Healthy Smiles – Good Oral Health in Young Children
Tooth decay is now widely recognized as an infectious disease that generally is transmitted from mothers to infants during infancy. This knowledge has led to increased emphasis on early and ongoing interventions that counter the decay process and prevent or reduce its harmful effects during early childhood. (Source: fact sheet, The Health Information Exchange, Head Start Bureau, 2-05)
According to a 1995 Surgeon General’s report on oral health, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. The impact of oral diseases in children is substantial. Early tooth loss caused by tooth decay can result in failure to thrive in children. Dental problems can lead to impaired speech development, inability to concentrate on early learning experiences, and absences from child development programs. Children with chronic dental pain are unable to focus and may have difficulty completing schoolwork. (Source: fact sheet, National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center
Q. When should my child first see a dentist?
A. “First visit by first birthday” sums it up. Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between six and twelve months of age. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.
Q. Why so early? What dental problems could a baby have?
A. The most important reason to begin a thorough prevention program. Dental problems can begin early. A big concern is Early Childhood Caries (also known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries). Your child risks severe decay from using a bottle during naps or at night or when they nurse, continuously from the breast. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily, learn to speak clearly, and smile with confidence. Start your child now on a lifetime of good dental habits.
Q. How can I prevent tooth decay from a bottle or nursing?
A. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle. At -will nighttime breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. When juice is offered, it should be in a cup.
Q. Should I worry about thumb and finger sucking?
A. Thumb sucking is perfectly normal for infants; most stop by age 2. If your child does not, discourage it after age 4. Prolonged thumb sucking can created crowded, crooked teeth, or bite problems. Your pediatric dentist will be glad to suggest ways to address a prolonged thumb sucking habit
Q. When should I start cleaning my baby’s teeth?
A. The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush and water. Remember that most small children do not have the dexterity to brush their teeth effectively. Unless it is advised by your child’s pediatric dentist, do not use fluoridated toothpaste until age 2-3.
Q. Any advice on teething?
A. From six months to age 3, your child may have sore gums when teeth erupt. Many children like a clean teething ring, cool spoon, or cold wet washcloth. Some parents swear by a chilled ring; others simply rub the baby’s gums with a clean finger.
Regular Dental Visits
Q. How often should a child see a dentist?
A. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a dental check-up at least twice a year for most children. Some children need more frequent dental visits because of increased risk of tooth decay, unusual growth patterns or poor oral hygiene. Your pediatric dentist will let you know the best appointment schedule for your child.
Q. Why visit the dentist twice a year when my child has never had a cavity?
A. Regular dental visits help your child stay cavity-free. Teeth cleaning remove debris that build up on the teeth, irritate the gums and cause decay. Fluoride treatments renew the fluoride content on the enamel, strengthening teeth and preventing cavities. Hygiene instructions improve your child’s brushing and flossing, leading to cleaner teeth the healthier gums. Tooth decay isn’t the only reason for a dental visit. Your pediatric dentist provides an ongoing assessment of changes in your child’s oral health. For example, your child may need additional fluoride, dietary changes, or sealants for idea dental health. The pediatric dentist may identify orthodontic problems and suggest treatment to guide the teeth as they emerge in the mouth.
The following steps will help your child be part of the cavity-free generation:
Beware of frequent snacking
Brush effectively twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
Floss once a day
Have sealants applied when appropriate
Seek regular dental check-ups
Assure proper fluoride through drinking water, fluoride products or fluoride supplements.