We are often asked many questions regarding kids and dental treatment. Here are answers to our most frequently asked questions.
Q. When should parents take their children to have their first checkup?
A. The American Dental Association recommends that a child has his or her first dental examination within six months after the first tooth comes in, but not later than the child’s first birthday. This visit is basically a “well baby checkup” for your child’s teeth. I love to see kids and I strive to make sure that the early visits are positive ones, leading to a lifetime of great oral hygiene.
Q. What should be used to clean a baby’s teeth?
A. Cleaning of your baby’s gums should begin shortly after birth, even before the teeth are present. This should be done after each feeding, with gauze or a wet washcloth. This will remove bacteria and food that could harm the erupting teeth. Decay can happen anytime after the teeth first erupt into the mouth. This is when you should begin using a child size toothbrush and water, or non-fluoridated toothpaste. Only use a small, pea-size amount. You can begin using a children’s toothpaste, with fluoride, when you are sure your child is able to spit out the toothpaste, usually around age 3. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle and if you are using a pacifier, always use a clean one.
Q. What should a parent do if their child has a toothache?
A. Whenever you have a question regarding your child’s teeth, you should call your dentist for evaluation. In our office, anyone who has pain will be able to speak with a dentist, and be seen that day, if it is needed. Pain is usually a sign that treatment is needed. We recommend that children be seen every six months for cleaning and exam, to prevent painful situations from occurring.
Q. Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child’s teeth?
A. Sucking is a natural reflex for your infant. This begins in the womb, and provides a sense of security. Prolonged thumb sucking may interfere with proper growth and with teeth alignment. Pacifiers have essentially the same effect as thumb sucking. The benefit of using a pacifier is that it is often an easier habit to break. Your child will usually stop these habits on their own between 2 and 4 years. Peer pressure will usually help at this time, and you should begin encouraging your child to stop as well, but be careful not to use excessive pressure as this could cause it to become more of a problem.
Q. How can a mom prevent decay caused by nursing?
A. Although they are not visible at birth, the crowns of all 20 of the baby teeth are almost completely formed, and erupt gradually during the first 2.5-3 years. Many parents think that because the baby teeth will eventually be lost, that they do not need to be cared for or repaired. These teeth serve many functions, including chewing, helping with speech, and guiding the permanent teeth into position. Infection (decay) of these teeth can cause pain and damage to the developing permanent teeth.
To reduce the chance of decay, never allow your infant to fall asleep with a bottle, or without cleaning the remaining milk of his or her teeth. Also be careful with fruit juices and any other sweetened liquids. Do not dip your child’s pacifier in anything such as honey or sugar, and make sure to give the baby a clean pacifier, if you choose to use them.
Q. How often does a child need to see the dentist?
A. Your child should be seen at the dental office for cleanings and exams every six months. Your dentist will determine when x-rays are needed and which ones are appropriate. A family dentist may make a recommendation to see the pediatric dentist for specific issues, and if so, the child should still be seen twice a year. These visits are important to prevent disease and the pain associated, along with reinforcing proper oral hygiene, and monitoring tooth development.