The whole family should understand what good dental practices are. We believe you can start as early as that first tooth and foster a lifetime of healthy teeth.
It is important that children have a positive experience with their dentist.
We always avoid using words such as “drill,” “needle,” and “injection,” and we make a concerted effort to help prevent dental phobias from the beginning.
When it comes to children’s dental health, our team places particular emphasis on the proper maintenance and care of deciduous (baby) teeth.
Baby teeth are instrumental in facilitating good chewing habits, proper speech, and they also function to hold space for permanent teeth.
One of the most common misconceptions about primary teeth is that they are irrelevant to the child’s future oral health. However, their importance is emphasized by the American Dental Association (ADA), which urges parents to schedule a “baby checkup” with a dentist within six months of the first tooth emerging.
What are the functions of primary “baby” teeth?
Primary teeth can be painful to acquire. To soothe tender gums, biting on chewing rings, wet gauze pads, and clean fingers can be helpful. Though most three-year-old children have a complete set of primary teeth, eruption happens gradually – usually starting at the front of the mouth.
The major functions of primary teeth are described below:
Speech production and development – Learning to speak clearly is crucial for cognitive, social, and emotional development. The proper positioning of primary teeth facilitates correct syllable pronunciation and prevents the tongue from straying during speech formation.
Eating and nutrition – Children with malformed or severely decayed primary teeth are more likely to experience dietary deficiencies, malnourishment, and to be underweight. Proper chewing motions are acquired over time and with extensive practice. Healthy primary teeth promote good chewing habits and facilitate nutritious eating.
Self-confidence – Even very young children can be quick to point out ugly teeth and crooked smiles. Taking good care of primary teeth can make social interactions more pleasant, reduce the risk of bad breath, and promote confident smiles and positive social interactions.
Straighter smiles – One of the major functions of primary teeth is to hold an appropriate amount of space for developing adult teeth. In addition, these spacers facilitate the proper alignment of adult teeth and also promote jaw development. Left untreated, missing primary teeth cause the remaining teeth to “shift” and fill spaces improperly. For this reason, dentists often recommend space-maintaining devices.
Excellent oral health – Badly decayed primary teeth can promote the onset of childhood periodontal disease. As a result of this condition, oral bacteria invade and erode gums, ligaments, and eventually bone. If left untreated, primary teeth can drop out completely – causing health and spacing problems for emerging permanent teeth. To avoid periodontal disease, children should practice an adult-guided oral care routine each day, and infant gums should be rubbed gently with a clean, damp cloth after meals.
HAPPY VISIT “When should my child first visit the dentist?”
We suggest that parents should make an initial “happy visit” appointment with Dr. Ed approximately six months after the emergence of the first tooth, or no later than the child’s first birthday.
Although this may seem surprisingly early, the incidence of infant and toddler tooth decay has been rising in recent years. Tooth decay and early cavities can be exceptionally painful if they are not attended to immediately, and can also set the scene for poor oral health in later childhood.
Dr. Ed can provide strategies for eliminating unwanted oral habits (for example, pacifier use and thumb sucking) and he can also help parents in establishing a sound daily oral routine for the child.
What potential dental problems can babies experience?
A baby is at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first tooth emerges. During the first visit, Dr. Ed will help parents implement a preventative strategy to protect the teeth from harm, and also demonstrate how infant teeth should be brushed and flossed.
In particular, infants who drink breast milk, juice, baby formula, soda, or sweetened water from a baby bottle or sippy cup are at high-risk for early childhood caries (cavities). To counteract this threat, Dr. Ed discourages parents from filling cups with sugary fluids, dipping pacifiers in honey, and transmitting oral bacteria to the child via shared spoons and/or cleaning pacifiers in their own mouths.
Importantly, Dr. Ed can also assess and balance the infant’s fluoride intake. Too much fluoride ingestion between the ages of one and four years old may lead to a condition known as fluorosis in later childhood causing white patches on the front of the teeth. Conversely, too little fluoride may render young tooth enamel susceptible to tooth decay.
During a Happy Visit or child’s first dental visit, Dr. Ed builds a rapport with your child and will advise parents to implement a good oral care routine, ask questions about the child’s oral habits, and examine the child’s emerging teeth.
During your child’s Happy Visit Dr. Ed will:
- Give your child a chair ride, so he/her is comfortable in the dental chair
- Count fingers, then hopefully lead to counting your child’s teeth
- Show your child how the suction “Mr. Slurpy” works
- Spray water and air
- Play with our polishing tools on your child’s fingers
- Polish your child’s teeth
- And on occasion, we will apply fluoride
- At the end of the appointment we will visit the Treasure Tower for a prize!
Make note we do not believe in forcing treatment on our patients.
We believe a child should progress at their own pace of comfortably.
Also, Dr. Ed may also advise on the following issues as well:
- Accident prevention
- Choosing a brand of toothpaste for the infant
- Choosing an appropriate toothbrush
- Choosing an orthodontically correct pacifier
- Correct positioning of the head during tooth brushing
- Easing the transition from sippy cup to adult-sized drinking glasses (12-14 months)
- Eliminating fussing during the oral care routine
- Establishing a drink-free bedtime routine
- Maintaining good dietary habits
- Minimizing the risk of tooth decay
- Reducing sugar and carbohydrate intake
- Teething and developmental milestones