Children’s Dentistry

Children’s Dental Care Starts at Birth.

The first six months -The main focus of children’s dentistry in the twenty-first century should focus around proper growth and development. This starts right at the time of birth. Children literally double in size during the first six months of life so this is a critical phase even though the children have no teeth at this stage.

Growth and development of the lower face is strongly influenced by breast feeding during this first six months of life. Breast feeding requires a strong sucking force which has an important influence on the development of the muscles around the mouth and the proper development of the palate.

While breast feeding is not absolutely essential; there are a few things to watch out for with bottle feeding. First the nipple must be difficult enough to suck through that the palate and the muscles around the mouth develop properly. (Avoid fast flow nipples).Second, the child must not be allergic to the formula and third, the formula must have a fat content similar to breast milk. Some fats are very important for proper growth and development as we will see later.

The next two years. – The main focus of the next two years is two fold. First, you want to prevent tooth decay and second you want to be very concerned about allergies and infections.

Tooth decay should be a thing of the past in the twenty-first century. We all know what causes tooth decay and we know how to prevent it. Prevention comes down to good diet and good oral hygiene.. Children’s teeth should be cleaned by their parents twice a day until the child is old enough to do this on their own. (Children do not like having their teeth cleaned.) As far as diet goes, the main culprit is refined carbohydrates. Keep this to a minimum and watch what your child is being fed at day care homes. Carbs are cheap and there is a tendency to over-use them for that reason. Also, eat at regular mealtimes not throughout the day. And, we all know by now that you should not put a baby to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. Water is fine.

Allergies and infections are also a matter of very grave concern during the first two or three years of life. Either of these can seriously affect the child’s airway. Constriction of the airway can drastically influence the growth and development of the lower face leading to orthodontic problems later. Sometimes even orthodontic treatment doesn’t entirely fix the problem. Also, chronic allergies and infections and the accompanying breathing problems can lead to interference with the proper development of the central nervous system. This in turn results in learning disabilities and behavioral problems later in life. These problems are not fixable.

The early signs of allergies and infections are generally seen in five places. The five areas to watch are:

  1. The eyes – Itchy eyes, watery eyes, and allergic shiners, (dark areas under the eyes),
  2. Airways – Wheezing, coughing, mostly at night, and snoring,
  3. Nose throat and ears – Runny nose, sneezing, sinus pain and post nasal drip in the absence of a cold,
  4. Skin – Urticaria, hives, wheals or eczema,
  5. Digestion – Stomach ache, constipation, diarrhea and poor growth.

If the child mouth breaths or snores these can be early signs of allergies or infections and these should be investigated right away because allergies and infections can lead to breathing problems that result in a children’s form of Sleep Apnea.  This in turn can lead to learning problems or behavioral problems later on. Chronic infections can also lead to chronic tonsillitis which is discussed in more depth elsewhere. Also, there is a short questionnaire at the end of this section that might be helpful.

Fats in the child’s diet may be much more important than what you have been lead to believe. Fats of all sorts were demonized be the Heart Association and other well-intended groups back in the 1970’s and their advise was to move away from fats and have more carbohydrates in our diets. As we see in the diabetes section; this did not always end well. There is also some very good research that strongly suggests that fats may be very important for the proper growth and development of the face and also the airway.

We need not look outside of Canada to see one of the best examples ever of how fats in the diet may figure into proper growth and development of the face. The study was done by Weston Price back in the 1920’s. What he observed was that our Canadian Eskimos had historically always had beautiful, large, well shaped arches and perfectly straight teeth as long as they stayed on their ancestral diet which was a diet that was extremely high in fat. (Lot of seal meat.) Then, within a generation after these aboriginal people adopted the classic western diet, high in refined carbohydrates they had an entirely changed dental situation. Their arches were narrower, their teeth were crowded and crooked, and they were much more likely to have impacted third molars. Dr. Price found similar changes in Polynesian people in the islands of the South Pacific whose ancestral diet had been rich in fish, chicken and pork. [It is also worth noting that both of these aboriginal groups were known to breast feed for years, often until the next sibling was born.]

Could a diet that is too low in fats and too high in refined carbohydrates really have serious detrimental effects on the growth and development of the face in early childhood? No one knows for certain and it is highly unlikely that there will be a consensus of opinion on this matter any time soon. But the case for more fats is quite solid and so it probably should not be ignored.

Go through the brief questionnaire below and if you answer “Yes” to more than half the questions; we probably should look into the matter further.

  1. While sleeping, does your child snore half the time?
  2. While sleeping, does your child snore all the time?
  3. While sleeping, does your child have trouble breathing or have you ever noticed that he/she stops breathing?
  4. Does your child wet the bed, sleepwalk, or have night terrors?
  5. Is it hard to wake your child in the morning?
  6. Is your child un-refreshed when he/she awakens?
  7. Is your child irritable and hard to get along with during the day?
  8. Did your child stop growing at a normal rate at any time since birth?
  9. Does your child have allergies?
  10. Do you have dogs or cats in the house?
  11. Does your child have dark rings under his/her eyes?
  12. Does your child have colds or a sore throat often?
  13. Does your child have trouble learning?
  14. Has a teacher ever noticed that your child seems tired at school?
  15. Does your child have difficulty organizing tasks or is he/she easily distracted?