In addition to the primary goals of preventing tooth decay and gum disease, children have special needs for their devel oping teeth. Dr. Fitzgerald, Dr. Adamson or Dr. Weldon will discuss a care and prevention plan that addresses these special needs and promotes good dental hygiene for the whole family.
When do children need to start seeing the dentist?
The sooner the better. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts. Primary teeth typically begin growing in around 6 months of age An early dental visit lets our doctors examine your child’s teeth and gums to make sure there are no early problems, as well as to check for proper bone developement. Your child’s first visit may just be to get them comfortable with the office, or for a quick examination.
What kind of care do infants need?
Good dental hygiene starts even before there are any visible teeth. Parents need to wipe the gums of infants with a damp soft washcloth after each meal and before bed. Once teeth emerge, parents should brush them with a soft toothbrush. To prevent tooth decay, no child should be put to bed with a bottle of anything other than water.
What kind of care do children need?
As with adults, dental care for children focuses on preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Some children are especially prone to tooth decay because of diets that are heavy on sweets or poor dental hygiene. Since their teeth are still developing, they have some special needs as well:
- Just like adults, children’s teeth need to be brushed with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Brushing before bedtime is especially important, but brushing in the morning and after eating is recommended whenever possible. We suggest that you help younger children with their brushing until they are capable of properly doing it themselves, at least to age 6 - sometimes longer depending on the child.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is small enough to reach all their teeth. Replace it when the bristles start to wear. An electric toothbrush made specifically for children gives the best cleaning when properly used.
- Try to minimize the amount of toothpaste children swallow. They only need a pea-sized amount on their brush, and they should be taught how to rinse and spit. Do not use fluoride toothpaste until the child can spit after brushing.
- We strongly recommend dental appointments for children every 6 months.
- Parents need to start flossing even baby teeth if they are touching. It is imperative to floss the child's teeth every night before bed. Generally children are not capable of flossing on their own until around the age of 10.
What prevention is possible with regular dental visits?
Regular dental visits serve two important purposes - to regularly give teeth a very thorough cleaning, and to examine teeth and gums for signs of serious problems. Children can resist cavities with good diet and proper dental hygiene, with help from an adult. Our staff can discuss specific methods to fight tooth decay, including fluoride treatments and special sealants for children’s permanent molars.
My child can’t or won’t let a dentist get near their mouth. What can you do?
Fear of strangers is normal and healthy for children. You can help your child get past these common fears by bringing them to your own routine dental visit. When your child meets our staff and watches you being treated, it can make it easier for them to get comfortable with their own visit. Our doctors and the whole dental team are experienced at working with children, and they will do everything they can to put your child at ease and keep the experience stress-free. For more severe issues of dental fear and anxiety, ask about anxiety-free or sedation dentistry specifically designed for children.