A child’s first visit to the dentist should be enjoyable. Children are not born with a natural fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. Our office makes a special effort to use pleasant, non-frightening, simple words to describe each treatment.
We want you and your child to feel at ease from the moment your family arrives at our office. The more you and your child know about the first visit, the better you will feel.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends
Children should visit the dentist by their first birthday. It is important that your child’s newly erupted teeth (which emerge between six and 12 months of age) receive proper dental care and benefit from proper oral hygiene habits right from the beginning.
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When New Teeth Arrive
Your child’s primary or baby teeth will begin to appear between the ages of six and 12 months, and continue to erupt until about age three. During this time, your son or daughter’s gums may feel tender and sore.
To help alleviate this discomfort, we recommend that you soothe the gums by rubbing a clean finger or a cool, wet cloth across them. You may also choose to make use of a teething ring. When your little one has finished teething, you can expect a total of 20 primary teeth.
Your child’s primary teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood. Permanent teeth begin erupting at age six, and continue until age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth — 32, including wisdom teeth.
Adopting Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits
As your child’s teeth erupt, be sure to examine them every two weeks, to check for lines and discoloration that may be caused by decay. Remember that sugary foods and liquids can attack a new tooth, so take care that your child brushes after feeding or eating. We recommend brushing four times a day for optimal oral hygiene: after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, and at bedtime.
Brushing can be fun, and your son or daughter should brush as soon as the first tooth arrives. When a baby’s tooth erupts, parents should brush it with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. For children younger than two, do not use fluoride toothpaste unless advised to do so by a healthcare professional. We suggest reviewing proper tooth brushing procedures with your child.
Flossing is also a part of good oral hygiene habits, and we will discuss with you the right time to start flossing. If you notice signs of decay, contact our office immediately.
Preventing Tooth Decay with Regular Checkups
Tooth decay is caused by sugars left in your mouth that turn into an acid, which can break down your teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents do not practice regular, good oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away.
Your child should visit us every six months for regular dental cleanings and checkups. We recommend fluoride treatments twice a year, along with cleanings to keep teeth their strongest.
Tooth sealants are also recommended because they “seal” the deep grooves in your child’s teeth, and prevent decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years, but will be monitored at your child’s regular checkups.
Dental Care for Your Baby
Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your son or daughter will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Caring for Gums
Even before your infant’s first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gum tissue.
This practice both clears your little one’s mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.
Baby’s First Tooth
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.
At this stage, toothpaste isn’t necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn’t react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don’t give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months and try the toothbrush again.
During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.
Brushing with Toothpaste
When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your son or daughter’s brush. However, for the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, unless advised to do so by a dentist, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters.
At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing to prepare for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.
Don’t give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital.
Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.
First Visit to the Dentist
It’s recommended that you bring in your baby for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption — usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems.
We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one’s teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
Setting a Good Example
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits.
As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.)
Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to clean their own teeth thoroughly until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing.
The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!