59°F
weather icon Clear
app-logo
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Ask the Pediatrician: Can babies suffer tooth decay?

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in the United States.

The good news is there are ways to prevent it.

Even the tiniest teeth can decay. But there are habits you can start now to keep your baby’s teeth healthy. And when that first tooth shows up, there are ways your pediatrician can keep it healthy, too. Here is what you need to know.

Everyone, even babies, can get tooth decay. Children living in poverty, in ethnic or racial minority groups or with special health care needs are at more risk for dental decay. Other reasons a child could be high risk include:

— The child’s mother or main caregiver had tooth decay in the past 12 months or does not have a regular source of dental care.

— White spots appear on the child’s teeth. These spots are a sign the tooth is losing calcium and minerals that keep it strong.

— Tan, brown or black spots appear or you see cavities (pits) on the teeth. This is a sign that the tooth is decaying.

Fluoride is a safe and useful cavity-fighting ingredient that has been added to drinking water since 1945.

Fluoride is a natural mineral that can slow down or stop cavities from forming. When you drink fluoridated water every day, the fluoride makes it hard for bacteria in your mouth to make acid. Fluoride also rebuilds tooth enamel (the outer layer of the tooth), and it even makes teeth stronger.

The health benefits work when the drinking water has 0.7 mg/L of fluoride. If your community water supply does not have fluoride or you live on a private well, ask your doctor if you should get a prescription for fluoride drops or chewable tablets for your child.

As soon as your baby’s first tooth erupts, it’s time to start using fluoride toothpaste. Here’s how to do it:

— Use a tiny smear — the size of a grain of rice — until age 3. Clean the teeth at least twice a day. It’s best to clean them right after breakfast and before bedtime.

— Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when your child is 3 years old. Teach your child to spit without rinsing.

— Assist or supervise kids during toothbrushing until they master the task, usually at around 10 years of age.

Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle at night or at naptime. It is also not a good idea to let your baby use a bottle filled with a sweet drink or dip your baby’s pacifier in anything sweet like sugar or honey. If you do put your baby to bed with a bottle, fill it only with water. You can give your baby about 4 to 8 ounces of water per day starting at around 6 months. (Remember, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about six months.)

When your baby is 6 months, your pediatrician will start to do oral health checkups and apply fluoride varnish. Pediatricians are trained to apply fluoride varnish because many young children do not see or have access to a dentist until they are older. All infants and children should have fluoride varnish every 6 months until age 5. Children might need it every three months if they have a higher risk of dental decay.

Varnish is used to help prevent or slow down tooth decay. It is painted on the top and sides of each tooth and hardens quickly. The process is safe and does not hurt.

Fluoride varnish is a “preventive care service” for children. This means all public and private health insurance plans should cover fluoride varnish. No part of the cost should be shared by patients or families.

Oral health starts early. Be ready to discuss your family’s plan for a “dental home.” All children need access to a dentist for regular care. See your child’s dentist by their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth. At this first visit, your dentist can easily check your child’s teeth and determine the frequency of future dental checkups.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Most Americans aren’t getting enough exercise, study finds

Less than a third of U.S. adults meet suggested benchmarks for aerobic and muscle-building activities set out by health officials, according to a new study.

Ask the Pediatrician: What are group A strep infections?

Recently, clusters of invasive group A strep infections in children have been reported, understandably causing concern among parents.

What is degenerative disk disease and what can be done about it?

Our spinal disks wear out with age and use. About 20 percent of all U.S. adults have some amount of degeneration by age 65. This increases to about 35 percent by 80.

 
Thinking about going vegan? Here’s what you need to know

“It’s a lot easier than you think,” says Robin Asbell, chef, cooking instructor and author of several cookbooks, including 2011’s “Big Vegan.”

Doctors break down 7 common types of heart conditions

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with heart conditions affecting more and more people each year. For February, American Heart Month, here’s a look at seven types of heart problems.

Savvy Senior: What are IRS tax filing requirements for retirees?

Whether you are required to file a federal income tax return this year will depend on how much you earned last year, as well as the source of the income, your age and filing status.

Osteoporosis more prevalent in women but can also affect men

Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. But 1 in 5 men over age 50 will have the same issue.

Why are some kids prone to ear infections?

Ear infections often are a direct result of a common cold, allergy or other upper respiratory illness. These illnesses are more common during the winter, so ear infections also are more common this time of year.