How old should my child be for the first visit to the dentist?
is a new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry - your own dentist may tell you
not until age three. However, it's important to get an assessment before
decay sets in and to learn about prevention.
What will happen at the first visit?
the examination is done "knee to knee" with the dentist - your child
stays on your lap, looking at you. The dentist sits opposite and looks
into your child's mouth.
What are they looking for?
are looking for early signs of decay and anything unusual. They will
also teach you what to look for. Someday soon, there will be a test that
can be performed to tell who is at risk for decay.
Why is early so important?
Dental disease is a progressive disease caused by specific germs in our mouths. It is also reversible if
caught early. Our teeth are kind of like our bones - they can be
strengthened and weakened. If decay is caught early enough, the tooth
can heal itself with home care and with fluoride treatments.
Does fluoride really do much?
yes! Getting fluoride through your tap water is the best way. You can
find out if your water is fluoridated by calling your local water
district. Fluoride toothpaste helps. Use it only for children
after age one, or when they can spit, not swallow. And, use only a
small amount. The dentist can do much more specific and concentrated
treatments. For instance, a fluoride varnish is painted right on the teeth and stays there for several days.
But they are just baby teeth - won't they fall out anyway?
need to stay until a child is almost 12! They are important for speech
development and nutrition and they hold a spot for the permanent teeth.
Plus, permanent teeth that come into an unhealthy (decayed) mouth are
likely to become unhealthy, too.
My child is way over age one. What do I do now?
Don't worry, just get in as soon as you can. There is so much new information and technology about teeth that none of us need to feel guilty. A child over three will probably sit in the big chair.
How can I strengthen my child's teeth (and my own)? What am I doing that might be weakening our teeth?
is a culprit. Children (especially picky eaters) tend to snack all day -
either crackers, cereal, or sipping on juice or milk. Our teeth are
made to handle food, but they need time to rest and rebuild. Our body
has natural mechanisms to flood teeth with strengthening minerals,
but they can't work if our teeth are repeatedly under attack by
acid created when food is eaten.
Is this like Baby Bottle Mouth?
The name has been changed to Early Childhood Caries because it is
affecting more children than just babies. The effect is the same.
The teeth are weakened (and eventually decay) if they repeatedly have
food or sweet liquid on them. For babies, use bottles just for regular
feedings, not sipping all day or for getting to sleep. For toddlers, put
only water in sippy-cups between meals.
My baby/young child likes to suck on a bottle to get to sleep!
bottle with water is fine. Begin diluting the milk/juice a little each
night. Soon, it will be just water. The child will either not
notice or decide to give it up.
You didn't mention sugar, chocolate or candy
carbohydrates cause trouble, so let's not focus only on sugar as the bad
guy. There is really no bad guy. Instead of saying no, offer better
choices (fresh fruit instead of raisins or fruit snacks/roll-ups;
chocolate kiss instead of hard candy or taffy). Teach kids (three and
up) to rinse and vigorously swish with water. They love it! And
sugarless gum helps, too.
When to brush?
when the first tooth comes in. Until then you can wipe baby's gums
after feeding. Teach kids to brush two times a day - after breakfast and
before bed. They need adult help until they are about seven or eight
years old to reach all sides of teeth. Use a soft toothbrush - adults
But it's a battle! What can I do?
creative! Try brushing yours at the same time or trade off and let
him/her brush yours, too. Hunt for lions and tigers that live behind
those teeth. Find all the things you ate today. Have a
couple of brushes/toothpaste flavors to choose. Buy a toothbrush
book. Set a two minute timer.