Children’s Dental Care
Here at Desert Family Dental. we believe that kids need be seeing the dentist every six months, just like their parents. Every child deserves to have healthy teeth, free from decay, and it all starts with routine preventive care. Baby teeth may not be permanent, but they are important to your child’s nutrition, speech development, and the alignment of their adult teeth.
Many parents are unsure of how best to care for their children’s teeth—for example, when to start dental visits, how to begin flossing, and what types of toothpaste and toothbrush to use at each age. Here in our practice, we enjoy taking the time to help parents understand current recommendations for children’s oral health and hygiene.
Early Dental Visits
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists has recommended that kids should be seen by a dentist by their first birthday. We follow this guidance, but as a general rule, as soon as your child get his or her first tooth we like to start what we call “happy visits”.
The purpose of the first dental visit is just that: to begin establishing the dentist’s office as a happy place where nice things happen. Wait too long for the first dental visit and even the most confident child may experience some fear or anxiety at the suddenness of the experience.
The happy visit can be as simple as bringing your child with you to your cleaning appointment and spending an extra 5 or 10 minutes to let the doctor engage with your child. Maybe your child will open wide and let the dentist take a look and maybe he won’t. The important thing is that he becomes familiar with the setting of the dental office and sees that Mommy or Daddy trusts the dentist, so he must not be a bad guy. Even if he wears funny glasses and gloves. These happy visits really pay off as your child gets a little older and can rely on an established rapport with the dental office and the dentist.
The First Dental Cleaning
Some time around your child’s 3rd birthday, a dental cleaning and checkup should take place. Just as we do with adult teeth, we will check the teeth carefully for cavities, remove any build-up of calculus, and apply preventive treatments such as fluoride gel and/or sealants. If your child has had prior happy visits, these appointments usually go very well, even for the most active and curious of our young patients.
In addition to the aforementioned happy visits, there are some other things you can do to help your child prepare for the first checkup.
Before the First Dental Cleaning
Prior to your child’s first visit for a cleaning, there are a number of things you can do to make the appointment go smoothly. Most children can understand that a dentist is a “tooth doctor,” but unlike their usual doctor, you visit the tooth doctor before your teeth get sick. Going to the dentist is a way to make sure your teeth stay healthy, so you don’t get toothaches.
Do your best to explain to your child what to expect at this visit. Be honest with them, but avoid using phrases like “it won’t hurt” and please don’t even mention shots or drills. Any focus on potentially unpleasant aspects of a dental visit may induce anxiety. If you are calm and comfortable, your child will be, too.
It is also helpful to find books or apps with age-appropriate illustrations of the dentist’s office and read these several times before this visit.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, children may require dental care beyond a cleaning, such as fillings and baby root canals. If trust and comfort have already been established, this can be a very easy thing to accomplish.
If a child’s anxiety is too great, however, sometimes the only option is sedation. This is never our first option here at Desert Family Dental, but it’s sometimes necessary. Our doctors and staff are trained to help your child to feel comfortable in the dental setting and we do our best to avoid sedation.
When should I start cleaning my child’s teeth?
As soon as your infant has teeth, you should be cleaning them regularly. This does not necessarily need to be with a toothbrush, as a soft cloth or clean medical gauze is a very effective and gentle way to clean baby teeth. Once your child is old enough to hold an age-appropriate toothbrush (and watch you brush your teeth) you can start showing him how to gently rub it against the teeth and let him try doing it himself.
What type of toothbrush should my child use?
When choosing a toothbrush for your child, the brand you use is not very important, but we do recommend that you choose a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. Medium or hard bristles can lead to irritation and can even cause gum recession. Many parents find their children get more excited about oral hygiene when they play a role in selecting the toothbrush, so there may be some value to having a toothbrush with a favorite cartoon character on it, flashing lights, or other bells and whistles.
What type of toothpaste should my child be using?
Children should not use fluoride toothpaste until they are old enough to understand the concept of spitting it out. There are a number of excellent fluoride-free toothpastes available for infant use, which you can use freely without worrying about fluoride ingestion. When you first introduce fluoride toothpaste, use only a pea-sized amount until your child is an expert at spitting it out properly. The reason why we do this is because too much fluoride can be harmful, and may lead to stains in adult teeth (fluoridosis) if too much is ingested while teeth are developing.
Again, many parents find that letting a preschool-aged child play a role in picking out a toothpaste can help them get excited about oral hygiene. There are a number of kid-friendly flavors on the market today, and you definitely want them to look forward to the experience every day.
What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Baby bottle decay is a very serious condition seen in children who routinely go to bed with a bottle of juice or milk, or who are nursed to sleep by their mother after their teeth have erupted.
Never put your kid to bed with a bottle of juice or milk if you can help it. If you have already started this practice, try to transition your child to water, instead. You can also make sure your child finishes the bottle well before they fall asleep. The sugars found in milk and juice contribute to advancing tooth decay when natural saliva production is decreased during sleep.
This may be the most important thing we tell the parents of a new baby. Baby bottle tooth decay typically presents as rampant decay seen on the facial surface of all front teeth. This is a very serious condition; if you suspect that your infant may have early signs of decay, contact our office immediately and we’ll work together to get your child’s teeth back on track.
Call us today at 480-485-7747 for an appointment or to learn more about pediatric dentistry in Mesa, AZ.