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Is a Crown Necessary for My Child’s Baby Tooth?

March 5th, 2020

Part of the charm of your child’s smile is those delicate, diminutive baby teeth. We enjoy those smiles while we can, because soon enough, primary teeth make way for the adult teeth that will last your child a lifetime. So you might be surprised if Dr. Eduardo Perez and our team recommend a crown for your child’s baby tooth. Is this procedure necessary when the tooth is going to fall out eventually anyway?

Yes, it really is. If a primary tooth is lost before its normal lifespan, several problems can arise.

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth is best for proper chewing and digestion. And chewing also helps develop face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to replace it. If a primary tooth is lost too early, teeth may drift from their correct location and cause overcrowding or misalignment.

When is a Crown Necessary?

The enamel in a baby tooth is thinner than the enamel found in adult teeth, and a cavity can spread quickly throughout a tooth. Within a short period, the tooth’s structure might be too weak for a regular filling. Sometimes the pulp inside the tooth becomes injured or infected and an endodontic treatment is necessary to remove pulp tissue from inside the tooth. The interior will be filled, but the delicate enamel surrounding it will be fragile. Or an accident can leave a tooth fractured or broken, but still vital.

In each of these cases, a crown will protect the tooth from further decay or damage, and will allow the tooth to function normally until an adult tooth is ready to replace it.

What Types of Crowns are Available?

By far the most common choice for a primary tooth is a stainless steel crown. These crowns are prefabricated and can be fitted snugly to your child’s individual tooth. They are easy to place, less expensive than other crown alternatives, and will last until the tooth is ready to fall out in its proper time. If your child suffers from a metal allergy, or a more natural looking crown is necessary, talk to us about other possible options during your appointment at our San Antonio, Texas office.

Sure, preserving a baby tooth that was never designed to be permanent seems contradictory. But saving a tooth that helps your child develop proper eating habits, speech production, and correct adult tooth alignment? Those are benefits that will last a lifetime.

What is an Impacted Tooth?

February 27th, 2020

You may have heard this term the first time you or a friend got your wisdom teeth. That makes sense, as wisdom teeth are the teeth most often impacted in teenagers and young adults. But other permanent teeth can be impacted as well. What exactly do we mean by “impacted teeth,” and what can we do to treat them?

The term “impacted” means that somehow a tooth has been blocked from erupting properly. A tooth may be completely blocked by another tooth, erupt in the wrong space, or even come in from the wrong direction. Depending on the teeth involved, there are several different options for treatment.

From Baby Teeth to Permanent Teeth

Normally, when children lose a baby tooth, a permanent tooth is right there, ready to take its place. But teeth don’t always behave according to plan. Occasionally, that baby tooth just won’t budge, and the permanent tooth starts to erupt behind it. When this happens, a simple baby tooth extraction will often let the permanent tooth move into its proper position on schedule.

A more complicated situation develops when upper teeth are impacted because there isn’t enough space in the mouth for them. In this case, a device called a palatal expander might be used to gradually widen the upper jaw to allow the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding.

In other rare cases, a tooth (often the canine) fails to erupt and may require oral surgery to uncover it, followed by orthodontic treatment to guide it into position.

Impacted teeth can result from other causes as well, and every impacted tooth should be treated as quickly as possible. Left untreated, the teeth can fail to erupt at all or erupt in the wrong place, crowd other permanent teeth, damage the roots of the teeth near them, and lead to difficulties eating and dental pain.

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are often a problem because there is simply not enough room in the jaw for them.

Wisdom teeth that are completely impacted (still in the jawbone) can sometimes be left alone if they aren’t causing other problems. But if impacted wisdom teeth develop cysts, affect the teeth around them, or lead to other dental complications, they should be extracted.

Partially erupted teeth, those that have begun to emerge through the gums but don’t erupt fully, can be the source of different gum and tooth problems. Because the gum tissue overlaps the tooth, food particles and bacteria can become trapped, leading to rapid tooth decay and even infection. In this case, extraction is probably the best option.

Be Proactive

The term “impacted” actually comes from the Latin root meaning “pushed against.” But teeth that don’t erupt at the right time, in the right place, can have a different kind of impact on dental health and appearance. And the earlier we can catch these problems, the easier it is to treat them.

Regular exams and X-rays with Dr. Eduardo Perez at our San Antonio, Texas office will show the progress of the teeth even before they erupt, and if there will be the space for them to fit in the mouth properly. We may recommend a visit to the orthodontist by the age of seven to see if there are any signs of potential orthodontic problems.

Intervention at an early stage can prevent potential problems from becoming major ones. That is why it’s so important to be proactive when teeth are erupting in children and young adults. After all, a healthy, confident smile makes a real impact!

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.