Dental problems often seen in fetuses and babies up to 18-months old.

1-2)Dental problems often seen in fetuses and babies up to 18-months old.                                        



The following are common topics at dental clinics or dental health check-ups about babies up to 18-months old.

     1.The primary teeth came through prematurely.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, tooth development varies for children. As such, it is not an issue if your child develops teeth prematurely. Some babies may have teeth at birth, for instance, while other babies may have teeth develop before the age of four months (in this case, a “natal tooth.”) At this stage, breastfeeding can be challenging for the mother, as the baby’s teeth may cause discomfort. If the discomfort becomes severe, the mother may be required to file off or even remove the baby’s teeth.

    2.Teeth not erupting (teeth not coming in)

Delay in the eruption of primary teeth is usually not an issue. Nevertheless, sometimes the tooth germ required for tooth development may not be present, especially if your baby missed the usual period for tooth development. This is not uncommon, however, so under proper monitoring it is not likely to present too much of an issue. Additionally, please keep in mind that if your baby teethes later in the development phase, the development of permanent teeth is likely to be delayed as well.

     3. My baby spits food out or has trouble chewing his/her food.

If primary molar teeth have yet to develop, your baby may not be able to chew food properly. Usually a baby that spits out fresh vegetables or meat can’t chew food using his/her molar teeth. In this case, try feeding them with soft food that can be dissolved by the gums, such as steamed vegetables (not fresh ones) and minced meat. After the baby’s molar teeth appear, try to gradually introduce chewing food. Be advised that feeding a baby in early stages with food that they are unable to, or will not, chew means that your baby is likely to swallow the food whole.

    4. The gum around the molar tooth is swollen and has turned a purple or deep blue color.

An eruption cyst is the likely cause for your baby’s swollen gums. The first primary molar tooth has appeared without yet piercing the gum tissues, and since it contains blood and fluid, a lesion has appeared. In this case, it is likely that the molar tooth will emerge soon without any treatment and the bruise generally heals on its own, and probably won’t even cause your baby any discomfort.

     5. Abnormal color or shape of a tooth.

Dental hypoplasia is the likely cause for this issue. General health conditions and the surrounding bones of the teeth usually cause defects on the shape and color of baby teeth. An abnormally shaped tooth or a tooth with yellowish-brown stains may erupt in this case; an especially common feature with natal teeth.

Other than this defect, the union of two adjacent teeth at the crown level, called a “concrescence tooth,” or one missing tooth causing the formation of a tooth with an enlarged clinical crown, called a “fused tooth,” is often seen in this age group. Neither case will present any serious issues for your child.

     6. You baby keeps sucking on his/her thumb.

An 18-month or older baby that can’t give up sucking his/her thumb or pacifier may develop an anterior open bite. This is a condition in which the baby’s front upper and lower teeth don’t touch when his/her mouth is shut and, consequently, the baby can’t bite down on food or chew properly.

Children at this age can gradually communicate with other people and tell them what they want. Forcing them to put a pacifier in their mouth or letting them suck on their thumb may affect not only the alignment of the teeth in this case, but it may also impede their language development.  

Babies are most likely to suck on their thumbs when they are free or lonely. To prevent this from happening, let your baby use their fingers more often by playing with them and taking time to read books to them. Children who are two years old or younger can be trained to stop this habit more easily than older children. If you can train your child to stop sucking on his/her thumb, his/her teeth alignment will naturally correct itself.

     7. Injuries in and around the mouth

Babies begin to walk around one year old. This increases the possibility that they will injure their teeth or mouth when they fall or bump into something. If your baby has any injuries on their mouth but not on their head, face or other parts of their body, please visit a pediatric dentist as soon as possible. Dental injuries will be covered in further detail in a later posting.

   8. My child won’t let me clean their teeth.

One-year-old babies have yet to develop comprehension of language and social skills, and as such, they cry or resist anything that is unpleasant to them. This is especially true for the mouth, as babies dislike being touched in this area and it is even more uncomfortable for them to have their teeth cleaned. Although at first some babies may cry when they have their teeth cleaned, it is important that you clean his/her teeth quickly without responding to his/her crying. Afterwards, you can comfort your child. If you follow this process your baby will come to trust you and will soon allow his/her teeth to be cleaned. Eventually they will cease to resist and come to enjoy the process. On a related note, ensure that you do not give your baby sugary food from a very young age, as they can’t brush their teeth properly by themselves until they are three years old. Cavity prevention through proper brushing will be covered in further detail in a later posting.

    9. How to prevent your children’s teeth from decaying

As you may remember, a baby’s tooth begins to appear at around six months old. Many kinds of bacteria that did not exist in his/her mouth prior to the tooth’s eruption will begin to colonize as a result. It is during this stage that consumption of sugary foods is most detrimental. If your child eats sugary foods at this time, the new bacteria will break down the sugar and form a sticky substance that adheres to the surface of his/her teeth. Unfortunately, at this stage your child’s teeth provide an excellent adhesion site for bacteria to accumulate on his/her teeth. These accumulated bacteria then eat away at the minerals on the surface of the teeth, dissolving the vulnerable surface of your child’s new teeth. This process is called “demineralization”.  Demineralization is the beginning of a cavity.

The best way to avoid cavities is to prevent bacteria formation in your child’s mouth. If the baby’s parents are prone to cavities, a lot of cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from your saliva and introduced to your child. This makes it equally important for you to take good care of your own oral health and to avoid the unnecessary transfer of saliva from sharing your spoon or cup, or offering them a bite of your food. That said, you can still kiss your baby lightly on the lips when you want to show how much you love them!

The most important takeaway is that you need to refrain from feeding your baby sugary snacks in these early stages of his/her life.

Masaki Kudo D.M.D.