New parents often ask me, "When should my child first see a dentist?". According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, every child should visit a dentist by their first birthday. This first visit is important to establish a dental home for the child early-a place where a patient can go for familiar, comfortable and compassionate dental care, especially in the case of a dental emergency. Pediatric dentists have completed two additional years beyond dental school training to care for issues unique to young patients. They are experts in guiding parents in the early stages of oral care for their child.
Let's face it, some kids are afraid of going to the dentist. Starting their visits early, though, does help reduce anxiety.
Regular cleanings at the dentist is important in maintaining a healthy smile but brushing and flossing at home is key. A wet toothbrush does the job for infants. Once a child is two years old, use a training (non-fluoride containing) toothpaste. Young children tend to swallow toothpaste when brushing, rather than spitting it out. Only use fluoride toothpaste once the child has learned to spit out and not swallow it.
As soon as two teeth touch each other, floss between them once a day. Either regular floss or special plastic floss holders will work well. Parents should encourage young children to brush and praise them for doing so but understand that a young child's dexterity is not fully developed. For this reason, it is always best for a caregiver to brush the child's teeth until the child is at least seven years old.
Children these days, more than ever, can have a cavity-free life with advances in dental care such as sealants and improved education. Cavities occur when sugar-containing foods stay in the mouth for a long time. The bacteria in the mouth convert the food into acid that destroys tooth enamel. Saliva helps to wash away the acid between meals, but if your child is always eating, there may not be time for this acid to get washed away. Encourage brushing at least twice a day and limit snacking, especially the sticky snacks that linger on the teeth.
Dr. Mary Ritter
Commerce Park Children's Dentistry & Orthodontics