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Why Baby Teeth Matter

May 15th, 2019

Sleepless nights, crankiness, drooling—how can such tiny teeth cause such a big fuss? But all those uncomfortable days and nights are forgotten when your baby’s first teeth make their appearance. Why? Well, certainly because your child is happier, but also because you know baby teeth, or primary teeth, are important for your child’s growth in so many different ways.

  • Chewing and Eating

Your baby might enjoy solid foods at an early age, but real chewing doesn’t happen until all the baby molars appear between the ages of one to three years. This is the time to feed children size-appropriate and texture-appropriate foods so they acquire proper chewing and eating habits for healthy digestion. Chewing also helps develop your child’s jaw and facial muscles.

  • Developing Speech

Pronouncing many of the common sounds used in speech often requires tongue and teeth working together. If teeth are missing or there is a bite problem such as an open bite, it might be more difficult to pronounce words properly. This could be only a temporary delay, or it could require speech therapy when your child is older.

  • Setting the Stage for Permanent Teeth

Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space. The adult tooth will not have the room to fit where it should, and crowding or misalignment can occur. This might cause orthodontic problems in the future.

  • Learning Healthy Dental Habits

You are your baby’s first dental health care provider! Wiping the gums and erupting teeth with a soft damp cloth after meals, gently brushing baby teeth when your toddler is young, teaching how to brush as your child gets older, helping to establish daily routines for brushing—all these practices will prepare your child for lifelong healthy dental habits.

  • Making the Dentist a Regular Part of Your Child’s Life

Your child should visit our North Dartmouth, MA office soon after that first tooth comes in, and definitely by the age of 12 months. Dr. Fraone can help with suggestions for your brushing and flossing routine, make sure your child’s teeth are healthy and clean, and ensure that teething progress is on track. In later visits, we will examine your child’s primary teeth and gums, and treat any problems, such as cavities, before they can become serious.

It turns out that baby teeth really are a big deal. Talk to us about suggestions for caring for your toddler’s teeth and about any questions you may have about teething progress, jaw and facial structure, speech development, or any other concerns at any time. We want to have a happy relationship with your child from the very start for a lifetime of healthy and confident smiles.

What Are Chalky Teeth?

May 8th, 2019

You’ve always taken care of your child’s smile. You make sure thorough brushing and flossing take place twice a day. You serve foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar. You make and keep regular dental appointments at our North Dartmouth, MA office. But even with the best dental routines, sometimes conditions can occur that will require additional professional care.

One of these conditions can affect your child’s enamel while the tooth is still forming. When baby teeth or adult teeth appear, you might notice white, creamy yellow, or brown spots in otherwise healthy-looking enamel. These spots are softer and rougher than normal hard, smooth enamel. Because of their texture and color, such teeth are often referred to as “chalky teeth,” but this condition is actually known as enamel hypomineralization.

What is hypomineralization?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger even than bones. Enamel is largely composed of minerals. If something disrupts the process of enamel development in baby or adult teeth, the result can be abnormally low mineral content in the enamel. This leaves teeth weaker and more likely to suffer decay and damage.

Premature birth, low birth weight, and other pre-natal factors have been suggested as risk factors for hypomineralization in primary teeth enamel. Permanent teeth can be vulnerable to this condition as well. Adult teeth are forming in young children well before they make an appearance. It’s been suggested that certain early childhood factors, such as recurring high fevers, some diseases, even specific antibiotics, can interrupt the formation of the enamel and lead to hypomineralization of adult teeth.

What are the results of enamel hypomineralization?

Children with this condition are much more likely to experience rapid tooth decay because of their weaker, more porous enamel, especially in the molars. Further, they tend not to respond as well to the numbing effects of local dental anesthetics, while their teeth tend to be more sensitive to pain. Cases can be mild, moderate, or severe. In severe cases, teeth might require crowns or possibly extractions, but even mild discoloration and other cosmetic problems can lead to self-consciousness in your child.

How can we help?

Catching this condition early is very important. If your child has had any medical conditions that might affect tooth development, let Dr. Fraone know even before that first tooth comes in. If you notice anything unusual about a new baby or adult tooth, give us a call. For primary or permanent teeth, the sooner we can begin treatment, the better the long-term outlook.

We might suggest fluoride applications or desensitizing treatments. We can apply sealants to reduce the risk of cavities, and use bonding to restore discolored or weak patches in the tooth. Both of these methods have greater success if the enamel near the affected area is in good condition, so early treatment is vital. If teeth require more protection, crowns are often the best choice. We will design a treatment program to suit your child’s individual needs now and for the future.

How can you help?

Dental hygiene is important for every child, but especially for a child with weak and porous enamel. Because children with hypomineralized enamel develop cavities more quickly that those with strong enamel, it is very important to watch your child’s diet and keep to a regular, careful, and thorough routine of brushing and flossing at home. Be attentive to any sensitivity problems, and be sure to follow any suggestions we might have for strengthening enamel.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment is always best! If at any time you notice chalky patches, or have any other concerns about the appearance of your child’s teeth, if they seem to be causing your child pain or are unusually sensitive, call Dr. Fraone immediately. We want to work with you to treat any current problems and to prevent new ones.

Preventing Toddler Tooth Decay

May 1st, 2019

You do everything you can to protect your toddler with safeguards large and small. Installing that complicated car seat. Figuring out which sunscreen is best for delicate skin. Spending weeks childproofing your home. But all the work protecting your child is more than worth it because the rewards are so great. And one more everyday precaution that brings great rewards is protecting your toddler from tooth decay.

  • Start Early

The time to start your baby’s dental care is even before that first tooth arrives. Carefully wiping the gums with a clean, damp cloth after feeding gets your child used to the idea of brushing and removes bacteria that might irritate the gums as the teeth begin to erupt. As soon as those teeth arrive, gentle brushing with soft bristles will keep bacteria and plaque from causing tooth decay and gingivitis. We can recommend toothpastes formulated especially for toddlers and suggest the best ways to brush.

  • Mind The Menu

We know that sugary foods aren’t healthy for your toddler’s teeth. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar, and a sugar-heavy diet results in more of the bacteria and plaque which cause cavities. But sugar is not the only food that is not tooth-friendly. For example, foods like citrus fruits and juices can also be a problem. Acidic foods can actually weaken enamel after eating and leave teeth more vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria and plaque. We have suggestions for tooth-healthy snacks and the best times to brush after eating if you and your child indulge in a treat.

  • Don’t Misuse Bottles & Sippy Cups

Your toddler might still use a bottle at night or a sippy cup throughout the day. Juices and even milk contain sugar that increases the risk of cavities, and if your child goes to sleep with a bottle or cup, these liquids pool in the mouth overnight allowing bacteria to flourish.  If your toddler wants a drink at night or between meals, water is a much better option.

Those tiny teeth are important for so many reasons. They enable children to bite and chew efficiently, to pronounce sounds properly for speech development, and to save space for adult teeth so they erupt in the right place. Dr. Fraone and our team recommend that your child visit our North Dartmouth, MA office after the first tooth comes in, and always by the first birthday. We will make sure your toddler’s teeth are developing as they should be and suggest ways to keep them cavity-free. Your toddler’s healthy, beautiful smile is a reward worth protecting!

Let’s Talk About Fluoride

April 24th, 2019

So much of parenting is a balancing act. Making sure your child has enough play time and enough nap time. Crafting meals that are both healthy and appealing. Making sure every dental product you use is both effective and safe.

While Dr. Fraone and our team can’t recommend the perfect bedtime story, or tell you why your child just won’t go for that delicious steamed broccoli, we are more than happy to discuss the very best ways to promote healthy, strong teeth. Should fluoride toothpaste be part of your child’s dental routine? For many good reasons, the answer is yes.

Why Fluoride is Important

Our enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, with the highest concentration of minerals, but it is not indestructible. The bacteria that live in our mouths create acids which attack our enamel. Weakened enamel leads to cavities. Fluoride is a mineral that makes the enamel surface more resistant to these acids, and can actually help our enamel repair itself in a process called “remineralization.” Fluoride helps prevent cavities and makes teeth stronger, and those are benefits that will last your child a lifetime.

Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Fluorosis is a condition that can sometimes develop when a child has been exposed to too much fluoride while the adult teeth are developing below the gum line. (Around the age of eight, children’s teeth have finished forming and are not at risk.) Fluorosis is not a disease, and doesn’t harm teeth, but can lead to faint streaks in the enamel. While this streaking is usually white and subtle, it can sometimes be darker and more noticeable. Teeth discolored by fluorosis can be treated cosmetically, but prevention is always the best option.

Finding the Perfect Balance

Talk to us about using fluoride toothpaste when your baby’s first teeth start arriving. If a very young child is at risk for tooth decay, we might recommend early use of fluoride toothpaste. And for these small children, younger than the age of three, a small smear of paste (about the size of a grain of rice) is sufficient if needed. Swallowing fluoride products increases the risk of fluorosis, so make sure to use a very small amount of paste.

Because young children can’t understand the concept of rinsing and spitting, you always want to make sure the amount of toothpaste you use is age-appropriate even as they get older.  From ages three to six, a pea-sized dab of toothpaste is enough. Children should not use fluoride rinses or supplements unless recommended, and should be monitored to make sure they spit out fluoride toothpaste or rinses after brushing.

Most drinking water already has natural levels of fluoride, which normally aren’t a problem. If you are concerned about high fluoride levels in your local water, talk to us. If your water has higher levels of fluoride than normal, you can minimize consumption when your baby is young by breastfeeding, using non-fluoridated water for mixing with formula powder or concentrate, or buying prepared formula. If your child is a toddler, don’t add fluoride rinses or supplements unless they are recommended by a dental or medical professional.

Talk to us during your visit to our North Dartmouth, MA office about protecting your child’s teeth. We are happy to help you find just the right amount of fluoride to keep young smiles stronger and more resistant to tooth decay. Healthy teeth in a beautiful smile—that’s a perfect balance!