The “Littles” and Their First Pediatric Dental Visit
“First visit by first birthday” sums it up. Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between six and twelve months of age. Early exams and regular preventative care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.
There are lots of important reasons to establish a dental home at a young age. The most important reason is to help establish great oral health right away. We will review brushing & flossing, toothpaste usage, tooth friendly snacking options, bottles & sippy cups, finger and pacifier habits, and any other concerns or questions you may have. We will also complete a caries risk assessment to help determine your child’s risk level for cavities in the future.
Believe it or not, yes. Dental decay can occur at a very young age, and keeping baby teeth happy and healthy is an important part of a child’s overall health. Dental decay is the most common childhood disease (even more common than asthma), and it can occur for lots of reasons—knowledge is the key to preventing cavities.
Primary, or “baby,” teeth are important for so many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.
A checkup every six months is recommended in order to prevent cavities and monitor other dental concerns.
Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. Just as a pediatrician develops special talents, skills and knowledge for working with children, a pediatric dentist is able to effectively care for the dental needs of young people. Pediatric dentists receive special training in working with children of all ages, and with children, adolescents, and adults with special needs. Everything about our offices are geared specifically towards your child for a great visit!
We feel it is so important to make sure your child visits the dentist early that we offer all patients under 2 FREE new patient exams!
About Brushing & Flossing
The sooner the better! Before your babies teeth actually erupt, it’s great to get into the habit of wiping their gums with a soft, wet cloth after each feeding. Once baby teeth erupt, start to brush their teeth with a soft infant toothbrush or finger brush at least twice a day, and ideally after each feeding (especially at night). Switch over to a toddler brush around the same age that your child starts walking. At this point, brush their teeth for 2 minutes each morning and each night. Your child can start to “help” you brush, but it is important that you brush for them until around the age of 6 or 7.
With the eruption of your child’s teeth, you want to start using a fluoridated toothpaste. However, only use a tiny smear of that paste until around the age of 3, or when your child can spit appropriately. At that age, you can increase to a small pea size amount. There are so many fun flavors of toothpaste now—as long as it’s fluoridated, whatever flavor/texture your child likes is the one to use.
It’s great to get into the habit of using floss sticks right away, but definitely once you toddler’s baby molars start to come in.
About Teething: Symptoms & Comfort
Symptoms of teething can start several weeks before the teeth actually erupt. The most common symptoms are irritability, excessive salivation or drooling, and some localized discomfort or gum swelling. A secondary side effect of excessive drooling are patches of irritated or dry skin on your child’s chin and/or cheeks.
No, normally it isn’t. Fever, diarrhea and rashes are often thought of as symptoms of teething but actually are not related.
Try wetting a washcloth and putting it in the freezer for a bit, and then letting your child suck or bite down on it. The cold will help reduce some of the gum inflammation and reduce the pain. Cold teething rings also work great, as well as rubbing his/her gums with your finger while applying light pressure.
When a child is having trouble eating or sleeping from teething symptoms, try giving them the appropriate dose of children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help.
There are a number of homeopathic teething gels and tablets on the market that are thought to relieve pain. However, these products are not well researched and not controlled in a way that is consistent with other medications you give your child. Some contain ingredients that can be potentially toxic to infants. Because of the unknown potential side effects, we would not recommend these products.
About Thumb, Finger, & Pacifier Habits
Habits like this are perfectly normal for infants; most stop by age 2. If your child does not stop naturally, discourage it after age 3 or 4. Prolonged sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth, or bite problems. We will be glad to suggest ways to address a prolonged sucking habit.
Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between two and four years of age. However, some children repeatedly suck on a finger, pacifier or other object over long periods of time. In these children, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come in properly. We will continue to monitor your child’s development and review concerns about his/her sucking habit with you at each visit.
Some children need the help of their parents and their pediatric dentist to help a sucking habit. When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit (usually not until after the age of 3), we can encourage your child to stop, as well as talk about what happens to the teeth if he/she doesn’t stop. If the habit still doesn’t stop, we can talk about other products and options that can help.
Nursing, Bottles, & Sippy Cups
For babies and toddlers, liquids are one of the biggest concerns related to oral health. Here are four tips to help:
- When nursing, be sure to clean baby teeth after each feeding—especially at night.
- Never let your child go to bed with a bottle.
- Don’t let your child walk around with or drink throughout the day from a bottle or sippy cup with anything except water in it. Milk & juice should be saved for meal times only.
- Try to switch from a bottle to a sippy cup, and then to a regular cup, as soon as possible.