“Dr. Bodak, We are looking for a new dentist for our family.”
Dental care for children begins in the first year of life. Your newborn baby already has teeth, although you can’t see them. They are sitting just below the gum line. These “baby teeth”, which give your infant a great smile and allow the pleasures of chewing food or speaking more clearly, also help guide the permanent teeth into place. How soon do you need to start caring for your infant’s teeth? Just as soon as you see them!
- Use a clean wet washcloth daily to remove excess bacteria and formula or food residue. This regimen will become comfortable for your baby and prepare him for dental exams later on.
- As you see the first teeth erupt, move on to a child’s extra soft toothbrush. Replace with a new toothbrush every few months.
- Use water (no toothpaste) on the toothbrush in the beginning. Children should not swallow toothpaste. Add toothpaste, pressed firmly into the bristles of the toothbrush, once they have mastered the “art of spitting.”
- As more teeth appear, the spaces between teeth will close and it is time to begin flossing. Make a game of it, moving the floss up and down between the teeth (not back and forth, like shining your shoes).
- Don’t send your child to bed or a nap with a bottle or sippy cup. Sugars, found naturally in formula, milk, and juice can coat the teeth and lead to decay.
- Be a good role model – Make sure you brush daily after eating and floss! Children should be supervised until they can master the job themselves, usually about age 7.
- Emphasize healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables. Limit sweets to mealtimes; try diluting fruit juices, and avoid sticky foods. Sugary foods, especially when eaten as snacks between meals, can lead to tooth decay. Sugar increases the growth of mouth bacteria. These bacteria produce acid that can damage the teeth and lead to cavities.
- Don’t forget about the tongue and gums! Check for signs of gingivitis such as swollen, red or bleeding gums, or bad breath. Healthy teeth and gums require a diet rich in calcium and Vitamins C and D. If your children are not getting enough in their diet, talk with your health care provider about vitamin supplements.
- Schedule you child’s first preventive dental visit once the teeth have appeared, usually at about one year of age. Children’s dental care can be comfortable when they are familiar with the dentist and the dental examination.
- Should your child see a pediatric dentist (pedodontist) or a family dentist? That depends on the dentist! It is the skill and manner of the dentist, as well as their experience and expertise, that will help shape your child’s attitude for years to come. If you have a good relationship with your family dentist, and he or she is comfortable with children and experienced in all aspects of children’s dentistry, your family dentist may be an ideal choice. Seek out reviews and recommendations if you are insure, and make the first visit to the dentist a positive one.
- If you and your child both feel relaxed, the experience will be a positive one. Your children will enjoy visiting their dentist and you will LOVE their smile!
Dentistry for Pre-Teens and Teens
Adolescents should see their dentist twice a year for regular check-ups and cleaning. In addition to regular check-ups, fluoride treatment and cavity detection, your dentist will pay attention to the new permanent teeth that have erupted. Your children may be candidates for sealants, which may prevent the development of caries in the molars, the back teeth that may be harder to keep clean.
Early adolescence is also an important time to assess the bite, allignment of the teeth and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) function. Teens with crowded and misaligned teeth lack a confident smile, and may be soially ill at ease, but an unattractive smile is only a part of the story. Misaligned teeth can lead to life-long periodontal disease, TMJ problems and premature tooth loss. Many pre-teens and teens will require orthodontic treatment (“braces”) to correct crowded or misaligned teeth.
A Word about Dental Anxiety
Please don’t wait for a toothache before visiting the dentist. Delaying dental treatment until there is pain may lead to lifelong dental avoidance and distress. Many adults with dental anxiety report unpleasant experiences at the dentist when they were young. You can avoid dental anxiety later on if you seek regular preventive care from a dentist who is calm, friendly, gentle and produces excellent results.
Madeline and Her Mom