THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY RECOMMENDS...
Children should visit the dentist by their first birthday to ensure that their newly-erupted teeth receive proper dental care and benefit from proper oral hygiene habits from an early age.
Your Child's First Visit
The first visit to the dentist is very critical in shaping a positive lifetime relationship with our dental team. Here are some helpful tips to help things go smoothly:
- Choose a pediatric dentist, not general dentist: Pedodontists are specialists with two to three years of exclusive training in the field of dental care for infants, children and adolescents
- When calling our office to make your child's appointment, let us know that this is their first trip to the dentist so we can best accommodate their needs
- Schedule the appointment at a time that fits your child’s routine: When you visit our office, ensure that your child is well-rested and fed but not too full. Children with strong gag reflex can get sick when a dental mirror is used in their mouth! Try to avoid scheduling appointments during their regular nap time, as children do not cooperate well when tired or sleepy.
- Prepare your child for their appointment by speaking to them about the dentist visit and what to expect. Read books or watch videos with your child about visiting the dentist for the first time. You may role play at home or at the office to introduce the procedure and help them feel more familiar with the experience.
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WHEN NEW TEETH ARRIVE
Your child's first primary or baby teeth will begin to erupt between the ages of 6 to 12 months and will continue to erupt until about age three. During this time, your child's gums may feel tender and sore. To help alleviate this discomfort, we recommend that you soothe the gums by rubbing a clean finger or a cool, wet cloth on the gums. You can also sooth discomfort with a teething ring. Your child will finish teething around age three, when they have grown 20 primary teeth.
Permanent teeth begin erupting at age six and shed at various times throughout childhood, continuing until after 18 years old. The first permanent teeth to erupt tend to be front teeth or molars. The first molars (6-year-old molars) are most commonly affected by cavities, since they erupt in the back of the mouth and parents are not aware of the new growth. Limited access and poor brushing habits can also increase the risk of childhood molar cavities. Front teeth (incisors) tend to erupt after the baby teeth around them have been lost. Sometimes, the lower permanent teeth erupt towards the tongue and make two rows of teeth. Although this can look scary for parents, it is not typically a big concern and is addressed with the extraction of the baby tooth to guide the permanent successor into the correct position. It is very important to monitor the proper sequence of losing baby teeth and growing permanent ones, as having a baby tooth kept in place longer than it should be can lead to impacted permanent teeth that require surgery and braces to correct.
Your child will eventually grow 28 permanent teeth (32 when counting wisdom teeth), and some baby molars will last beyond 10-12 years of age. It is crucial to prevent or treat cavities in baby molar teeth as soon as possible to prevent infections or premature tooth loss, which can lead to problems in the permanent teeth.
ADOPTING HEALTHY ORAL HYGIENE HABITS
Examine your child’s mouth every two weeks, looking for lines and discoloration that may indicate tooth decay or cavities. Limit sugary foods and juices, even milk, as these items can damage a newly erupted tooth. Teeth are most susceptible to cavities in the first year after eruption, so make sure that your child’s teeth are brushed and cleaned properly at least two to three times a day. We recommend brushing four times a day for optimal oral hygiene: after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, and at bedtime.
Brushing together can be fun, and your child's teeth should be cleaned with a toothbrush as soon as the first tooth arrives. We recommended beginning to clean your child's gums and tongue with a moist gauze after each feeding and before bedtime as young as possible. When a tooth erupts, parents should brush the tooth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride-free toothpaste. For children younger than two, do not use fluoride toothpaste unless advised to do so by your dentist or other healthcare professional. We suggest reviewing proper tooth brushing and fluoride intake procedures with your child's dentist.
Flossing is also a part of good oral hygiene habits, and your doctor will discuss with you the right time to start flossing. If you notice signs of tooth discoloration or black spots on your baby's teeth that look like tooth decay, contact our office immediately to set up a check-up appointment.
PREVENTING TOOTH DECAY WITH REGULAR CHECKUPS
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feed off sugars left in the mouth. These germs produce acids, which can break down the structure of the teeth. Many children and adolescents do not practice proper dental hygiene habits which leads to tooth decay. Proper brushing and flossing routines, combined with regular dental visits, can help your child keep tooth decay away.
Tooth sealants are a great way to prevent cavities in the back teeth. They "seal" the deep grooves in your child's back teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years but need to be monitored and repair or replaced at your child's regular checkups.