At what ages should my child should start seeing a dentist?
We at Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, and Dr. Cynthia Pelley, follow the guidelines as presented by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry which state that children should endure their first pediatric dental visit by no later than age one. Such an early start not only allows for the child and parent to build confidence in the doctor and the dental practice, but it enables the child to get acclimated to an environment where their comfort is a vital necessity. Routine dental visits aid in the child's development of trust and assurance in the doctor and thus future visits where treatment of some sort may be necessary the child is less likely to develop severe anxiety and stress over the issue at hand. In addition, an early start to proper oral hygiene practices sets a lifelong foundation of good oral health for your child.
At such visits you will be able to learn exactly how to care for your child's new baby teeth, the importance of them and what to expect in the future when it comes to your child's smile. It will help set the course for healthy development in your child's mouth as early visits also make it possible to pinpoint underlying problem areas, pathologies and any future issues that you can potentially expect as a result.
What is a pediatric dentist?
A pediatric dentist is a specialized dentist that has dedicated their career to children from the ages of infancy on into their teen years. They are required to complete additional years of education, training and studies, as well as complete a two year residency in a hospital setting focused on pediatrics in dealing with infants, toddlers, children, teens and those with special needs.
It is no secret that children, unlike adults, do not often have the capabilities and discipline necessary to sit patiently for routine visits and/or treatment procedures. Thus, pediatric dentists are specially trained to handle such situations, as well as in the art of examining and treating children in a way that makes them feel comfortable and at ease.
A Board Certified Pediatric Dentist, or Diplomat, is a dentist that exhibits exceptional above standard expertise and knowledge, in regards to dental pediatrics, as not to be demonstrated by other dentists. In order to achieve such a title a certification process consisting of an oral examination, as well as a written exam, is required that is administered by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. This certification process determines and demonstrates the proficiencies necessary of a pediatric dentist and is not easy to achieve. In fact, only about forty seven percent of practicing pediatric dentist are board certified.
Are baby teeth important?
The answer is absolutely they are! Your child's baby teeth, or primary teeth, serve many purposes. They are not only the foundation of a lifelong healthy smile, but they also play vital roles in your child's physical, mental and emotional development.
In regards to your child's physical development their baby teeth first help them with the transition from soft foods to solids as they progress from infant to toddler. In addition, the primary teeth serve as placeholders for permanent teeth that are essentially waiting in line to come in as the baby teeth fall out. If a baby tooth is lost too early, either due to trauma or having to be pulled due to decay, it could lead to later spacing issues in your child's mouth as primary teeth lost too soon tend to lead to crowding issues.
Mentally speaking, studies have shown that proper functioning teeth, as well as those free of decay, aid in a child having more focused concentration. Where a tooth that causes pain has the proven ability to distract the child, and thus reduce performance in school. Painful unhealthy teeth have also been said to cause a child to exhibit negative behavior as a direct result from their continued discomfort. Aside from this, your child's baby teeth are an important part of mental development early on, as they provide your child with the ability to make sounds, speak, pronounce words, and thus communicate effectively.
Finally, emotionally speaking, a child that suffers from decayed teeth or noticeable disease is less likely to smile and will likely develop habits to hide their teeth that can stay with them for a lifetime. Everyone appreciates the feeling of flashing those pearly whites, children are no different. If a child is ashamed of their teeth, they are also more likely to retract socially causing a slew of further emotional concerns.
If you are interested in learning more about the importance of your child's baby teeth, navigate over to our Baby Teeth Matter page!
How should I clean my baby's teeth?
Early on, as your baby's teeth are just beginning to break through the skin, or erupt, you should gently wipe the gums after each feeding. This is especially important for nursing babies, remember after EACH feeding!
As your babies teeth begin to fully come in (fully erupt) you should switch to a tooth brush with a small head and extra-soft bristles. Twice daily, for two minutes at each session apply a small smear of fluoride-free toothpaste and gently brush your babies teeth using small (no larger than the actual tooth) circular or back and forth strokes. When your child is old enough to spit the toothpaste it is recommended that you switch to a toothpaste containing fluoride. Toothpastes that contain Xylitol are also recommended as they contain natural sweeteners that have been proven to hinder decay causing bacteria present in the mouth.
Is there a certain amount of toothpaste I should use when brushing my child's teeth?
Early on when your baby still has no teeth, it is sufficient enough to simply gently wipe down the gums with a damp washcloth or xylitol wipe after each feeding. It is recommended that as soon as the teeth begin to erupt to switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and to clean after each meal, given that as soon as the teeth appear they are susceptible to decay.
Once your child is old enough to understand that spitting the toothpaste is necessary (which, when containing fluoride can sometimes upset little tummies) you may progress to putting a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on their soft-bristled brush. Remember though, that until fine motor skills are developed (usually around age seven or eight) your child will continue to need your assistance in ensuring that proper brushing techniques are being used.
How can I develop lasting good brushing habits?
The earlier you begin to establish and encourage a routine in which you and your child exhibit good dental health practices, the easier it will be to maintain these lasting habits. Begin when your child is baby by wiping the gums after each feeding. Progress to brushing twice a day. It is usually helpful if your child sees you brushing alongside them. Try playing a favorite song or letting your child pick out a fun timer that you set at the start of each brushing.
Some children can be resistant to brushings, if this is the case with your child trial and error works best. Try multiple ways to make brushing fun for your baby, make it a game if you must. The key is to make it fun, not scary and not a chore. Rather a fun activity in which parent and child may bond and have a good time. However, remember to be firm and persistent about the importance proper technique in such an activity.
As your child ages and the teeth begin to touch, usually around age six or seven, you will need to incorporate flossing into to mix. Use the same strategies as above, though at this age an approach such as suggesting how much of a big kid activity flossing is. All kids are different, if your child is resisting don't lose hope, persistence is key.
Can cavities be avoided or are they inevitable?
Cavities are not necessarily inevitable. There are multiple factors that go into the formation of cavities and so not all cavities can be blamed on poor lifestyle choices, or certain habits, and you should remember that some cavities are beyond a parent's control. The most effective preventative actions for avoiding cavities are practicing proper oral hygiene, which includes brushing at least twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste), flossing at least once a day, regular routine dental checkups and cleanings, as well as a well-balanced diet low in sugars.
If your child has already had a cavity the chances are that another may develop because this usually means that conditions are right for their formation. It is not inevitable though, and you may be able to prevent such further formation by being vigilant and watching for certain signs, such as white spots on the gum. Bringing your child in for a check-up as soon as something "off" is noticed will give us the opportunity to be proactive in treatment and furthermore avoiding an issue all together. Also, be cognizant as to whether or not your child has plague build-up on their teeth. You can check this by gently scraping a fingernail over the tooth, if a sticky white substance comes off, you can be certain that proper brushing and flossing techniques are not being used.
Regular dental checkups for your child will allow us to assess underlying issues that may potentially cause dental issues in the future, of which we may be able to take preventative measures to avoid, with this we will have the opportunity to assess your child's risk that may help us anticipate further oral issues. Some children have special dental and physical needs, with such we have the materials and equipment necessary, along with techniques, to give them optimal and oral care in the most comfortable setting possible.
Do all children who play sports need to wear a mouthguard?
Mouthguards not only cushion any blows that may occur to the face during the playing of sports, but they also protect your child's lips, tongue, face and jaw. They are vital in minimizing the risk that your child will have a tooth fracture if such a contact is made with the mouth. The use of a mouthguard is especially important in the early years when the child's teeth and jaw are still developing.
Mouthguards are an essential piece of equipment in contact sports, such as football and wrestling, however, do not overlook the odds of injury in non-contact sports such as gymnastics, skating or tennis.