Nature and nurture both play a part in how your child’s teeth will look – your role in promoting good habits in your child starts very early.
Before the baby arrives
It’s now known that the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum can be passed from person to person. This means you should try to ensure that those people who are likely to be in regular and close contact with your baby are free of dental decay and gum diseases, well before the arrival of your baby’s first teeth. Luckily you have a good few months to be prepared! Contact our friendly team at Capricornia Dental Centre to make an appointment.
You’ll be interested to know that facial growth is influenced by jaw growth and development which continues right through into early adult life. This growth may be modified from the very beginning as infantile suckling, eating and breathing habits cause changes to occur in the developing jaws in your child.
The breast or bottle discussion is not one that a dentist generally gets involved in – except to point out that the nipple has been designed to allow a baby to suckle in the best way possible. The flow characteristics of the breast together with the shape of the nipple while the baby is suckling promote correct development of the baby’s face and jaws.
In some cases, babies are born with a restriction of movement of the tongue, sometimes called a tied tongue. The release of a tied tongue is a very simple procedure that will help with easier feeding and every aspect of your child’s oral development. This applies equally to breast or bottle fed babies. We can help you with releasing tongue ties right here in Rockhampton, with no need to travel. If necessary, we refer for surgery.
If you bottle feed your baby then it is worthwhile putting some thought into the design of the teat that you choose. A broad and flat shaped teat replicates the shape of the nipple and encourages a suckling action that best simulates breastfeeding. This helps with the correct development of the front part of your baby’s top jaw.
Learning to swallow food and drink
When your baby is ready to begin eating solids it’s exciting – but messy! When babies move from a liquid diet to food that has texture, they are also moving from an infantile swallowing pattern to an adult swallow. The transition from infantile to adult swallow can be quick and complete, or slow and intermittent – or may even never happen. One of the things that can delay the transition to an adult swallow is our reluctance to accept a bit of a mess.
When babies are learning to eat solids, they initially struggle to get the food to the back of their mouths. They are used to suckling on a nipple or teat that is not positioned at the front of their mouths but is directing milk towards the back of their mouths. Now, with solids, the same action from their tongue tends to push food out of their mouth. This is where it gets messy!
If you repeatedly wipe your baby’s face with a spoon to clean up the food smeared on his or her face, you may confuse the baby by triggering that reflexive turning of the head and suckling that happens in early breast or bottle feeding – meaning you may be promoting an infantile swallow.
The secret to a quick and complete change to an adult swallowing pattern is to leave food on your baby’s face until the end of the meal. Let your baby make a mess while they are learning how to handle this new food and then wipe his or her face clean at the end of the meal.
Sipping cups are another convenience that send mixed messages to your baby and should not be used until well after your baby has learned to eat solids without making a mess.
Watch out for sugar and acid
Sugar, especially when combined with acid is bad news for teeth. Soft drinks and lollies should be reserved for very special occasions only – maybe until your child is just about ready to leave home! Sugar is broken down by bacteria in your child’s mouth to make acid. If the sugar is not present for long, or the frequency of sugar intake is low, then saliva has a chance to clear the sugar and not much harm is done. When the sugar is frequently present or present for more than a few minutes at a time, then saliva cannot provide enough protection and your child’s teeth will decay.
Watch out for –
- Fruit juices – these are combinations of acid and sugar so be very wary about encouraging your child to drink fruit juice or reconstituted juices too regularly.
- Dried fruit and dried fruit rolls – these foods are high in sugar and tend to stick to the teeth which prolongs the time they are actively destructive.
- ‘Low fat’ foods – many of these have lots of sugar added to make them more palatable.
Stick to healthy snacks including cheeses, whole fruits, bread and avocado. Healthy drinks are plain water and unflavoured milk. Let your children receive their carbohydrates (sugars) from their food at mealtimes and not have them added to their drinks.
Cleaning children’s teeth
Cleaning your child’s teeth can be daunting. If you are right-handed it is probably easiest to sit your baby on your left-hand side next to the sink. You both face in the same direction with your left arm holding your baby, preventing him or her from wriggling off the bench. Hold your baby’s head still with your left hand while you brush the teeth with your right hand. (If you are left-handed the opposite applies.)
By cleaning your baby’s teeth like this not only can you hold your baby safely, but you will also find that you can use the toothbrush effectively without hurting your baby by bumping the brush into his or her lips, cheeks or gums.
Toothpaste designed for children has a milder taste, doesn’t foam up as much, and is lower in fluoride than toothpaste designed for adults. Choose a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles.
As your child gets older and has more teeth you’ll need to become an expert at using floss. It is easiest to use something like a Flossette™ or “floss fork” for this – Flossettes™ are easier to use in small mouths.
It’s important to feel comfortable cleaning your child’s teeth because you should ideally be doing this until your child is about seven years old. Of course, encourage your child to clean his or her teeth alone before they reach seven but remember that most children do not have the ability to do the job properly until around that age.
Products like disclosing solution – which highlights bacteria on teeth and shows you where to brush most carefully – should be used while your child is learning to clean his or her teeth alone – but until your child can clean those areas completely you will need to do the follow-up cleaning for them.
Looking good for life
Why do our faces change through infancy and childhood and why do some people seem to stay ‘beautiful’? By the end of high school we basically have our ‘adult’ faces, but not all have retained the ‘cute face’ of early childhood!
- normal tongue function
- lip seal
- nasal breathing
We spoke about normal tongue function regarding tied tongues and the importance of developing an adult swallowing pattern. <link to Suckling>
Lip seal and nasal breathing are two parts of the same thing – we all do whatever we can to breathe! However, if we have problems with our airway, we tend to adapt to make breathing easier and that may have long-term consequences for our faces. Essentially what can happen is that a predominantly mouth-breathing child’s face gets longer, the cheek bones are flattened, the top jaw is narrowed, and the lower jaw is pushed back.
So, it is important that your child breathes with his or her mouth closed both day and night. Our grandparents had it right when they exhorted us to “stand up straight, keep your shoulders back and shut your mouth so you don’t catch flies”.
A good night’s sleep
If you have a child who is a noisy sleeper or snores at all, it is concerning and can be difficult to explain the extent of the problem to your GP, paediatrician or ENT surgeon. Take a short video of your child sleeping to show your doctor what is happening so that he or she can make an assessment as to what action, if any, is necessary.
And it is important to do this early on because Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) should be diagnosed and treated as early as possible – structural narrowing of the pharynx starts early in life, and if untreated at this time it is difficult to correct later.
By age eight, 60% of your child’s facial growth is already completed, rising to 90% by age twelve. If you have any anxieties about your child’s facial development don’t hesitate to talk about it early on, so that any treatment can be carried out before facial growth is complete. We’d be happy to discuss any worries you might have.
Orthotropics for children
Orthotropics is facial growth guidance. Orthotropics changes the face for the better by encouraging correct oral posture. Orthotropics is one way of providing early correction, but please be aware that orthotropics is not for everyone.
There are many reasons for the mouth posture to have been altered from the ideal, and it can often happen very early on in life. Breastfeeding, diet, nutrition, and allergies are all factors that can influence oral posture. Biobloc Orthotropics® seeks to undo the structural damage to the face that may have occurred when the posture was not correct, and then to stabilize the facial growth and tooth positions by working toward a habitually normal oral posture.
The results of Orthotropics® can be compared to the alternative of jaw surgery rather than to orthodontic alternatives, which often fix the bite by bringing the upper teeth backward. Orthotropics® tries to avoid pulling teeth backwards and in doing so, has been shown to increase the airway size and make the face more attractive than conventional orthodontics.
To find out more about Orthotropics please visit the International Association of Facial Growth Guidance and Face Focused, two websites developed by the world’s leading orthotropic practitioners.
Myofunctional Therapy for children
The aim of this therapy is to retrain and develop healthy and harmonious orofacial musculature and promote an ideal physiological relationship with speaking, chewing and swallowing. This improves dental and orthodontic treatment outcomes; enhances appearance and can help maintain optimum dental health for a lifetime of benefits.
For children, we offer individualised treatment to promote optimum orofacial muscle development, function and harmony that may be recommended for a variety of functional or cosmetic reasons.