Monday, December 22, 2008

Baby Teeth

Two days before Christmas, I took my son to the dentist for the first time in his almost 18 months of existence. The reason? My little boy has a cavity.

A cavity - something I never had until I was 28 years old, with a second appearing only last year. Both were so minor that they hardly needed drilling or filling. My husband's teeth are equally hardy. Yet our 18 month old son who was breastfed from birth, has never had formula and dislikes sweets, has a cavity. I can hardly believe it.

Compared to other babies, his teeth came late. The first 4 appeared just 3 weeks before his first birthday, at the rate of one a week. His molars have yet to erupt. Other kids his age have mouths full of teeth already. The pediatrician prescribed fluoride drops when he was 10 months old, but my dad said he'd read that too much fluoride in the system was like poison, so I stopped giving it to him (without doing any background reading on the matter myself, tsk tsk.)

Another dentist said that breastfed babies have very strong teeth since they get a lot of calcium. A pediatric dentist friend said babies should be taken for their first checkup shortly after their first birthday. My sister said there was no need to take my son for a dental checkup until he had all his milk teeth. So many different words of advice!

Brushing-wise, I would rub my son's gums with a washcloth from 5 months onwards or so. He would also watch us brush our teeth and copy us with his little toothbrush. Once his teeth started coming out though, I noticed a yellowish stain on the top left one, near the bottom, that wouldn't rub off. He became more active and then it was more difficult to brush his teeth, especially since he wouldn't open his mouth willingly. So I haven't been able to brush them as thoroughly as I would like, and the idea of flossing, which I'd read should be done as soon as teeth come out if they are close together, which my son's are, is an impossible dream at this stage.

Still, I consoled myself with the fact that he didn't drink formula, dislikes ice cream, cakes and cookies, and only started on graham crackers last month, plus comes from two parents with very healthy teeth, to make up for the lack of thorough brushing. Big mistake.

Last weekend, since Little A had a cold, he napped with his mouth slightly open to help him breathe. My husband, who takes the time when our son is still (only when he is asleep, in our case) to examine him closely, noticed that there was a chip on his tooth. I looked and saw that there was a small hole where the enamel had completely gone. Despite my resolve to be more vigilant about brushing, a black spot in the hole a few days later prompted the immediate trip to the dentist, whose office is just downstairs on the ground floor of our condominium building.

There is little one can do to examine a crying baby's 8 teeth. With the help of a pair of nurses to hold him down, the dentist just looked at the teeth and said the best we could do was brush twice a day, religiously, and start using a fluoride toothpaste. Apparently, fluoride drops are to help with the calcification of permanent molars, which begins when a child is 6 months up to 3 years of age. Right. Back to fluoride drops then. Fluorinated toothpaste is to help coat the actual teeth and make them stronger.

We're scheduled for a second visit in 3 months, when they start "proper" dental care. By then Little A will be 20 months old. Let's hope he's learned to sit still by then, and will open his mouth and say "Aaah."

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