This week instead of answering just one question I’m going to answer a few different ones about children’s dental health.
One of the most common questions is when should a child have their first dental visit. A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests children be seen by a dentist by their first birthday. This may seem really early but the rationale behind the early visit is less about teeth than you might think. At that early age, we want to make sure growth and development of the jaws is progressing normally. The visit is also about nutrition, education and developing good habits in order to lower the risk of cavities in baby teeth.
I would advise each parent to prepare for their child’s first visit to the dentist by going to the library or local bookstore and getting a couple of children’s books that deal with baby teeth and the first visit to the dentist.
You will probably find a wealth of titles to choose from but “The Berenstein Bears Go To The Dentist” is a good choice that covers all the necessary information about what will take place at their first visit.
Another thing that parents can do is bring their child with them when they have their own check-up and cleaning. This allows the child to see that it is not scary and that no one will hurt them. Most dental offices will allow a parent to bring a child with but you may want to call just to verify that it is OK.
Another question I receive often is about fluoride and how often a child should visit the dentist. Many people don’t think that children need to go to the dentist because their baby teeth are just going to fall out anyway. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Baby teeth are very important because they allow the jaw to grow properly and most importantly they hold space until such a time when the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. If they are removed too soon there may not be enough room for the permanent teeth to come in, resulting in the need for oral surgery and orthodontics to correct the problem.
Most people are aware of the benefit that fluoride has against the formation of cavities, especially in growing children. While there is fluoride in the water most people today drink bottled water which contains no fluoride. Having topical fluoride placed at your child’s check up appointments twice per year ensures that their teeth will remain healthy and strong.
Children that consume large amounts of juice, sports drinks, colas or are still nursing are particularly at a much higher risk for the development of cavities. While all children benefit from fluoride usage this group will gain the most advantage against tooth decay.
Injuries to the mouth and teeth are very common amongst school age children and must be dealt with quickly.
If your child has broken a tooth, knocked a tooth out or even hit their jaw, getting to the dentist as soon as possible is vital. If a tooth has been broken try to retain the broken piece as it may be able to be bonded back in place. If your child has knocked their tooth out, rinse it off, put it in milk and get to the dentist as soon as possible. In some cases it is possible to re-implant the tooth back into the socket if you get to the dentist quick enough. A blow to the jaw or chin by an accident or fall can damage the jaw joint and should be evaluated by a dentist to determine if any damage has been done and if any treatment would be needed to aid in the healing process.
I hope that you will follow these tips to ensure that your child has healthy, strong, beautiful teeth that will last a lifetime.