Keeping Baby Teeth Sparkly White
Just about the time your baby is starting to show a grin, roll over and reach for some pureed meals, a couple little teeth start poking through … and then the teeth just keep coming. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child see a pediatric dentist by age 1 for an evaluation. This can be scary for a toddler, but with some preparation, the first visit to a dentist can be a positive experience.
Healthy baby teeth hold space for permanent teeth and help guide them into the correct position. Severe decay and early loss of baby teeth can result in crowded, crooked permanent teeth. Healthy teeth save time and money. Good oral health means less potential for more extensive and expensive treatments down the road
Infants, preschoolers, big kids and teens, however, require different approaches to manage their behavior, guide their dental growth and development, and help them avoid future dental problems. If you have a toddler who has not yet seen a dentist, consider a “get acquainted” visit to introduce your child to the dental office before the first appointment. You also may consider seeing a dentist, who specializes in young children.
Pediatric dentists have two to three years of specialized training beyond dental school in treating kids, plus, the offices are child-friendly. They also are trained to use behavior guidance with a child. The main goals of behavior guidance are to establish communication, alleviate fear and anxiety, deliver quality dental care, build a trusting relationship between dentist and child, and promote the child’s positive attitude toward dental health and oral health care.
Because every child is different, dentists have a wide range of approaches to help a child grow up and become responsible for his or her oral health. A pediatric dentist makes a recommendation of behavior guidance methods for the child based upon health history, special health care needs, dental needs, type of treatment required, the consequences of no treatment, emotional and intellectual development, and parental preferences.
Children typically respond to an unfamiliar dental office in the same way they respond to a new pediatrician, new childcare provider, or a first visit to someone’s home. Some are totally comfortable, while others are fearful. But if a child visits a dentist when his or her mouth is comfortable, he or she is much more likely to find the visit pleasant and fun.
Before you go, consider these five tips to make the first visit good for all.
1. Select an appointment time when your child is alert and rested.
2. Read your child a story about a character who had a good dental visit. Ask the dental office for suggested reading.
3. Make a list of your questions about your child’s oral health in advance. This could include such topics as home care, injury prevention, diet and snacking, fluoride and tooth development.
4. Give your child some control over the dental visit. Such choices as “Will you hold your bear or should I?” or “Which color toothbrush do you like?” will make the visit more enjoyable.
5. Give center stage to the pediatric dentist. If the pediatric dentist does most of the talking, the dentist and your child will build a better relationship. The parent and dentist can talk after the examination.
Brushing Up on Toothbrushing
Toddlers can, and should, be encouraged to help brush their teeth as soon as they can hold a brush. Parents should brush preschoolers’ teeth and supervise the brushing for school-age children until they are 7-8 years old.
• Choose a toothbrush designed for children’s smaller hands and mouths. Look for large handles that help children control the toothbrush.
• The best toothbrushes have soft, round-ended (polished) bristles that clean while being gentle on the gums.
• Throw out a toothbrush after three months or sooner if the bristles are fraying. Frayed bristles can harm the gums and are not as effective in cleaning teeth.
• The best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed.
• When all sides of a tooth cannot be cleaned by brushing alone, it is time to begin flossing the child’s teeth. Ask the pediatric dentist for tips on flossing your child’s teeth.