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Health Information For Parents
When should I schedule my child’s first trip to the dentist? Should my 3-year-old be flossing? How do I know if my child needs braces?
Many parents have a tough time judging how much dental care their kids need. They know they want to prevent cavities, but they don’t always know the best way to do so. Here are some tips and guidelines.
Good dental care begins before a baby’s first tooth appears. Just because you can’t see the teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.
Here’s when and how to care for those little choppers:
Even babies can get tooth decay. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle can harm a baby’s teeth. Sugars from juice, formula, or milk that stay on a baby’s teeth for hours can eat away at the enamel (the layer of the tooth that protects against tooth decay). This can lead to “bottle mouth” or “baby bottle tooth decay.” When this happens, the front teeth can get discolored, pocked, and pitted. Cavities might form and, in severe cases, the decayed teeth might need to be pulled.
When kids are 6 months old, they can switch from a bottle to a sippy cup (with a straw or hard spout). This helps prevent liquid from pooling around a child’s teeth. By their first birthday, they’ll have the motor skills and coordination to use the cup on their own.
The ADA recommends that children see a dentist by their first birthday. At this first visit, the dentist will explain proper brushing and flossing techniques and do a modified exam while your baby sits on your lap.
These visits can help find problems early and help kids get used to visiting the dentist so they’ll have less fear about going as they get older. Consider taking your child to a dentist who specializes in treating kids. Pediatric dentists are trained to handle the wide range of issues associated with kids’ dental health. They also know when to refer you to a different type of specialist, such as an orthodontist to correct an overbite or an oral surgeon for jaw realignment.
If a child seems to be at risk for cavities or other problems, the dentist may start applying topical fluoride even before all teeth come in (this also can be done in the pediatrician’s office). Fluoride hardens the tooth enamel, helping to ward off the most common childhood oral disease — dental cavities (also called dental caries).
Cavities happen when bacteria and food left on the teeth after eating are not brushed away. Acid collects on a tooth, softening its enamel until a hole — or cavity — forms.
Here’s how to keep cavities away:
As your child’s permanent teeth grow in, the dentist can help prevent decay by applying a thin wash of resin (called a sealant) to the back teeth, where most chewing is done. This protective coating keeps bacteria from settling in the hard-to-reach crevices of the molars. But make sure that kids know that sealants aren’t a replacement for good brushing and regular flossing.
If you are prone to tooth decay or gum disease, your kids might be at higher risk as well. So sometimes even the best brushing and flossing habits can’t prevent a cavity. Be sure to call your dentist if your child complains of tooth pain, which could be a sign of a cavity that needs treatment.
New materials mean pediatric dentists have more filling and repair options than ever. A silver-colored material called amalgam (a special mix of metals) was once the substance of choice for most fillings in permanent teeth. But now, other materials like composite resins are becoming popular. Resins bond to the teeth so the filling won’t pop out, and also can be used to rebuild teeth damaged through injury or conditions like a cleft palate. Because resins are often tooth-colored, they’re considered more attractive.
But in cases of fracture, extensive decay, or malformation of baby teeth, dentists often opt for stainless steel or ceramic crowns. Crowns maintain the tooth while preventing the decay from spreading.
In some rare instances, usually when a more complicated dental procedure is to be done, a dentist will recommend using general anesthesia. Parents should make sure that the professional who gives the medicine is a trained anesthesiologist or oral surgeon before agreeing to the procedure. Don’t be afraid ask your dentist questions.
Regular checkups and good dental hygiene can help prevent the need for this kind of extensive dental work. Also, encourage your kids to use a mouthguard during sports, which can prevent serious dental injuries.
As kids get older, their bite and the straightness of their teeth can become an issue. Orthodontic treatment begins earlier now than it used to, and braces have changed too. The embarrassing old gear — a mouth filled with metal wires and braces — is in the past. Kids as young as age 7 now wear corrective appliances, and plastic-based (sometimes clear) materials have replaced metal.
Orthodontists know that manipulation of teeth at a younger age can be easier and more effective in the long run. Younger children’s teeth can be positioned with fairly minor orthodontic devices, preventing major treatment later on.
As kids grow, plan on routine dental checkups anywhere from once every 3 months to once a year, depending on your dentist’s recommendations. Keeping sugary foods in check, encouraging regular brushing and flossing, and working with your dentist will lead good dental health.
Chloe and the Nurb sing about teeth and all they do for you – talking and eating, just to name a few!
If your child loses aÂ baby tooth, there’s no need to replace it.Â But if a permanent tooth is dislodged, it’s a dental emergency. Here’s what to do.
Gum disease doesn’t just happen to people your grandparents’ age – it can happen to teens too. Get the details here.
What happens when you go to the dentist? Find out in this article for kids.
Retainers are really common. In fact, most kids have to wear a retainer for at least a little while after getting their braces taken off. Find out more.
Does your child need braces? Find out when braces are necessary, what’s involved in caring for them, and how to find low-cost orthodontic care in your area.
Keeping kids’ teeth healthy requires more than just daily brushing. Learn about fluoride, a substance found naturally in water that plays an important role in healthy teeth.
An orthodontist prevents and treats mouth, teeth, and jaw problems using braces, retainers, and other devices.
The healthier your teeth are, the happier you look. That’s why it’s important to take great care of your teeth by brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. Learn more.
Gnashing and grinding teeth, called bruxism, is common in kids, and often happens during deep sleep or while a child is under stress.
Did you know that your mouth is the first step in the body’s digestive process? Or that the mouth and teeth are essential for speech? Learn about the many roles your mouth and teeth play.
Just getting braces and have no idea what to expect? Had braces for a while but wonder what’s going on in there? Whatever your situation is, you’re not alone: millions of teens have braces.
Find out what the experts have to say.
There’s a lot more to taking care of your teeth than breath mints and mouth sprays. Read this article to learn the facts on flossing, how to give plaque the brush-off, and much more.
Our mouth and teeth play an important role in our daily lives. Here’s a course on the basics – including common problems of the mouth and teeth.
Braces are a fact of life for many kids. Find out how they work and how to take care of them.
Cavities are small holes in your teeth that need to be filled. Find out what causes tooth decay and how dentists handle it.
Good oral health starts even before your child’s first tooth comes in. Learn how to instill good habits that will last a lifetime.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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