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When should I start taking my child to the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends parents bring their infant for dental screening by 12 months of age or as soon as the first tooth erupts in the mouth, whichever occurs first. The initial visit includes an analysis of the family’s medical and dental histories, an oral examination, nutritional guidance, showing age-appropriate tooth brushing techniques, cleaning, and fluoride varnish treatment if indicated. During that same appointment, our pediatric dentist will do a full assessment of your baby’s risk of developing dental caries and discuss a prevention plan. The best way to help your child grow strong teeth and jaws is with daily maintenance and a healthy lifestyle.

After the appointment, the pediatric dentist will set a time frame for periodic re-evaluation. Once all the baby teeth have grown in, usually by the age of 2, biannual appointments should be made. Regardless of age, most patients should be getting dental checkups every 6 months, so the dentist can identify and treat an problems before they become serious. Since each case varies, your pediatric dentist will let you know how often to bring your child to the dentist.

Why are baby teeth important?

Teeth serve vital functions for day-to-day activities, like eating and speaking, but many parents question the necessity of caring for their children’s teeth as attentively as permanent teeth considering baby teeth fall out anyway. However, baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth because they retain space for adult teeth and stimulate the growth of the face and jaw. Not only that, dental care for baby teeth directly correlates to gum health. Besides, having decayed or rotten baby teeth can also be extremely painful and annoying for children, especially for those just learning to chew solids or speak.

What is a pediatric dentist?

A pediatric dentist has 2 – 3 years of training dedicated to treating children’s teeth in all stages of growth and development on top of their dental school training. They are experienced in topics such as behavior management, communication, children’s health, and more, all of which make them more qualified to treat kids than general dentists. Pediatric dentists are specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special needs.

How can I prevent tooth decay caused by nursing?

If your child is starting to grow teeth, avoid nursing children to sleep. Instead, give them a bottle of water to flush away any sugars from the milk that can result in decay and cavities. Pacifiers also work as long as you wean your child off it in at an appropriate time. Overuse of bottles, pacifiers, or thumb sucking can result in palatal development issues later down the line.

Will pregnancy affect my dental health or the baby’s?

During pregnancy, your body may experience a lot of changes, including in your gums and teeth. There may be more blood flowing in the body, acid in the mouth, and increased hormones. This could result in gingivitis, loose teeth, and tooth decay, which can usually be treated with prescription medicines to regulate hormones or increased dental cleaning. The dentist may avoid treating some problems if they are invasive or require certain chemicals in case they affect the baby.

Both mothers and babies can benefit from foods high in protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and D. These nutrients are great for developing strong bones and teeth. Once the baby is born, parents should be careful about spreading oral bacteria to their children. Dental caries are transferable through the exchange of saliva, so be careful about sharing food.

When can my child start using fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can remineralize teeth and strengthen against the effects of plaque and bacteria. The pediatric dentist will recommend your child start using fluoride when their teeth are mature, so the age depends on each individual. Young children can use fluoridated products, like toothpaste or mouthwash to help prevent cavities. Fluoride is also present in drinking water, so your child can get fluoride by simply having a glass of water. In fact, fluoridation of community water has helped reduce tooth decay by 50-60% according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Consuming too much fluoride at an early age can result in fluorosis, a condition characterized by white or brown spots forming on the teeth.

Does my child need a mouthguard?

Children who are involved with high contact sports should invest in a mouthguard. These types of activities can lead to irreversible damage that is costly to treat, but they are preventable with the right protective equipment. The pediatric dentist can custom fit a mouthguard for your child, so they are able to speak and move comfortably even with a mouthguard on. Some sports that require mouthguards include hockey, basketball, football, martial arts, and lacrosse.

Are dental x-rays safe?

Yes, dental x-rays are safe. The rays that they emit are so minimal that they have no effect on the body. Regardless, the dentist or dental hygienist will still make sure your child is completely protected by placing a lead apron over your child’s body. It will absorb any rays, so they don’t reach your child at all.

Dental x-rays are necessary for the pediatric dentist to identify and diagnose dental issues for your child. Some problems may be deeper than they appear and the dentist cannot accurately analyze them without a deeper look. X-rays also show the structural development of the bite, jaws, and bones, which cannot be seen otherwise.

What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants are a popular preventative dentistry procedure used to protect children’s teeth. They are essentially a thin, plastic coating applied over the tooth’s enamel that act as shield against bacteria. Pediatric dentists commonly apply them to children’s back teeth or molars because those teeth have abnormal shapes, gaps, and grooves that tend to collect food debris, leading to tooth decay. If your child has trouble brushing, flossing, or is simply genetically predisposed to having cavities, dental sealants may be a great option for them.

How do I prevent cavities for my child?

Cavities occur when bacteria come into contact with sugar, turning them into enamel-eroding acids. These acids, bacteria, and food debris, combine into a sticky substance called plaque. If it isn’t cleaned off properly every day, it can inflict major damage and decay the enamel permanently, resulting in cavities.

Preventing cavities is not one activity; it’s a lifestyle! Here’s how you can help your child avoid cavities:

  • Reduce the amount of sugary foods they consume
  • Brush twice daily or after every meal
  • Floss thoroughly every night
  • Use fluoridated products, like toothpaste or mouthwash
  • Eat food with vitamins and minerals, like calcium and vitamin D
  • Drink water often
  • Stop snacking or drinking sugary beverages often