What To Expect At Your Child’s First Dental Visit
A child’s first dental visit can be scheduled by his/her 1st birthday.
Along with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry we recommend that a child’s first dental visit be scheduled by his/her 1st birthday. It is very important to make the first visit as positive and enjoyable for the child as possible. We want your child to enjoy getting to know our doctors and staff and be comfortable at all times. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future dental visits. Let the child know that the doctors and staff will explain everything in detail and will answer any questions he/she has. Children should be encouraged to discuss any fears or anxiety they feel.
Parents should not make a big deal out of the visit and refrain from using any words that could cause unnecessary fear, such as “needle” or “drill.” We are experienced in dealing with children with anxiety and can explain treatment procedures in a positive and pleasant manner to avoid any anxious or negative feelings toward dentistry.
We will record the child’s dental and medical history, complete a comprehensive examination and discuss any findings with you. We will also review the importance of maintaining a good dental health program with you and your child to ensure a healthy and beautiful smile for life!
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.
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children should visit the dentist by their first birthday. It is important that your child’s newly-erupted teeth (erupting at six to 12 months of age) receive proper dental care and benefit from proper oral hygiene habits right from the beginning.
When New Teeth Arrive
Your child’s first primary, or “baby,” teeth will begin to erupt between the ages of six to 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.
Your child’s primary teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood, and their permanent teeth begin erupting at age six, and continue until age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth, 32 teeth including wisdom teeth.
Adopting healthy oral hygiene habits
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 his or her teeth after feeding or eating. We recommend brushing two times a day for optimal oral hygiene. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than three should only use a smear of fluoride toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice.
Brushing can be fun, and your child should brush as soon as the first tooth arrives.
When a baby’s tooth erupts, parents should brush the tooth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. For children younger than two, do not use fluoride toothpaste unless advised to do so by your dentist or other healthcare professional. We suggest reviewing proper tooth brushing procedures with your child.
Flossing is also a part of good oral hygiene habits, and your dentist will discuss with you the right time to start flossing your child’s teeth. If you notice signs of decay, contact your dentist immediately.
Preventing Tooth Decay With Regular Checkups
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, avoiding sugary food and drinks, combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away.
Your child should visit the dentist every six months for regular dental cleanings and checkups. We recommend fluoride treatments twice a year along with cleanings to keep teeth their strongest. Tooth sealants are also recommended because they “seal” the deep grooves in your child’s teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years, but will be monitored at your child’s regular checkups.
Your child brushes her teeth twice a day, flosses regularly, and visits the dentist every six months.
But did you know that rinsing with fluoride – a mineral that helps prevent cavities and tooth decay – also helps keep her teeth healthy and strong?
Fluoride is effective in preventing cavities and tooth decay by coating teeth and preventing plaque from building up and hardening on the tooth’s surface.
Fluoride comes in two varieties, topical and systemic:
Topical fluoride is applied directly to the tooth and includes toothpastes and mouth rinses. Systemic fluorides are generally used only by a dentist and are not often available for at home use. Systemic fluoride treatments are designed to help protect the oral health of children undergoing dental procedures. Fluoride used in the dentist/orthodontists office is often a much stronger concentration than in toothpaste or mouthwash, but is available at some drug stores or a pharmacy (ask your dentist before purchasing professional strength fluoride).
Receiving A Fluoride Treatment From Your Dentist
A fluoride treatment in the dentist’s office takes just a few minutes. After the treatment, patients may be asked to not rinse, eat, or drink for at least 30 minutes in order to allow the teeth to absorb the fluoride. Depending on your child’s oral health or your doctor’s recommendation, your child may be required to have a fluoride treatment every three, six, or 12 months. Your doctor may also prescribe at-home fluoride products such as mouthwash, gels, or antibacterial rinses.
How To Choose The Right Fluoride Treatment
When choosing an at-home fluoride product (such as toothpaste or mouthwash), always check for the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. Products marked with the ADA seal of approval have been carefully examined and approved by the ADA based on safety and effectiveness.
Sealants give your child’s teeth extra protection.
Sometimes brushing is not enough especially when it comes to those hard-to-reach spots in your child’s mouth. It is difficult for a toothbrush to reach between the small cracks and grooves on teeth. If left alone, those tiny areas can develop tooth decay. Sealants give your child’s teeth extra protection against decay and help prevent cavities.
Dental sealants are a plastic resin that bonds and hardens in the deep grooves on the tooth’s surface. When a tooth is sealed, the tiny grooves become smooth, and are less likely to harbor plaque. With sealants, brushing becomes easier and more effective against tooth decay.
Sealants are typically applied to children’s teeth as a preventive measure after the permanent teeth have erupted. It is more common to seal “permanent” teeth rather than “baby” teeth, but every patient has unique needs, and the dentist will recommend sealants on a case-by-case basis.
Sealants last from three to five years, although it is fairly common to see adults with sealants still intact from childhood. A dental sealant only provides protection when it is fully intact so if your child’s sealants come off, let the dentist know, and schedule an appointment for your child’s teeth to be re-sealed.
Caries, or tooth decay, is a preventable disease.
While caries might not endanger your life, they may negatively impact your quality of life.
When your teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars, acids may form that begin to eat away at tooth enamel. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks and even fruit juices leave deposits on your teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive in your mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth, with tooth decay resulting.
Your teeth expand and contract in reaction to changes in temperature. Hot and cold food and beverages can cause pain or irritation to people with sensitive teeth. Over time, tooth enamel can be worn down, gums may recede or teeth may develop microscopic cracks, exposing the interior of the tooth and irritating nerve endings. Just breathing cold air can be painful for those with extremely sensitive teeth.
Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
Daily brushing and flossing helps to prevent the build-up of food particles, plaque and bacteria in your mouth.
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Food particles left in the mouth deteriorate and cause bad breath. While certain foods, such as garlic or anchovies, may create temporary bad breath, consistent bad breath may be a sign of gum disease or another dental problem.
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small sores inside the mouth that often recur. The pain caused by canker sores can be alleviated by some topical agents and by avoiding certain foods. The canker sore has a white or gray base surrounded by a red border.
A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or some types may be acquired. Some causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking over an extended period of time, may cause malocclusions. Some minor malocclusions may be corrected in our office, however, severe malocclusions will need to be treated by an orthodontist.
Begin by cleaning around the sore tooth meticulously.
Using warm salt water, rinse the mouth to displace any food trapped between teeth. Under no circumstances should you use aspirin on the aching tooth or on the gum. In the event of facial swelling, apply a cold compress to the area.For temporary pain relief, acetaminophen is recommended. Please seek medical or dental treatment if swelling occurs without the incidence of trauma. Please contact us for an appointment if the pain persists more than a day.
Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek
Ice can be applied to any bruised areas. For bleeding, apply firm (but gentle) pressure with sterile gauze or a clean cloth. If the bleeding does not stop with pressure or continues after 15 minutes, go to an emergency room.
Broken Braces and Wires
Remove a broken appliance only if it comes out easily. If it is lodged or painful to remove, cover any protruding edges with wax, cotton balls, gauze or chewing gum. Do not remove any wire caught in the gums, cheek or tongue. See a dentist immediately. Emergency attention is usually not required for loose or broken appliances that cause no discomfort.
Rinse the area with warm water. Put a cold compress over the facial area of the injury. Recover any broken tooth fragments. Seek immediate dental attention.
Recover the tooth, making sure to hold it by the crown (top) and not the root.
Knocked Out Permanent Tooth
Rinse, but do not clean or handle the tooth more than necessary. Reinsert the tooth in the socket, and hold it in place using a clean piece of gauze or cloth. If the tooth cannot be reinserted, carry it in a cup containing cold milk. Because time is essential, see a dentist immediately.
Possible Broken Jaw
In the event of jaw injury, tie the mouth closed with a towel, tie or handkerchief. Go immediately to an emergency room.
Bleeding After a Baby Tooth Falls Out
Fold a piece of gauze and place it (tightly) over the bleeding area. Bite down on the gauze for 15 minutes. If bleeding continues, see a dentist.
Cold or Canker Sores
Over-the-counter medications will usually provide temporary relief. If sores persist, visit your dentist.
Throughout your life, you will have two sets of teeth:
primary (baby) teeth and secondary (permanent) teeth. At age 6-8 months, the primary teeth appear; all 20 are in place by age 3.
Permanent teeth will begin to grow around age 6, and except for wisdom teeth, are all present between ages 12 and 14. The next teeth to grow in are the 12-year molars and finally the wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth typically begin breaking through from age 17 and on. The total number of permanent teeth is 32, though few people have room for all 32 teeth. This is why wisdom teeth are usually removed.
Your front teeth are called incisors. The sharp “fang-like” teeth are canines. The next side teeth are referred to as pre-molars or bicuspids, and the back teeth are molars. Your permanent teeth are the ones you keep for life, so it is vital that they are brushed and flossed regularly and that periodic check-ups by a dentist are followed.
Innumerable studies and research have concluded…
on the importance of starting children early in their lives with good dental hygiene and oral care. According to research, the most common chronic childhood disease in America is tooth decay, affecting 50 percent of first-graders and 80 percent of 17-year-olds. Early treatment prevents problems affecting a child’s health, well-being, self-image and overall achievement.
The National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research estimates that children will miss 52 million hours of school each year due to oral health problems and about 12.5 million days of restricted activity every year from dental symptoms. Because there is such a significant loss in their academic performance, the Surgeon General has made children’s oral health a priority.
Parents are responsible for ensuring their children practice good dental hygiene. Parents must introduce proper oral care early in a child’s life – as early as infancy.
The American Dental Hygiene Association states that a good oral hygiene routine for children includes:
- Thoroughly cleaning your infant’s gums after each feeding with a water-soaked infant cloth. This stimulates the gum tissue and removes food.
- Gently brushing your baby’s erupted teeth with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- Teaching your child at an early age proper brushing techniques and continuing to assist your child in brushing and flossing until they are 8 years old.
- Regular visits with their dentist to check for cavities in the primary teeth and for possible developmental problems.
- Encouraging your child to discuss any fears they may have about oral health visits, but not mentioning words like “pain” or “hurt,” since this may instill the possibility of pain in the child’s thought process.
- Determining if the water supply that serves your home is fluoridated; if not, discussing supplement options with your dentist or hygienist.
- Asking your hygienist or dentist about sealant applications to protect your child’s teeth-chewing surfaces and about bottle tooth decay, which occurs when teeth are frequently exposed to sugared liquids.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I clean my baby's teeth?
A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head, especially one designed for infants, is the best choice for infants. Brushing at least twice a day, at bedtime, will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.
What is baby bottle tooth decay and how can I prevent it?
Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing. It happens when a child goes to sleep while breast-feeding and/or bottle-feeding. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. He/she should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.
When should my child start using toothpaste?
The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Once children are 3 to 6 years old, then the amount should be increased to a pea-size dollop and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
How safe are dental X-rays?
With contemporary safeguards, such as lead aprons and high-speed film, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. Even though there is very little risk, pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation. In fact, dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Our office uses digital xrays, which lowers exposure to 1/12 that of regular dental xrays.
What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?
First of all, remain calm. If possible, find the tooth and hold it by the crown rather than the root. Replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze or a washcloth. If you can’t put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with milk and take your child and the glass immediately to the pediatric dentist. The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.
If my child gets a cavity in a baby tooth, should it still be filled?
Primary, or “baby,” teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Some of them are necessary until a child is 12 years old or longer. Pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health and premature loss of teeth are just a few of the problems that can happen when baby teeth are neglected. Also, because tooth decay is really an infection and will spread, decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the health of your child.
At what age should my child have his/her first dental visit?
“First visit by first birthday” is the general rule. To prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, usually between 6 and 12 months of age, certainly no later than his/her first birthday.
Can thumbsucking be harmful for my child's teeth?
Thumb and pacifier sucking habits that go on for a long period of time can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems. If they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist. Most children stop these habits on their own.
If my child gets a toothache, what should I do?
To comfort your child, rinse his/her mouth with warm salt water and apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in a cloth on your child’s face if it is swollen. Do not put heat or aspirin on the sore area, but you may give the child acetaminophen for pain. See us as soon as possible.
My child plays sports. How should I protect my child's teeth?
A mouth guard should be a top priority on your child’s list of sports equipment. Athletic mouth protectors, or mouth guards, are made of soft plastic and fit comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth. They protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports-related injuries. Any mouth guard works better than no mouth guard, but a custom-fitted mouth guard fitted by our doctor is your child’s best protection against sports-related injuries.
How can I help my child through the teething stage?
Sore gums when teeth erupt are part of the normal eruption process. The discomfort is eased for some children by use of a teething biscuit, a piece of toast or a frozen teething ring. Your pharmacy should also have medications that can be rubbed on the gums to reduce the discomfort.
What causes tooth decay?
Four things are necessary for cavities to form — a tooth, bacteria, sugars or other carbohydrates and time. Dental plaque is a thin, sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on everyone’s teeth. When you eat, the sugars in your food cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. With time and repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.
Why should my child see a pediatric dentist instead of our regular family dentist?
Pediatric dentistry is a dental specialty that focuses on the oral health of young people. Following dental school, a pediatric dentist has two to three years additional specialty training in the unique needs of infants, children and adolescents, including those with special health needs.
What are dental sealants and how do they work?
Sealants are clear or shaded plastic applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity-free. Sealants fill in the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, which are hard to clean, and shut out food particles that could get caught, causing cavities. Fast and comfortable to apply, sealants can effectively protect teeth for many years.
Is my child getting enough fluoride?
Fluoride has been shown to dramatically decrease a person’s chances of getting cavities by making teeth stronger. Fluoride in the drinking water is the best and easiest way to get it, but to make sure your child is getting enough fluoride, have your pediatric dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your child’s primary source of water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride internally through water (especially in communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.
When do the first teeth start to erupt?
At about 6 months, the two lower front teeth (central incisors) will erupt, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. The remainder of the baby teeth appear during the next 18 to 24 months but not necessarily in an orderly sequence from front to back. At 2 to 3 years, all of these 20 primary teeth should be present.
I noticed a space between my child's two upper front teeth. Is this cause for concern?
Usually, the space will close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. We can determine whether there is cause for concern.
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