February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Your questions about a baby or toddler, may involve thumb sucking, when your child’s first dental visit should be or cleaning your child’s teeth. Your own dentist is an excellent resource to consult.
#1 When children should have their first dental visit
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should have their first dental visit at the age of 1 or within 6 months of the first tooth erupting. This visit is an introductory visit to accomplish major goals. The first is to do an overall evaluation of oral growth and development to preempt any major problems. The second is to establish the dental office as a friendly helpful place when there a future pattern of health education and care in the context of happy fun play. This prevents the development of dental anxiety and the progression from anxiety to dental neglect. The third is to apply fluoride varnish every 6 months from the first tooth eruption until the eruption of the first adult molars. Even pediatricians are trained to provide fluoride varnish.
#2 Ways to prevent early childhood caries
Avoid bedtime with a bottle filled with sugary drinks like apple juice or milk. If a bottle is necessary for sleep, water is non cariogenic and readily available. You can give your baby 4-8 ounces of water per day starting at around 6 months. Use a soft wet cloth on the gums before the teeth erupt, and a baby toothbrush and a tiny dab of fluoridated toothpaste after eruption of the teeth.
#3 When to expect changes from primary to permanent teeth
The miracle of child development includes a transition from primary teeth, which help form the jaws to accept the erupting permanent teeth. Tooth development starts with the primary teeth prenatally and can be complete with an adult dentition averaging at twelve years, and then the wisdom teeth erupting around 18 years of age.
#4 Thumb sucking, dental sealants
Although the thumb is the most readily available pacifier, retaining the thumb sucking habit after age 3 will deform the soft bone and the tooth alignment of the upper and lower jaws requiring orthodontic treatment to correct the open bite that results. Try do discourage the habit as early as possible to prevent this deformative habit. A pacifier is earlier to eliminate when its time to give it up.
Preventive care such as sealants to close the open grooves that retain decay causing bacteria can be applied as early as 6 years of age when the first adult molars have erupted. Since eruption age can vary by as much as 2 or 3 years, the calendar age is just a guideline. Sealants are an important method of preventing repeated fillings on the adult teeth and should be applied to both the molars and the premolars.
#5 Choosing the right mouth protector for active children and adolescents
Active contact sports can result in broken teeth, and the transmission of concussive shocks to the brain therefore the best mouth protector available is a great investment. Over the counter protectors can be bulky and can be abandoned since they may not be comfortable. A professionally designed mouth protector can be comfortable and therefore worn actively to prevent damage from trauma.
#6 Children to say no to tobacco
Although smoking habits have decreased over the decades, it is still important to reinforce the negative consequences of smoking. The repeated influence of carcinogenic chemicals from smoking or from chewing tobacco can be an absolute disaster when smoking becomes a vicious habit.
Parents will learn about the importance of regular dental examinations from the biannual dental visit for your child. In this way cavities that can destroy a tooth in as little as 12 months can be treated at an early stage and the teeth preserved for a lifetime. Also, developmental, and orthodontic problems can be discovered and treated with an interceptive method that can be both less costly and faster.
Your child’s teeth can last a lifetime and will result in a healthier longer life as well as increased self-esteem. With the right combination of regular professional and home care, and a thoughtful diet, children’s teeth will remain healthy indefinitely.
Download these activities for your children from the ADA (Maze, Coloring Page and Crossword Puzzle)