Early Dental Care Gives Babies a Healthy Start
Oral health is so important for infants, but it is often overlooked in the wake of other appointments and doctor visits. The truth is that oral health can affect the overall well-being of a child, so it is best to start on a path to healthy teeth and gums in infancy.
Dr. Ryan Roberts, a board-certified pediatric dentist since 2011 and founder of On the Cusp Pediatric Dentistry, emphasizes that a child’s earliest dental check should happen by either their first tooth or their first birthday. His office follows these guidelines in order to have the opportunity to educate parents in how to prevent tooth decay and cavities as well as have the ability to identify early issues and treat them before the toddler phase begins.
“To avoid dental problems, be aware of the frequency and exposure of sugars you are giving to your children,” Dr. Roberts said. “Even if you are great brushers morning and night, if the child is allowed to snack all day long on food containing carbohydrates, it can cause cavities. Don’t let your kids snack all day at home – three meals a day with two or three snack times.”
Though most parents are guilty of filling their child’s cup with apple juice, Dr. Roberts advises against this, saying these sugary juices are the worst culprits when it comes to cavities. “The bottle is not for juice. Juice is only valuable when your child is constipated and not for nutrition or vitamins. Even if it is diluted, it is not a healthy choice.”
Identifying and Treating Tongue Tie and Lip Tie
Dr. Roberts is one of only a few pediatric dentists in the Tulsa area trained in how to identify and treat tongue tie and lip tie in infants. Tongue tie is a condition where an excessive amount of tissue is located underneath the tongue, restricting movement. Similarly, lip tie is an excessive amount of tissue located between the upper lip and the gum. This tissue is called frenulum, and the procedure to treat tongue tie or lip tie by removing the excessive tissue is called a frenectomy. In Dr. Roberts’ experience, this is a very impactful procedure and can help children affected by tongue tie or lip tie tremendously.
Research has shown that tongue tie and lip tie happen to be present in approximately 20 percent of the population. Thankfully, there are signs that parents can look for to determine if this is a condition their child might be dealing with. If your baby is having a challenging time nursing or feeding, tongue tie or lip tie could be the reason as these conditions often inhibit the child’s ability to transfer milk effectively. This can cause low weight gain, slow weight gain, and even weight loss in extreme cases. Parents are also encouraged to examine their child’s mouth to see if there happens to be a band of tissue connecting the upper lip and the gum or by rubbing underneath the child’s tongue to see if there is a bump or what feels like a very tight string.
If a frenectomy is necessary for the child’s well-being, Dr. Roberts typically does a scissor release and/or a laser release for infants. The laser release is preferable because of its precision as it cauterizes the tissue, so there is little to no bleeding post-procedure. It is recommended that tongue tie or lip tie be treated while the child is under the age of 12 months. It becomes significantly more difficult to treat it in the toddler age because the children are bigger, they have teeth, and they will bite! The wound care following the procedure is also extremely important. In order to manage the site and the wound, the tissue has to be physically stretched open so that it does not reattach. This process is not advisable to do in the mouth of a very angry, screaming 2-year-old with teeth.
Though he has never seen a child outgrow tongue tie or lip tie, each child’s experience is different. “We treat according to the symptoms,” Dr. Roberts said. “If a child has a tongue tie, but they are physically healthy and transferring milk extremely well with no specific issue – do we want to take care of it? And the answer is that it all depends on the child.”
If you would like to learn more about pediatric dental care, Dr. Roberts and his team recently published a new book, “The Essential Guide to Children’s Oral Health.” It contains an assessment tool for tongue tie, lip tie, and cavity risk as well as age-appropriate tips and tricks for promoting oral hygiene habits that they will take with them for the rest of their life.