Protect your smile from periodontal disease

Dr. Gary R. DiStefano, DDS &
Schaefer Dental Group


HOWELL, MI 48843
OFFICE (517) 546-8983
FAX (517) 546-1422

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Prenatal Dental Concerns

If you are a first time mother, you may have questions or concerns about how your prenatal oral health should be monitored and maintained during pregnancy. To help educate you and other clients in the Lansing, East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Howell and Brighton, Michigan areas, we address the most common questions and concerns below.

What should I do differently with regards to my own oral health during pregnancy?

Depending on how often you floss, brush, and keep up with recommended oral hygiene practices, you may not need to make any major changes in your daily routine. The most important thing to remember is that you need your oral bill of health to be as clean as possible before and during pregnancy. This will help you avoid gum disease and tooth decay that lead to infection or difficulty chewing the high-nutrient foods you need.

Pregnancy and Gum Disease

Growing evidence does suggest there may be a link between gum disease and premature delivery with low birth weights. This is because gum disease may trigger increased levels of biological fluids that can induce labor. To help ensure this doesn’t happen, we recommend that you visit us for a check-up before becoming pregnant. After you become pregnant you should continue to schedule regular check-ups and cleanings after the first trimester, regularly brush and floss your teeth, and eat a well-balanced diet.

What should I expect when I visit the dentist during pregnancy?

Be sure to tell us that you are pregnant before coming in for your appointment. This is critical because you should not be prescribed anesthetics, pain medications, antibiotics, or have X-rays taken during the first trimester unless it’s absolutely necessary. You may also be prone to gagging or be uncomfortable sitting for long periods of time. We are prepared to help you easily deal with these situations if you alert us in advance. Aside from those factors, the visit shouldn’t be much different than usual.

How do I ensure my baby is getting the right nutrition for his or her growing body and teeth?

One of the most important things you can is follow the nutritional advice of your health care provider. When it comes to your baby’s developing teeth and bones, adequate calcium consumption is key. During pregnancy you can get the calcium you need by drinking milk, eating foods like cheese, dried beans and leafy, green vegetables.

Deciduous teeth

Deciduous teeth, baby teeth, or primary teeth are all our very first set of teeth as an infant. These teeth begin to develop and form very early, usually making their first appearance in our first 6 months of infancy. These baby teeth are functional for many years, but will be eventually replaced by our adult teeth.

Deciduous teeth start to first development in an embryo around the 6th week of pregnancy. By the 8th week of development, all twenty areas are formed, and are ready to grow into baby teeth. This development continues even after the baby teeth erupt through the gum tissue. This development and tooth eruption continues from 6 months of age until around 30 months (2 1/2 Years). The first teeth that erupt into an infant’s mouth are the lower front teeth. The very last teeth to be seen are the upper back teeth.

The adult teeth start to erupt around the age of 6. This process of replacing baby teeth with permanent teeth will continue through the age of 12. Each baby tooth holds the space for one adult tooth. When the adult tooth starts to grow beneath the baby tooth, the baby tooth’s root starts to dissolve allowing the adult tooth to continue erupting eventually forcing the baby tooth to fall out. This process of replacement is called exfoliation. By the age of 12, all of the primary teeth should be replaced by adult teeth.

Baby teeth are essential to permanent tooth development. Each baby tooth shares a tooth bud with an adult tooth, and serves as a very important place holder. Without a baby tooth, the permanent tooth has no guide or spot to erupt in to. Our facial development especially the formation of our jaw bones and jaw muscles are dependent on our primary teeth as well. These baby teeth also provide a small child to speak correctly and chew efficiently.

At Dr. Gary DiStefano Family Dental practice we follow the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry in it’s recommendation that all children be seen for their first dental visit by the time their first tooth erupts. During this first dental visit, you will be given information on how to care for infant’s teeth and mouth, how to avoid oral disease, and what foods promote good healthy tooth development.

A few ways to avoid oral disease and future developmental problems include using an orthodontic pacifier, avoiding sugary liquids, and cleaning your child’s gums and teeth. An orthodontic pacifier is a pacifier with a flat nipple instead of a round nipple. Regular pacifiers can cause a child to develop a very high or vaulted palate. An orthodontic pacifier doesn’t create excessive pressure on the palate, and is much better for a child’s developing mouth. *Parent’s please don’t clean an infant’s pacifier with your own mouth. You can introduce cavity causing bacteria into your child’s mouth through your saliva.

Avoid giving your infant liquids that contain high amounts of sugar. Especially avoid placing these liquids in a child’s bottle before bedtime. This can cause serious infant tooth decay (Baby Bottle Tooth Decay). Fill your infant’s bottle with only water before bedtime. As the child sleeps, these liquids pool around the front teeth allowing the bacteria to do serious irreparable damage.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents begin to wipe an infant’s gums with a wash cloth before their first tooth erupts. As soon as their first tooth arrives, a child size tooth brush wetted with water is appropriate. Toothpaste should not be introduced to a child until the age of 2.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay or Nursing Mouth are terms that describe a serious condition affecting infants, in which their front teeth have become decayed. This condition is most commonly caused by putting an infant to bed with a bottle filled with sugared liquids. The teeth most commonly affected are the front upper teeth. The lower teeth are usually protected by the nipple of the bottle or the tongue.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is caused by prolonged exposure to any liquid containing sugars. When your infant falls asleep with:

  • A bottle filled with juice, milk, or Kool Aid
  • A pacifier dipped in sugar or honey
  • While breast feeding

These sugary liquids gather around the front teeth. While the child sleeps, these sugars are turned into acid and then attack the front teeth. Tips to avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay are:

  • Schedule your infant’s first dental visit
  • Check your infant’s teeth for brown spotting
  • If your child prefers soft foods or cries when eating take them to your dentist so they can be checked for tooth decay

Many parents do not notice tooth decay until it is too late. Baby Bottle Tooth decay may cause speech problems, crooked teeth, or developmental issues. Protect your child from this serious condition:

  • Put your baby to bed with only a bottle filled with water
  • Clean your child’s teeth every day
  • Start weaning from a bottle by age 1
  • Schedule regular dental check ups

* Tip: If our child already consumes sugared liquids, begin to water them down until they eventually become just water.


Teething is a very natural process, but can cause your infant to become irritable and restless. If your infant experiences fever, diarrhea, or vomiting see your doctor. These symptoms are not necessarily related to the teething process. Some teething symptoms and signs include:

  • Red or rashy cheeks
  • Excessive Drooling
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Decreased appetite

What can I do for a teething child?

Allow your child to chew on a frozen washcloth. This will expedite the eruption of the teeth and soothe the sore gum tissue. Massage your child’s gums with a moistened washcloth to ease the pain and discomfort. Teething gels or ointments should always be used with caution.

Teething Sugar Snack Facts:

Avoid teething biscuits and cookies. They tend to be very high in sugar which could lead your infant to early tooth decay. Avoid frequent sugary snacks. These sugars increase your infant’s risk of cavities. Encourage your infant to eat a variety of foods. A healthy balanced diet provides an excellent groundwork for your child’s future nutritional habits.

Tips for Healthy Snacking:

  • Reduce your child’s sugar intake, offer foods low in sugar, such as cheese and vegetables.
  • Reduce snacking frequency. Each time a child eats the teeth are exposed to cavity causing acids. Frequent snacking will increase the child’s chance of forming cavities.
  • Avoid soft and sticky foods; these foods tend to get stuck in the grooves of the teeth allowing a prolonged acid attack.
  • Some healthy foods such as fruit and milk have natural sugars. These foods have the same effect as those that have refined or processed sugars, such as candy or soda. Making a special effort to brush after eating these foods is essential to preventing infant tooth decay.
  • Always serve sweets with a meal, the increased saliva helps wash away the harmful sugars and acids.

Pacifier Information:

Infants have a very natural instinct to sooth and nourish themselves through sucking. A pacifier is a much better alternative than a toy or a hand/thumb. Pacifiers are much less likely to cause developmental anomalies. Also a pacifier can be taken from the child, versus a thumb which is attached to the child. The thumb sucking habit usually continues from the age of 3-5 years, and the pacifier habit usually only lasts from the age of 2-4 years.

Pacifier Thoughts:

  • Your infant will naturally find their thumb or hand in their first 3 months; a pacifier should be encouraged at this time.
  • Purchase a pacifier with a soft nipple made of rubber
  • Avoid using a pacifier all day, only when necessary
  • Daily check the pacifier for any breakage
  • Never tie a pacifier around your infant’s neck with a string

Choosing a Pacifier:

When choosing a pacifier, look for an orthodontic flattened nipple. Pacifiers with round nipples can cause improper breathing or jaw development problems.

Oral Hygiene for my Baby:

Should I clean my baby’s teeth?

Yes, absolutely! Before the first tooth arrives, wipe your baby’s gums and cheeks with a moistened washcloth. As soon as their first tooth arrives, begin using a soft bristled toothbrush moistened with water. Toothpaste should not be used until your child reaches the age of 2.

I find brushing my child’s teeth awkward. Do you have any suggestions?

Have your child lie down, placing their head on your lap. Keep your child’s head steady with your knees and legs. If your child is standing, have him/her tilt their head up and place their back against a wall. These two positions will allow you to see your child’s teeth much more easily and also give you stability so that you can feel much less awkward.

Is it important to brush before bed?

Yes! Your child produces significantly less saliva during the evening hours. This allows the bacteria to attack the teeth without the interference of salivary flow. If bacteria and sugar are not removed before bed time, they have all night to attack the teeth and cause cavities.

How to care for your child’s teeth:

  • Plaque accumulates on all of your child’s teeth. Brushing is the most effective way to remove this plaque.
  • Use a child-size soft bristle brush moistened with water
  • Children lack the dexterity to brush effectively. Your child will need supervision until the age of 10.
  • Replace the toothbrush when the bristles become bent or frayed
  • Begin to floss your child’s teeth when they start to touch; when you can no longer brush in-between each one.
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