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Bedtime, Bottles, and Baby Teeth

December 11th, 2019

Your beautiful baby is finally asleep, bottle clutched in tiny hands, dreaming sweet dreams with a charming milky smile.

Unfortunately, this lovely fantasy might lead to a rude awakening. If your child goes to sleep every night with a bottle, the chance of childhood cavities greatly increases. In fact, there is even a name for it—baby bottle tooth decay.

How Can Bottles Lead to Tooth Decay?

Cavities are created when oral bacteria produce acids that erode enamel, the protective outer coating of the tooth. These bacteria love to feed on sugar. Baby formula and even breast milk contain carbohydrates in the form of sugars. And this is not a bad thing!

Carbohydrates are essential for babies (and adults as well) for growth and development. Lactose, the sugar found in breast milk, is a carb that is easy for your baby to digest and helps good bacteria in the digestive system grow. Formulas with cow’s milk also contain lactose, and even the other kinds of sugars found in formula provide your baby with necessary, easily digestible carbohydrates.

But when your child goes to sleep with a bottle, those healthy sugars aren’t all being digested. Liquid can pool in the mouth bathing those perfect new teeth with sugar all through the night. That’s why we don’t recommend letting your child go to sleep with a bottle of formula.

And if your older child’s bottle is filled with juice or other sugared drinks, the effects are potentially much more harmful. Eventually, sugar left in the mouth all night will lead to the development of cavities, and in severe cases, to infection and even tooth loss. The upper front teeth are most often affected, but other baby teeth can become decayed as well.

How Can You Help Prevent Baby Bottle Decay?

  • Start early by gently wiping your baby’s gums and erupting teeth after each bottle or breast feeding with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad. (Even though breastfed babies have a reduced risk of early cavities, it’s still a good idea to clean their gums and teeth after feedings.)
  • Once those little teeth have come in, use a baby-size toothbrush to gently clean them. Talk to us about toothpaste—when and how much is appropriate for your child.
  • Babies generally require breastfeeding or formula at night to get the nutrition they need. It’s best if they finish their feeding before naps or bedtime so you have a chance to clean little mouths. If your toddler carries a bottle or sippy cup through the day, or insists on a bottle at night, talk to us or your pediatrician for ideas on how and when to substitute tooth-healthy options such as water.
  • Limit unnecessary or unhealthy sugars. Never put sugar-heavy juices and sodas in your child’s bottle or cup, or sugar or honey on a pacifier.

Your Child’s Baby Teeth Are Important

Your child will start losing those baby teeth around the age of six, but primary teeth provide many irreplaceable benefits before they are, well, replaced. Using the teeth to bite and chew food helps form proper eating habits and develop jaw and facial muscles. Baby teeth help with speech development, and they serve as place holders to make sure the adult teeth erupt in the right spot. Losing baby teeth too early can interfere with all of these goals.

As soon as that first tooth makes its appearance, or by the age of one, bring your baby to our Pearland, TX office for a first checkup. Dr. Pamela Clark and our team will not only make sure everything is going according to schedule, but we will check tiny teeth for enamel erosion and even cavities. Most important, we’ll suggest ways to prevent cavities and tooth decay with proactive dental care. We have many great ideas on making sure your little one’s teeth are healthy from bottle to baby teeth, preparing your child for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles. And that’s a dream come true!

Nutrition Tips for Healthy Kids’ Smiles

December 4th, 2019

The grown-ups in your life want you to have a healthy, happy smile. That’s why they help you brush and floss, and make sure you come see Dr. Pamela Clark for checkups and cleanings. Did you ever wonder if there are other ways you can help build a beautiful smile? There are! And one of them is eating food that makes our teeth and gums strong and healthy.

Friendly Foods

  • Enamel and Bone Builders

Calcium is a very important element that helps us grow strong bones and enamel, the hard covering on the outside of our teeth. Bacteria in our mouths can create acids that weaken enamel and lead to cavities, so we want to keep our enamel as strong as possible. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are great sources of calcium, but you might be surprised to know dark green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli help build strong teeth as well, and strong teeth are less likely to get cavities!

  • Good for Our Gums

Many foods have important vitamins that help keep our gums and mouths healthy. Vitamin C helps protect our gums and make them stronger. When we think of Vitamin C, we usually think of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, but there are many other fruits and vegetables that give us this important vitamin, including mangos, potatoes, and strawberries. Vitamin A also helps keep our gums healthy. We can increase our Vitamin A by adding fish, leafy green vegetables, or orange colored foods to our diet.

  • Natural Toothbrushes

Crunchy foods like apples, carrots, and celery can help keep our teeth clean. They act like gentle brushes to remove food and bacteria left on our teeth after eating. Chewing also increases saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria. And, of course, drinking or rinsing with water after a snack helps clean our teeth when we can’t brush.

What Foods Aren’t Good for Our Teeth?

  • Bacteria Builders

Plaque is a film of bacteria that sticks to our teeth. These bacteria make acids that soften our enamel and cause cavities. And what do these bacteria use for food? Sugar is one of their favorites! We can’t stop eating everything with sugar, of course, and we all deserve a treat every now and then. But to keep our teeth their healthiest, it really helps to cut down on sugary foods and drinks, and to brush or rinse with water when we do enjoy dessert.

  • Acid Attacks

Bacteria can make acids that weaken our enamel, but we can also eat foods that damage our enamel and might lead to cavities. Drinks like sodas, citrus juices and even some sports drinks are acidic enough to make our enamel softer. Drinking with a straw or rinsing your mouth with water helps, but it’s a good idea to limit foods and drinks that make our enamel weaker over time.

  • Sticky Stuff

Any food that stays on or between your teeth gives bacteria more time to grow and produce the acids that cause cavities. We can guess that hard candy and caramel would be a bad idea, but even healthy foods such as dried fruit and trail mix can be a problem when they stick to your teeth. If you eat something sticky, be sure to rinse with water or brush and floss as soon as you can.

You already know that brushing and flossing are the best way to keep your teeth clean, and that visiting us for checkups and office cleanings helps your teeth and gums stay strong and healthy. Eating well is just one more thing you can do to help. The next time you visit our Pearland, TX office, talk to us about what you and your family can add to the menu for a lifetime of beautiful smiles!

Mamelons

November 27th, 2019

Quick trivia question: define “mamelon.” Some kind of warm blooded animal? No, not a member of the mammal clan, but good guess. A fruit of the gourd family? Nope! There are watermelons, and honeydew melons, and even canary melons, but no ma-melons. Those little rounded bumps you notice on the edge of your child’s permanent incisors when they first emerge? We have a winning answer!

  • Why Do We Have Mamelons?

We have eight incisors, or biting teeth, in the front of our mouths—four on top and four on bottom. Mamelons are actually a clue as to how these incisors were formed. Even before a baby is born, the permanent teeth begin to take shape. Three different groups of cells develop to form the incisal edge of these front teeth. As they fuse together, they create three lobes of enamel on the erupting edge of the tooth. It’s these lobes, or bumps, that give the teeth a serrated appearance.

Whether your child’s mamelons are quite prominent or barely noticeable, if you are worried about them, relax! They are almost always a temporary part of your child’s smile, and disappear over time with chewing and normal wear. But what if the mamelons overstay their welcome?

  • Cosmetic Concerns

Because mamelons are composed of enamel, without the underlying dentin layer found in the body of the tooth, they can appear translucent or a bit different in color. They might wear away unevenly, leaving the tooth edges looking misaligned. Or, they might not wear away at all if your child’s tooth eruption is delayed. Talk to Dr. Pamela Clark if mamelons are a cosmetic concern for you or your child. You might discover that they are wearing away naturally, or we can discuss ways to polish or smooth them down if needed. This is a painless procedure that doesn’t require an anesthetic. Generally, however, this is a matter where time will resolve the issue for you.

  • Orthodontic Implications

Occasionally, mamelons might become a topic of discussion for orthodontic reasons. Sometimes, mamelons do not wear away over time because of a malocclusion (misaligned bite). Your orthodontist will let you know your child has a bite problem and can explain treatment options. Your orthodontist might also suggest smoothing away the mamelons to ensure that the edges of the incisors align correctly and symmetrically while the teeth are in the process of straightening. Again, this is not always considered a necessity, so weigh your options with your dental care provider.

So, if you notice that your child’s beautiful new teeth are bumpy or serrated as they erupt, don’t be concerned! If you have any questions about mamelons, talk to Dr. Pamela Clark at your next visit to our Pearland, TX office. This is a natural occurrence and most likely just a temporary “bump” in the road. Soon enough, mamelons will be a memory—and the answer to a pretty difficult trivia question.

Happy Thanksgiving from Pearland Pediatric Dentistry

November 26th, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Here at Pearland Pediatric Dentistry, we are getting ready for the holiday season! We are all eagerly anticipating Thanksgiving and the time off we have to spend around people we cherish. This year Dr. Clark is hosting family at her house and is excited to spend quality time with them!

Dr. Clark truly feels blessed with the many positive things in her life. When she reflects on the last year some special moments that stand out are the vacations with her husband and daughter, being able to work with amazing women every day, and being healthy and having a healthy family.  It is always important to realize our blessings and be grateful for them every day because, with all the craziness of life, it is easy to take our blessings for granted.

A few Thanksgiving traditions Dr. Clark looks forward to is making homemade pumpkin pie! They always turn out so delicious. The day after Thanksgiving, Dr. Clark and her family put up Christmas decorations! That’s not too early, right?

One of Dr. Clark’s favorite vacations from this year was going on her first family cruise and the enjoyment she received in watching her daughters experience new places for the first time.  With the year drawing to a close, Dr. Clark wants to focus a little more on self-care. Especially since she is trying to keep up with her daughters on the ski slopes during their family ski vacations! A little competition always helps to focus on personal goals.

Dr. Clark’s advice on staying sane during these hectic holiday weeks is to take a breath, focus on what is important to you, and don’t get distracted by what other people are doing! Enjoyment is the key to happiness and well being.

Our office wishes all of our patient families a very Happy Thanksgiving! We are all grateful for you!