They’re Just Baby Teeth
I’ve never been able to figure out why many people think BABY TEETH aren’t important. If any other body part started rotting, it would raise an eyebrow or two. But somehow, these 20 little white pearls don’t get the same respect. Yes, baby teeth WILL EVENTUALLY fall out. But watching them ROT out before their time boggles the mind. Now,” ROT” is probably not the politically correct term, but that is exactly what’s happening. Baby teeth are extremely vulnerable to almost anything left on them for extended periods of time. The enamel shell protecting the tooth’s delicate innards is TISSUE THIN. Unlike mature teeth, a tiny hole in a baby tooth will grow at warp speed into a disaster. Soaking that thin enamel in a steady diet of Twinkies and Gummy Bears probably isn’t a good idea. For this reason, dentists like to see children, beginning at 3 years of age. Usually no treatment needs to be done except perhaps a simple cleaning, which introduces the child to the world of dentistry in a GENTLE, ENJOYABLE WAY. Occasionally, however, we see a 3-year-old with 360 degrees of rot in just about EVERY tooth. Dentists refer to this as BOTTLE MOUTH. Allowing the child to fall asleep nursing a bottle of milk or other sugary liquid produces this devastating condition! These children generally can only be treated under general anesthesia… expensive, traumatic, and totally avoidable.
A few days ago a distraught mother brought her four-year-old to see me. He had stopped eating. Eleven of his tiny teeth were seriously decayed. Two teeth on opposite sides were rotted below the gum line. His gums, swollen from infection, had grown into the rotted out portion of the tooth, so whenever he bit down into this angry, swollen, red tissue, which he had to do just to close his mouth, he would experience incredible pain. So he just stopped eating. At that point ,Mama decided something might be wrong, and so here he is…terrified… sitting in my chair… and I know this is not the way I want to get acquainted with this little guy…. the thought runs through my mind … “this just isn’t fair”. So what’s the big deal about baby teeth?
When a baby tooth is faced with “early retirement”, the permanent tooth just doesn’t pop in there overnight. It can take 7 or 8 years before it’s ready to show up. That’s plenty of time for the adjacent teeth to tip and drift into that empty space…yes, teeth MOVE…essentially blocking out, the permanent tooth. Which means it will grow in the WRONG PLACE. Or it may never grow into the mouth at all! So we get impacted teeth, requiring surgery, braces, or both. Also, imagine the devastating effect a chronically abscessed baby tooth will have on the developing permanent tooth beneath it.
So here’s the game plan:
1. Take a look in your child’s mouth… if you see a tooth… brush it… or at least clean it with a washcloth once or twice a day. A small, inexpensive, electric brush can be a great help here.
2. Never ever, allow them to fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth. Unless it’s plain water.
3. Preserve teeth and their pancreas by eliminating sugar laden foods and sodas. With childhood diabetes on the rise, swigging a cola loaded with 10 teaspoons of sugar…can create a nuclear meltdown in their developing bodies.
4. Little ones eat toothpaste… use one containing Xylitol which will kill the cavity causing bugs but not affect them…and they won’t have to rinse.
5. At around 3 years of age, schedule a dental visit… we call these HAPPY VISITS. The dentist is happy, usually because nothing has to be fixed, and Junior’s happy for the same reason. And tiny problems can be easily corrected before turning into Katrina- like disasters.
6. And lastly, but most importantly, treat your child’s teeth with the same respect you give all their other body parts… it’s the politically correct thing to do.
Stay well, Dr. Bill Ardito – Sunshine Dentistry AZ
855 W. Bell Road, Suite 600 Nogales, AZ 85621
Appeared in April 2011 Nogales International