Congratulations on your beautiful new baby! Being a parent is an awesome job that brings many rewards. It also carries much responsibility. By the time you left the hospital, you probably had baby’s first doctor visit scheduled. By the end of that visit, you knew exactly how often you would be returning for check ups and immunizations, probably for the next three years. So, when are you going to the dentist? You may not have planned that yet, but it is every bit as important to the health and well being of your child. Dental decay is the most common childhood illness, and what you do as a parent will have a great effect on your child’s dental health, both now and for years to come. Protecting your child from dental cavities is just one of the many benefits of pediatric dental care.
How Will Pediatric Dental Care Help My Child?
Focusing on your child’s dental health from a very early age lays the foundation for a lifetime of habits that will promote their dental health. It is recommended that the first pediatric dental visit should occur within 6 months of the first tooth coming in, and no later than the first birthday. During your initial visit, you will establish what is considered your dental home – the equivalent of your primary care provider for your dental needs. At this time, the dentist will evaluate your child’s individual dental risks, as well as identify any immediate problems that may require treatment. While general recommendations for dental hygiene and care apply to everyone, each child is unique, with their own individual needs. Some risk is inherited, and children who have mothers with cavities are more likely to have dental problems. Additionally, children who breast or bottle feed after 12 months of age, who eat or drink a lot of sugary foods and liquids, who use a sippy cup throughout the day, who use a bottle at bedtime, and who are exposed to second-hand smoke are all at a higher risk of developing cavities.
Your dentist will also give you explicit instructions on how to care for your child’s teeth and may recommend fluoride supplements or treatment. Most people do not realize that cavities can begin to develop as soon as the tooth pushes through the gum. This is why teeth need to be regularly inspected from an early age; and why your dentist will also instruct you on proper care for your child’s teeth. Once established with a dentist, your child will not only benefit from regular check ups and developmentally appropriate education on how to begin to take personal responsibility for the care of their teeth, but they will have a trusted provider that can treat any acute dental problems.
Research has shown that pediatric dental care reduces the incidence of cavities and improves dental health. In one study, it was found that having an initial dental visit before the age of 4 decreases the likelihood that your child will require dental procedures such as extractions, root canals and crowns. Additionally, the combination of prenatal dental care for mothers and postnatal dental care for mothers and infants results in healthier teeth and fewer cavities.
And the benefits of pediatric dentistry are not just limited to the mouth. Healthy teeth provide vital functions for the growing child. They are necessary for chewing, resulting in adequate nutrition. They are also essential for normal speech development. By preserving healthy teeth and avoiding extractions, the space necessary for permanent teeth is maintained. Healthy teeth and appropriate dental care will also provide your child with a smile that will gain them confidence and a positive self-image. Finally, the benefits of good dental care cannot be achieved if your child is afraid of the dentist. By introducing them young, in a nonthreatening environment, you are promoting a trusting relationship between your child and their dentist.
What You Can Do To Promote Your Child’s Dental Health
As stated earlier, taking your child to see a dentist by their first birthday will go a long way to promoting healthy teeth. Your dentist will give you expert advice on oral hygiene, as well as dietary and lifestyle habits aimed at keeping your child’s teeth healthy and strong. Some general guidelines for you to follow will be to avoid liquids and foods high in sugar, particularly sugar-sweetened drinks in a bottle or sippy cup. Additionally, bottle-feeding should stop by 12-18 months. When your child is small, you should clean their teeth twice daily. Flossing should start when the space between teeth is too small to use a toothbrush. Fluoride toothpaste should be used, but children should be supervised until they are about 8 years old, and care should be taken to avoid swallowing the toothpaste. As your child gets older, his or her needs will change. Between the ages of 6 and 12, it becomes even more important to maintain good oral hygiene to protect permanent teeth. Finally, sometime after the age of 7, your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist to evaluate the need for braces.
Remember, prevention is the key to ensuring your child’s good dental health. Brushing twice daily and flossing every day are important habits to start early in life. By making sure your child gets adequate, and early, pediatric dental care, you will put them well on the way to a beautiful and healthy smile. If you have any questions regarding dental care for your child, or if you would like to schedule a visit, please call Dedicated Dental today at (702) 566-5509, or request your appointment online.