Your pediatric questions answered.
1. What should I do if my child sucks his thumb?
The recommendation is for a child to stop a digit habit by the age of 3. By this age, the following are some recommendations to help your child stop this habit:
- wrapping the thumb with a mitten or tape can be helpful.
- if the child is reward oriented, one can motivate a child to stop the habit by offering a reward at the end of a certain period of time without thumb sucking. It should be a minimum of three months after the habit has been broken. If this does not work, there is a commercial product available called a "thumb guard" that will act as a physical barrier.
When a child is older and the habit is still not broken, a dentist may need to intervene and place a fixed appliance in a child' s mouth to break this habit.
2. Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child' s teeth?
A number of adverse effects on the teeth and jaws can happen as a consequence to thumb sucking. Studies have shown that these effects can be seen as early as 18 months of age. Some of these include: posterior crossbite, increase in the incline of the upper incisors, open bite and tongue thrust. Due to the increase in incline of the upper incisors, the literature supports an increase in the propensity for trauma to these teeth as they are the first to hit in a fall or other trauma.
3. How can a mom prevent decay caused by nursing?
Years ago, cavities in the baby teeth was named "baby bottle tooth decay." The name has hence changed and is now termed "early childhood caries." One of the reasons for the name change was the evidence that only about 40% of cavities in young children were a consequence of breast or bottle feeding. Having said this, one should be aware that breast feeding on demand or taking a bottle to bed greatly increases the risk of cavities for young children. Steps that can be taken to prevent cavities in baby teeth include:
1. Making baby' s first visit to the Pediatric Dentist by age 1
2. Wiping the teeth and gum tissue after feeding
3. Substitute water for milk if a child needs to take a bottle to bed
4. Limiting juice consumption to no more than 4 ozs per day. This includes soft drinks and sports drinks.
5. Limiting exposure to sugary snacks to not more than 2/day.
6. Use of a smear of fluoride toothpaste and beginning to floss.
4. How often does a child need to see the pediatric dentist?
A child' s first visit to the pediatric dentist should be before age 1. Thereafter, the frequency of follow-up visits depends on the risk for caries of each child. The range can be anywhere from every 3 months to every year.
5. What can parents do to protect their children' s teeth during sporting events?
Mouthguard use has been shown to lessen the severity of dental injuries in the event of contact during sporting events. There is no strong evidence to suggest that mouth guards made at a dental office are more protective than those that can be purchased over the counter; however, there is evidence that the custom mouth guards are more comfortable and, therefore, are worn with more consistency than mouth guards that are bought over the counter.