Providing oral health education to families is essential to teaching children healthy habits and preventing early childhood tooth decay.
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Does my child need to be taken to a pediatric dentist?
Pediatric dentists are specially trained to handle problems particular to children, such as dental developmental difficulties and root canals on adult teeth that have not fully formed. However, most children are treated by general dentists. A general dentist often has a relationship with the entire family and therefore has a great deal of family history knowledge, which may apply to your child. If you're having trouble deciding on the type of dentist to use for your child, ask your family dentist or your child's pediatrician for suggestions.
When should I take my child to the dentist?
The ideal time is six months after your child's first tooth erupts. This is the perfect time for the dentist to carefully examine the development of your child's mouth. Dental problems often start early, so the sooner the visit occurs, the better. Also, your dentist can provide or recommend special preventive care to safeguard against problems, such as baby bottle tooth decay, teething irritations, gum disease, and prolonged thumb-sucking.
How do I prepare my child and myself for the first visit?
Before the visit, ask the dentist what procedures will be performed so there are no surprises. Plan a course of action to manage your child's reaction to the visit. Some children may be non-cooperative. Talk to your child about what to expect and build excitement as well as understanding about the upcoming visit. Bring your child's medical records to help
you complete the medical history forms before the appointment.
When will my child lose his/her baby teeth?
Children will begin losing their teeth at approximately age 4. They will usually lose their front teeth first. Children will continue to lose baby teeth until age 12 or 13 when all of the permanent teeth finally erupt.
Why is it important to fix baby teeth that have decay?
It is very important to maintain baby teeth because these teeth hold space for the future eruption of permanent teeth. If a baby tooth decays or is removed too early, the space necessary for the permanent tooth is lost and can only be regained through orthodontic treatment. Infected baby teeth also can cause permanent teeth to develop improperly, resulting in permanent enamel defects and weaker teeth.
What can I do to protect my child's oral health at home?
Clean your infant's gums with a clean, damp cloth. Ask your dentist if you may rub a tiny dab of toothpaste on the gums. As soon as the first teeth come in, begin brushing them with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste. Help a young child brush at night, which is the most important time to brush, due to lower salivary flow and higher susceptibility to cavities and plaque. By approximately age 5, your child can learn to brush his or her teeth with proper parental instruction. The best way to teach a child how to brush is to lead by good example. Allowing your child to watch you brush your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene.
Can tooth decay affect infants?
Yes! Tooth decay in infants and young children most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but also may affect other teeth. Parents may not realize that a baby's teeth can decay soon after they first appear. The decay may even enter the underlying bone structure, which can hurt development of the permanent teeth. This problem is frequently referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. This decay is caused by long-term exposure of a child's teeth to liquids containing sugars. When a child consumes a sugary liquid, acid attacks the teeth and gums and causes decay.
How can children prevent damage to their teeth?
At school, children should rinse their mouth with water after meals, leaving their teeth free of sugar and acid. At home, encourage children to drink tap or fountain water. Use a straw when drinking soda to keep sugar away from teeth. If you purchase bottled water, be sure that it is fluoridated. Remember, bottled juices are not a good alternative due to the high sugar content. Regular dental check-ups, combined with brushing with fluoride toothpaste also will help protect children's teeth.
How can I help my child prevent tooth decay?
Brushing teeth after meals, regular flossing and fluoride treatments are the best ways to prevent tooth decay. Children should also be supervised as they brush. A good rule of thumb is when children can dress themselves and tie their own shoes, then they are ready to brush unsupervised. Children should be supervised in proper flossing techniques until the age of 10. If you have any concerns about your child's dental health or want some tips on preventing tooth decay, ask your dentist.
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