A child’s first visit to the dentist should occur no later than 6 months after the first tooth erupts, or around the 1st birthday. Our entire staff is committed to providing a comfortable and pleasant environment that makes going to the dentist a positive experience for your child.
At the first visit, we assess the child’s medical history and talk to parents. We explain that decay, the most common childhood disease is caused by bacteria and other factors, and it is infectious – that means it can be transferred from mother to child, and child to child, as well as from adult to adult. The bacteria that cause decay can actually start to grow on infants gums shortly after birth, before the first tooth erupts. High decay patterns run in families and bacteria are passed from mother to child from generation to generation. As a result, our efforts to prevent childhood decay actually start with the mother before the child is born. We encourage all mothers to be examined and provide treatment for decay and gum disease to reduce the amount of decay causing bacteria that can be transferred to the infant.
You will be instructed as to how to clean your baby’s teeth and gums, and given guidance related to teething and fluoride therapy. Parents are also cautioned to avoid practices that would encourage bacterial transfer to the baby like sharing toothbrushes, sharing eating utensils, or cleaning pacifiers with saliva.
As your child grows, our efforts to prevent decay continue with ongoing cavity risk assessment at regular hygiene visits. When the back teeth are developing, grooves called pits and fissures form in the chewing surfaces. Sealants, which provide a barrier to prevent decay where it most often occurs, are a recommended treatment for many children.
We also closely monitor bite development and jaw position. Invisalign orthodontic services are provided in our office, and we refer to several well-qualified orthodontic specialists when appropriate.
The discomfort of teeth coming into the mouth can cause your baby to become irritable. In addition to fussiness, signs of teething include drooling and the urge to mouth objects. A temperature of less than 100 degrees is considered normal while teething. If your child has a fever while teething, call your physician. You can ease some of the discomfort by lightly rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a wet gauze pad. A cool teething ring can also help soothe a baby’s tender gums.
2. Thumb or pacifier sucking
The catchall term for the various oral sucking habits of children is “non-nutritive sucking.” This includes all thumb or finger sucking and the use of pacifiers. Most contemporary pediatric health providers agree that these habits have important formative and nurturing functions and, at least for the first few years of life should be ignored. There is almost universal agreement that sucking should cease before permanent teeth begin to appear. The duration and intensity of sucking seems to be more important in determining dental changes. A critical issue with pacifiers is safety. A pacifier should be resistant to breakage, designed to prevent airway obstruction, kept clean, and never secured around your child’s neck.
3. Baby bottle tooth decay
This is a common syndrome in which infants’ teeth can be destroyed by decay – but it is easily prevented. Baby bottle decay occurs when a child’s teeth are frequently exposed to sugary liquids for long periods. Among these are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice, and other sweetened liquids. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice. Never use the feeding bottle as a pacifier. Wipe the baby’s gums with gauze or a clean washcloth and water after feeding. If you must give your baby a bottle at naptime or bedtime, make sure it contains plain water.
4. When to start brushing
You should start cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as they appear. A small, pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste can be used after the child is old enough not to swallow it. One of the best ways to encourage brushing is to be a good role model. Many parents brush their own teeth while brushing their child’s, making brushing a fun time together.
5. When do baby (and then permanent) teeth come in?
Children’s teeth begin forming before birth. All 20 primary teeth, also called baby teeth, are present in a child’s jaw bones when they are born. The lower two front teeth are typically the first to erupt, at 4 to 6 months. By age 3, all the baby teeth are usually in, although their pace and order varies. Permanent teeth begin appearing at about age 6 and continue until approximately age 21.