Good Dental Health Starts Early
From teething questions, to what to do when your child's tooth gets knocked out, guest blogger and dentist Dr. Stephanie Chen covers it all.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, when the goal is raising awareness about the importance of children’s oral health. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it is recommended that your child’s first dental visit occur at the time of the appearance of the first tooth and no later than the first birthday.
During this first visit, your pediatric dentist will evaluate your child to determine if he or she is at risk for early dental cavities, also known as dental caries. Early identification and intervention has proven to be very cost-effective in the long run. In addition, demonstrating age-appropriate tooth brushing techniques and evaluating the frequency of future visits are part of your initial discussion with your dentist. Other topics include dental habits such as thumb and pacifier, fluoride status, teething, injury prevention, and diet. By establishing your dental home, you have the foundation for the prevention of dental disease along with a trusted professional to contact in the case of a dental emergency.
Here are some areas to discuss with your pediatric dentist:
Teething: Teething can lead to discomfort, irritability and excessive salivation for some children, while others experience no apparent difficulty. Treatment includes oral analgesics and chilled teething rings. Please note that over-the-counter teething gels are not recommended due to the risk of toxicity in infants.
Oral Hygiene: Begin brushing with the appearance of the child’s first tooth, but be aware that this will cause some children to fuss and cry. Tooth brushing should be performed by the parent twice daily, using an age-appropriate toothbrush and the correct amount of toothpaste. For a child under the age of three, no more than a smear of fluoride toothpaste or a rice grain-sized amount of regular toothpaste is recommended, and no more than a size of a pea for children between the ages of three and six. Children lack the manual dexterity to brush properly until the age of five to seven, so a parent should assist. In addition, parents should begin flossing daily when a child’s teeth begin to touch each other.
Diet: Frequent nighttime and daytime bottle or sippy cup feeding with formula, milk, juice or sugary drinks, and between-meal consumption of sugary snacks such as candy, gummy snacks, cookies, and Fruit Roll Ups, can increase the risk of caries. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than four to six ounces of fruit juice per day from the ages of one to six. Milk should be served with meals and not offered throughout the day. If your child needs a bottle or sippy cup for a long period of time, fill it with water only. Note that sugar is also found in foods like chips and crackers. Limiting the frequency of these snacks or consuming them only at mealtime can reduce the risk of dental caries.
Dental Habits: Finger/thumb habits and pacifier use can apply forces to the teeth and palate. Weaning an infant of such habits early on can prevent malocclusions (misalignment of teeth) and skeletal changes.
Dental Trauma: Due to the active nature of children, dental trauma is a common occurrence. The most common site for injury is the upper central incisors. Dental follow-up is necessary for dental trauma because a seemingly minor injury may result in permanent tooth damage. By childproofing the home and providing supervision around stairs, playgrounds and furniture, parents can help reduce the risk of dental injuries.
Certainly this is a lot to consider. Fortunately, your pediatric dentist is here to help. After your first visit, you should have an idea of your child’s dental health status, your responsibilities for dental care, and when your next follow-up visit is expected. Bringing your child to the dentist early can lead to a lifetime of good oral care habits and happy dental visits.
Dr. Stephanie Chen has been practicing pediatric dentistry over twenty years. She received her dental degree at The Ohio State University and her pediatric specialty degree at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For questions, call Chen Pediatric Dentistry at (704) 365-0888.