Early dental visits the key
It is never too early to start thinking about your child’s dental health. Experts advise that good brushing habits established at a young age will lead to fewer cavities later. The key to preventing tooth decay is understanding that even your baby’s first tooth is at risk.
A good dental routine can be established even in infancy by cleaning out a baby’s mouth with a wet washcloth or piece of gauze after every meal to remove food particles. After teeth start popping through the gums, it’s a good idea to obtain an infant toothbrush from a dentist and add a small amount of toothpaste when cleaning your baby’s teeth. Other tips to help keep your child’s teeth healthy are:
- Clean teeth with a soft brush everyday;
- Discontinue the use of a bottle as soon as possible after your child’s first birthday:
- Limit sugar intake in snacks, juices and drinks;
- Never put your child to sleep with a bottle filled with anything other than plain water;
- Make sure children under 12 received fluoride treatments in the proper amounts. If tap water in not fluoridated, your dentist can supply fluoride drops; and
- Take your child for regular dental visits beginning at age 1.
It is also very important to find a dentist or pediatric dentist (a specialist dedicated to the oral health of children, teens and children with special health care needs) with whom your child is comfortable. Family, friends and pediatricians can give recommendations, and then a friendly introduction visit should be scheduled. You can help prepare your children by avoiding negative terms like “shot,” “needle” or “hurt.” Use words like clean and healthy. Be very positive about the experience. If you hate going to the dentist yourself (most adults do), avoid talking about your experience in front of the children. Most pediatric dental offices are designed to make your child’s dental visits fun and rewarding. If your child does not like the first dentist he or she visits, get another recommendation and schedule a visit with that dentist.
Once a pediatric dentist is found, regular six-month, checkups should be scheduled. Appointments should be made early in the morning when small children are in a good mood and not restless or irritable. Parents should also feel comfortable with the dentist they have chosen. There are several things that need to be discussed at the first visit:
- Nutrition and its effects on your children’s teeth;
- Your child’s specific fluoride needs;
- Weaning your child from the bottle; and
- Techniques for proper brushing.
Decay and injuries
Even with the best of care, decay and injuries still occur. Decay can be treated with sealants and other forms of treatment. Falls at home or on the playground and athletic injuries often cause damage to teeth and gums. Many injuries are obvious, but some can be hidden. It is very important that a pediatric dentist examine the child as soon as possible after the incident, even if the wounds don’t look too bad. Prompt treatment often can help stop later bite problems. Quick action often can save a tooth that has been knocked completely out of the socket. Always remain calm, reinsert the tooth as quickly as you can, keep the tooth moist and see your dentist as soon as possible.
You are the most important factor in guiding your children to the lifelong habit of proper oral hygiene. Your child’s brushing and rinsing should be supervised twice daily: after breakfast and prior to bedtime, and teeth should be flossed at least once a day. Continue to supervise flossing, brushing and rinsing until the child has learned the routine. This generally occurs between 6 and 8 years of age.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it’s the perfect time to select a dentist and schedule an appointment for your child. For more information, consult a pediatric dentist or call or write the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 211 East Chicago, Illinois 60611; (312)337-2169 / or visit their website at www.aapd.org.