The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that every child have a dental checkup on, or before, his/her first birthday. This is because it is important to start good oral hygiene habits early to keep teeth strong and healthy for a lifetime.
At your child’s first visit to the dentist, he or she will have a thorough evaluation of the teeth. We will check to ensure that the teeth are coming in properly and within range for his/her age. Dental x-rays are not usually taken until the teeth begin to come in contact with each other. This often does not happen until the permanent teeth start to erupt. We will review the proper brushing and flossing technique with you and your child. We will clean the child’s teeth as much as they will allow. It is best during the first few visits to take things slow and help the child to become familiar and comfortable with visiting the dentist.
Depending on your child’s fluoride intake at home, additional fluoride treatments may be recommended. Fluoride helps to deliver additional minerals to the teeth, thus making them harder and helping to prevent cavities. Baby teeth and newly erupted permanent teeth are more porous than adult teeth, so they receive a greater benefit from fluoride treatments. Careful consideration will be taken to ensure your child does not receive too much fluoride, as this can cause discoloration of the permanent teeth.
When a child’s permanent molars start erupting (usually around age 6), the biting surfaces may have deep grooves. These grooves are formed when the teeth are developing and the different sections do not completely fuse together. These grooves collect plaque and food debris and often cannot be properly cleaned with a toothbrush. When this happens, the tooth can get a cavity soon after it comes into the mouth.
A dental sealant can be placed in these grooves to prevent plaque and food from being trapped in them. This is a simple, non-invasive procedure. The tooth is simply cleaned, rinsed, and dried. Then the sealant material is syringed into the grooves and hardened with a light. It is important to visit the dentist regularly in order to evaluate your child for dental sealant placement. Once sealants are placed, they will also be checked regularly to make sure they are functioning properly.
Before the teeth begin to erupt, the baby’s mouth should be gently cleaned with a clean, damp washcloth on a regular basis. This is done to remove excess milk residue and to help the baby become comfortable with you cleaning inside the mouth.
Once the first tooth erupts, you should begin brushing with a soft toothbrush. This can be done with or without toothpaste. If toothpaste is used, it should be fluoride-free until the child is old enough to spit the toothpaste out.
It is important to make sure baby is not going to bed with a bottle. Although this can be a difficult process, babies who are routinely put to bed with a bottle can develop severe and extensive tooth decay. They often need to have teeth removed at a very young age. It is important to keep the teeth clean, especially at night, when the amount of saliva in the mouth decreases. Baby’s teeth should be brushed twice a day, including after the last feeding of the night. If your baby still wakes often at night to eat, you should try to keep the teeth as clean as possible during the night.
Children should have teeth brushed at least twice a day, especially before bed and after the last meal is eaten. No snacks/drinks except water should be given after the teeth have been cleaned. When multiple teeth start to erupt, you can introduce flossing. This is done to remove any plaque and food debris that may be lodged between the teeth. The floss is placed between the teeth, taking care to scrape against each tooth and remove plaque that may be stuck to the teeth.
Most children need supervision/help from their parents with brushing/flossing until about age 8. Children have not developed proper hand-eye coordination to thoroughly clean the teeth until this age. You should monitor your child’s brushing/flossing until you are sure they are doing an adequate job.
Once the child is able to spit out the toothpaste, you can begin to use toothpaste containing fluoride. Only a small amount is necessary. You should monitor the child’s brushing habits to make sure they are spitting out the excess toothpaste.
With proper care at home and at the dentist, your child’s teeth can remain healthy and cavity-free for a lifetime.
Teeth whitening is ideal for people who have healthy, unrestored teeth (no fillings) and gums.
Key aspects to know.
Some children will develop cavities in their teeth and need fillings. If this is necessary, the child’s demeanor and behavior at the dentist will be assessed. Most children tolerate these procedures well and only need to have the tooth numbed. The cavity is then removed and the missing tooth structure is replaced with a filling.
If a baby tooth is severely infected, it may need to be removed. If it is not removed, the permanent tooth underneath can become damaged. Depending on the child’s age and tooth development, an appliance may need to be made to hold the other teeth in place until the permanent tooth erupts.
If a child has to have a lot of work or is overly fearful of the dentist, he/she may be referred to a pediatric dentist. These specialists can sedate the child so that he/she will not remember the process and develop a fear of the dentist.