chew food helps form proper eating habits and develop jaw and facial muscles. Baby teeth help with speech development, and they serve as place holders to make sure the adult teeth erupt in the right spot. Losing baby teeth too early can interfere with all of these goals.

As soon as that first tooth makes its appearance, or by the age of one, bring your baby to our San Antonio, Texas office for a first checkup. Dr. Eduardo Perez and our team will not only make sure everything is going according to schedule, but we will check tiny teeth for enamel erosion and even cavities. Most important, we’ll suggest ways to prevent cavities and tooth decay with proactive dental care. We have many great ideas on making sure your little one’s teeth are healthy from bottle to baby teeth, preparing your child for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles. And that’s a dream come true!

Are My Child’s Baby Teeth on Schedule?

February 13th, 2020

Your darling three-month old is crying and fussy—can she be teething already? Or, your happy baby boy has just celebrated his first birthday—with only one tooth in that beautiful, gummy smile. Is this normal? Probably! While baby teeth do typically erupt (come in) in the same order for all babies, and around the same time, there is still a lot of flexibility in the time it takes for a full, healthy smile to develop.

Baby teeth actually form before your baby is born, and those 20 teeth are there under the gums waiting to come out and shine. And even though there are no firm and fast dates for each of these primary teeth to erupt, it’s helpful to have a general overview of typical teething patterns so you know what to look forward to.

Incisors

These little teeth create a charming baby smile, and, if your finger has been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a very sharp one as well! That is because these tiny incisors are made to bite into foods. You might notice this when you introduce solid foods, even if the majority of your child’s “chewing” is done with her back gums. These teeth are the earliest to arrive.

  • Six to ten months old: The lower central incisors (bottom front teeth) are often the first to come in.
  • Eight to 12 months old: The upper incisors (8-12 months) are the next to show.
  • Nine to 13 months old: The upper lateral incisors on each side of the front teeth arrive.
  • Ten to 16 months old: The lower lateral incisors appear.

First Molars

Because these are larger teeth, babies often experience another bout of teething pain at this time. The large flat surface of each molar helps your child to chew and grind food, so he can handle a wider variety of foods and develop his chewing skills.

  • 13 to 19 months old: You can generally expect to see the upper first molars arrive.
  • 14 to 18 months old: The lower first molars appear.

Canines (Cuspids)

Fitting between the first molars and the incisors, the strong, pointed shape of the canine teeth allows your child to grip food and break it apart more easily.

  • 16 to 22 months old: The upper two canines make their way into the space between the incisors and the first molars.
  • 17 to 23 months old: The two lower canines appear.

Second Molars

By the age of three, most children have a full set of baby teeth.

  • 23 to 31 months old: The second pair of bottom molars start erupting—you are in the home stretch!
  • 25 to 33 months old: The upper second molars come in—completing that beautiful set of 20 teeth!

Baby teeth are extremely important, as Dr. Eduardo Perez will tell you when you visit our San Antonio, Texas office. They help your child eat and chew, develop face and jaw muscles, assist proper speech formation, and provide space for the adult teeth to come in properly. Now that your child’s smile is complete, keep providing him with the same care and attention you have been giving those little teeth since the arrival of the very first incisor.

It seems that so much of new parenthood is scheduling—when to feed her, when to put her to bed, how many hours between naps. But we soon find out that every baby is not on the same schedule, and the same is true for the arrival of their teeth. We should see your baby when that first tooth comes in, or by his or her first birthday. And if you ever have concerns at any time about your child’s teething schedule or teething delays, always feel free to give us a call.

Gum Disease in Children

February 6th, 2020

When it comes to gum disease and your child, it’s a good news/bad news situation. The very good news is that children rarely suffer from advanced gum disease, or periodontitis. The not-so-good news? Early gum disease, called gingivitis, is unfortunately an all-too-common childhood problem.

  • What does gingivitis look like in children?

Childhood gingivitis has the same causes and symptoms as the adult version. Healthy gums are firm and pink. When bacteria and plaque accumulate on the teeth, your child’s gums become irritated and inflamed. Call our San Antonio, Texas office right away if you notice any of these symptoms of gingivitis: bleeding gums, puffiness, redness, gum tissue receding from the teeth, or bad breath even after brushing.       

  • How to Prevent Gingivitis

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor dental care. Creating a regular dental routine is the best way to prevent gingivitis from ever developing! Brushing and flossing with your child for two minutes twice a day from the very beginning helps make healthy cleaning a lifelong habit. Care should be taken to gently brush teeth at the gum line to make sure plaque doesn’t get a chance to build up there and cause gum irritation. And when your child comes in for regular cleanings, Dr. Eduardo Perez can be sure that any plaque that might remain on the teeth is removed.

Two additional notes: as your child approaches adolescence, hormone fluctuations can make gums more sensitive and easily irritated. This is a time to really emphasize careful and gentle brushing and flossing. Also, some medical conditions may make children more pre-disposed to gum problems, so be sure to make us aware of your child’s medical history.

  • Uncommon Gum Diseases

While gingivitis is very preventable with proper dental hygiene, there are some rare gum conditions that can occur around the time of puberty that are quite different from gingivitis. Aggressive Periodontitis can cause severe bone loss around the first molars and incisors, even without any kind of plaque build-up, and Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis leads to inflammation of the gums, heavy plaque, and, eventually, loose teeth. Again, these conditions are rare, but if you have a family history of these diseases, let us know. Checkups and cleanings are a great way to catch any potential gum problems, so be sure to bring your child in for regular visits.

Almost all childhood gingivitis is preventable. With careful brushing and flossing at home, and visiting us regularly for checkups and cleanings, your child can enjoy healthy gums and teeth now and learn habits that will keep those gums and teeth healthy for a lifetime. And that is a good news/great news situation!

What Are Dental Sealants?

January 30th, 2020

You’re constantly playing defense. Your child spends two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night carefully brushing and flossing with a fluoride toothpaste. You make sure sugary and acidic foods are not a major part of your diets. Your child visits our San Antonio, Texas office for regular exams and cleanings. Really, how can a cavity get past all that?

But even with the best defensive practices, you don’t have a level playing field—literally. The tops of our molars and premolars don’t have the smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces that our other teeth have. If you look at the chewing surfaces, you will notice deep grooves which toothbrush bristles have a much harder time reaching.  

Plaque and food particles can become trapped in these grooves (known as pits and fissures), providing perfect conditions for a cavity to develop. That is why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars. Dental sealants protect these teeth from cavities by providing a barrier which smooths out the surface of the tooth and prevents food and bacteria from reaching the molar’s crevices.

Most sealants are invisible plastic resin coatings which we apply in our San Antonio, Texas office. Usually the procedure is so quick and easy that no dental anesthetic is required. Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of early decay, we will gently treat that area before beginning.

When the tooth is ready, it will be cleaned and dried. An etching solution will be brushed on to the dry surface to roughen the area a bit so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light. And that’s it!

Once teeth are sealed, they should be cleaned and flossed just as carefully as before. Regular exams and cleanings are still very important, and we can monitor the condition of the sealant and the sealed teeth. Properly applied, sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer.

Who should consider sealants? Sealants are typically recommended when the permanent molars first erupt. Children’s enamel takes a while to become its strongest, and so these just-erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. Sometimes Dr. Eduardo Perez will recommend sealants for primary (baby) teeth if needed. But even adults can benefit—talk to us if you are interested and we will let you know if sealants might be right for you.

Sealants are a simple, safe, and minimally invasive way to prevent cavities. Studies of sealed molars and premolars show a dramatic reduction in cavities compared to untreated teeth. Sealants are one of the most effective ways to defend your teeth or your children’s teeth from tooth decay. And as we’ve all heard—defense wins championships!