Do you remember your childhood dentist? Are they happy memories of cleanings and treasure boxes, or memories that invoke fear? As you probably realize, those early childhood experiences with your dentist can have a lasting impact throughout life – one that can make or break your dental health as an adult. If the first time your child sees a dentist is for an injury or because they have a problem, chances are the experience will be less than optimal. You want to have your child develop a trusting relationship with a dentist who will be your partner in teaching them the habits that will ensure good dental health; and one that will leave them feeling safe if they ever need any dental work. Choosing a dentist is a very personal task; choosing one that offers general dentistry for children will give your family peace of mind.
Recommendations for Dental Care of Children
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that all children have their first dental evaluation within 6 months of their first tooth coming in, and no later than their first birthday. After this initial visit, it is then recommended to continue visits every 6-month, unless problems arise that require more frequent visits. However, every child is unique and while there are general recommendations for dental care, some children with a genetic predisposition, or who are at higher risk because of environmental factors or other health issues, will need more individualized plans of care. For instance, children whose mothers have cavities are more likely to develop them at an early age. Children who breast or bottle-feed after 12 months of age, who eat or drink more sugary substances, or who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also more at risk. Beginning dental check-ups at the first sign of teeth coming in will ensure that your child receives the individualized care that they deserve, and prevent problems before they start.
Speaking of prevention, this is where your dentist becomes your greatest ally. He or she will show you how to care for your child’s teeth, brushing daily, first with a soft cloth, and later with a soft toothbrush. Adequate fluoride intake is also recommended, and your dentist will be able to tell you if your child is receiving the right amounts in local water supplies, or if they need to take a supplement. It is important to understand that cavities can happen at any time, even as soon as the tooth is pushing through the gums. Having a general dentist for your child is a prescription for success in oral health.
Benefits of Having a General Dentist for Children
The number one benefit of establishing care with a general dentist for your child at a young age is that they will become comfortable with the experience. Many adults develop advanced tooth and gum disease because of fear and avoidance. By allowing your child to have positive experiences in a nonthreatening environment, early in life, you will instill in them a sense of security that will diminish anxiety as they encounter future dental care. In fact, children who receive dental care at a young age experience fewer cavities and overall better dental health. Research indicates that children who see the dentist before the age of 4 years old have a decreased incidence of the need for extractions, root canals, and crowns. This is due to a number of reasons, including early prevention, development of good oral hygiene habits, and early detection of problems.
Your child’s dental health is only one part of their overall health, yet it can have a great influence on their growth and development. Healthy teeth are necessary for chewing, which promotes the good nutrition required for adequate growth in your child’s early years. However, teeth are not only important for chewing and eating; they are also essential for proper development of speech. Also, by avoiding the need for extractions, and preserving baby teeth until it is time for them to come out, permanent teeth will have adequate space as they are coming in. Finally, the formative years in childhood set the framework from which they view themselves and the world. Having a nice smile will only benefit them in the development of a strong and positive self-image.
Forming Good Habits
Your family’s general dentist can be a great resource of information and guidance as your child develops habits that will promote good oral health for a lifetime. Having that first visit by the age of one is the best way to get off on the right foot. Some of the advice you can expect is to avoid food and liquids that are high in sugar content, especially when using a bottle or sippy cup. In fact, the best time to stop bottle-feeding is between 12 and 18 months.
You should begin cleaning your child’s teeth twice daily as soon as the first tooth comes in – first with a soft cloth, and later with a soft toothbrush. Add twice-a-day flossing to the routine once the toothbrush can no longer fit between the teeth. Fluoride helps teeth grow strong, so a fluoride-toothpaste is recommended, but care should be taken that the paste is not swallowed. For supervision, as well as safety, you should accompany your child during oral care until he or she is 8-years old. Remember that baby teeth can get cavities and should be cared for properly, but you will start focusing on protecting permanent teeth between the ages of 6 and 12. Your dentist will be there to guide you along the way, addressing individual needs, including when and if braces may be necessary.
The foundations of good oral health should start early and become a habit; and the best way to protect your child’s teeth is by establishing a good relationship with a dentist. If you have any questions about dentistry for children or have any current concerns about your child’s dental health, please call Hagerman Dental Care at (651) 646-2392, or request an appointment online. We will make your child’s dental and oral health our top priority.