A child’s first visit to the dentist should be enjoyable. Children are not born with a natural fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. Our office makes a special effort to use pleasant, non-frightening, simple words to describe each treatment. We want you and your child to feel at ease from the moment your family arrives at our office. The more you and your child know about the first visit, the better you will feel.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children visit the dentist by their first birthday. It is important that your child’s newly-erupted teeth (erupting at six through 12 months of age) receive proper dental care and benefit from proper oral hygiene habits right from the beginning.
While we agree with this in theory, here is what WE believe:
We believe that it is important for parents to understand their responsibilities for caring for their children’s teeth. This includes providing a healthy diet, limiting snacks and sweets, overseeing the cleaning of teeth daily, and NEVER allowing a baby or toddler to go to bed with anything besides water in a bottle. So, the real purpose of seeing the dentist before age one is to look for any obvious abnormalities and educating the caregivers.
Your child’s first primary or baby teeth will begin to erupt between the ages of six and 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 across them. You may also choose to make use of a teething ring. When your child has finished teething, you can expect a total of 20 primary teeth.
Your child’s primary teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood. Permanent teeth begin erupting at age six, and continue until age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth (32, including wisdom teeth).
As your child’s teeth erupt, be sure to examine them every two weeks, looking for lines and discoloration that may be caused by decay. Remember that sugary foods and liquids can attack a new tooth, so take care that your child brushes after feeding or eating. We recommend brushing at least two times a day for optimal oral hygiene: after breakfast and at bedtime. As teeth are erupting, they can be cleaned with a damp washcloth or gauze.
Brushing can be fun, and your child should brush as soon as the first tooth arrives. Fluoridated toothpaste is recommended for all children starting at tooth eruption, regardless of caries risk. A smear (the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste should be used up to age three. After the third birthday, a pea-sized amount may be used. We recommend dispensing toothpaste for young children and supervising and assisting with brushing. We have found that the best way to brush your child’s teeth is to have the child in your lap or standing in front you while you sit in a chair. The child and adult should be facing the same direction. The child’s head should be cradled in the adult’s left arm, with the adult’s right hand doing the brushing and the left hand retracting the child’s cheek and preventing the child from closing their mouth. Holding the child’s head close to the adult’s body gives control over the process.
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 decay, contact your dentist immediately.
Tooth decay is caused by sugars left in your mouth that turn into an acid, which can break down your teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents do not practice regular, good oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away.
Your child should visit the dentist every six months for regular dental cleanings, checkups, and application of fluoride. Tooth sealants are also recommended, especially if the anatomy of your child’s teeth has deep grooves or pits. Sealants “seal” the deep grooves in your child’s teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years and will be monitored at your child’s regular checkups.