Taking baby steps to protect your child’s teeth
Dental Care for your baby starts early. All parents are aware of the more common afflictions like coughs, colds and ear infections, but many are unaware that tooth decay may seriously affect their child’s health, and unlike asthma and allergies, is completely preventable. The health of your infant’s baby teeth is important to the healthy growth of their permanent teeth.
Dental Care for Babies
Your child is at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first tooth appears. That means protecting the health of baby teeth starts much earlier than you might think — before the first teeth even emerge! After each feeding, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth or a clean gauze pad, and avoid putting your baby to bed with formula or fruit juice (these contain tooth decay-causing sugars); use water instead.
Once the first tooth appears, start brushing! Use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day. Remember to use fluoride-free toothpaste, and a small amount of toothpaste or just water. Floss your infant’s baby teeth. When two baby teeth erupt side by side, gently floss them at least once a day (preferably before bedtime), and lastly, ask your pediatrician when the best time is to wean your infant from the bottle. Most pediatricians and dentists recommend weaning your child from the bottle by the age of 1.
Baby’s Dental Cavities
While you may think that since your child’s baby teeth are going to fall out eventually, there’s no need to spend the time or money to fill cavities. This is a common mistake. Infection from decayed baby teeth can damage the permanent teeth developing under them. Plus, an untreated dental cavity could become more severe, requiring a root canal or tooth extraction. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. There may not be enough room left when it’s time for the permanent teeth to come in, with the result being crowded or crooked teeth. Remember, temporary doesn’t mean unimportant.
Does my Child Need to See a Pediatric Dentist?
When seeking care for your children you want to feel comfortable that the professional seeing your child understands their perspectives and needs. There is a great deal of cross training and continuing education in the dental industry these days, which enables many general dentists to perform most, if not all, dental procedures on both adults and children of all ages. However, depending on your particular circumstances, they may suggest that you see a specialist, such as a pediatric dentist for your young child. Pediatric dentists are trained to address the unique physiologic, emotional, and social needs of their young patients, and focusing on winning patients’ trust and adapting to a child’s behavior. Working on a four year old with a cavity that may or may not need anesthetic can be a challenge, and one that pediatric dentists have received extensive training to deal with.
Pediatric dentists act as a “pediatrician” in charge of oral health and place great emphasis on individual and whole-household prevention, such as family dietary habits and parents’ dental health. Many parents are unaware that if they have dental health problems such as gingivitis, they can transfer that to the child through use of the same utensils, and by touching and kissing. Many times the strains of bacteria in a child’s mouth are similar to the strains in the mother’s. Early childhood visits to an office specializing in pediatric dentistry may give your child a positive and enjoyable dental experience from the start.
When to Schedule Your Child’s First Appointment
When taking a child to the dentist for the first time, parents should follow the “rules of ones” or “first visit by first birthday.” Children should see the dentist by the time they get their first tooth or reach their first birthday. That may sound too early, but it’s not! Your child’s first dental visit will probably be short — it’s just a chance for the child to get to know the dentist and the dentist’s office, and also a great opportunity for your dentist to count teeth, check bite, gums and other parts of the mouth to make sure everything is healthy. Even if you take excellent care of your child’s teeth, cavities can still happen. The first dental visit is also a great time to ask any questions you might have about dental care for your little one’s baby teeth, and ways to prevent cavities, as well as to make sure you are doing everything right with your child’s oral hygiene routine. Setting up your child’s first dental visit is a step in the right direction, and every little baby step you take from there will prepare your child for a healthy dental future.
Our Pediatric Dentists, Dr. Todd A. Gray, specializes in oral health care needs of infants, toddlers, adolescents and special need children. Dr. Gray and our Pediatric Department accept Medicaid for all children 18 and under. Dr. Gray is just one of our specialists at The Dentists’ Office that enable us to provide for all your families dental needs at one location.