Between changing diapers and the chaotic sleep schedule, the last thing a new parent needs to worry about is their newborn’s teeth. But, according to a 2010 AAPD Survey, a whopping 97 percent of parents were unaware of the first-year, first visit recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The CDC considers tooth decay a leading chronic childhood disease, and while it’s totally preventable it also happens to be more common than childhood asthma. Giving your child the very best start to great oral health can keep them from ever having to suffer pain from a cavity or tooth loss in their lifetime. Basically, a child’s first tooth erupts somewhere between the ages of 3 to 9 months. It’s a great reminder that if you haven’t already scheduled your child’s first dental visit, right now may be as good a time as any.
The truth is that primary or baby teeth need a good start because these teeth are important in holding the space for permanent teeth and may still be present as a child begins middle school. A child can still get a toothache from a cavity and find it hard to chew and speak with painful and sensitive baby teeth. In addition, a decay prone primary dentition (baby teeth) creates a bacterial environment that makes it highly likely that your child will grow up with a decay prone permanent dentition. For other helpful dental tips, take a look at a few we suggest to parents who come to our Southfield practice:
- Avoid sugary drinks or juice before bedtime. If at all possible, try to transition your child to water before bedtime. Giving sugary snacks before bed sets a precedence that’s difficult to reverse. This “before bedtime habit” can begin the process of tooth decay that can destroy baby teeth and lead to infection and pain later on. Whatever you do, do not put your child to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water!
- Start brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. Parents need to assist children with tooth brushing. In fact, those small hands simply don’t have the dexterity to handle a toothbrush so parents should be doing the brushing for their children. Even if the child is sure they can do a good job, it’s important that parents re-brush for them twice a day, more after eating between meal sweets. Introduce floss right from the beginning! Even if the parent doesn’t floss all of their teeth (for instance just floss between the last 2 teeth on each side), it is important to socialize your child to flossing as early as possible so there will be little resistance when they are older and you start insisting they floss. One can imagine that if a child gets used to a consistent and comforting bedtime ritual (reading a story and brushing and flossing before bedtime) they will unconsciously have unexplained “good associations” with flossing when they are an adult and are on their own.
- Begin good oral health habits early. In other words, it’s good to start even when your children are infants. Something as simple as lifting the child’s lip wiping their mouth, inspecting their gums and teeth on a regular schedule sets an expectation and a familiar routine that won’t make a dental visit or a tooth brushing seem traumatic. Even before they have any teeth, use a damp, soft, thin terrycloth washcloth over your index finger to wipe the gums and ridges where the teeth will erupt in a few months. Using a terrycloth washcloth even after the baby teeth have started to erupt will allow you to “feel” what you are doing even if your infant closes his or her lips around your finger and you cannot see what you are doing.
- Starting regular dental visits now can reduce costs later. According to the AAPD, scheduling a child’s first visit to the dentist by age 1 reduces cost by 40 percent for the child’s first five years of life. These visits are great. We’re here to help your child’s first visit be as relaxed and stress-free as possible. My experienced staff of dental professionals love to assist both parents and young children on their very first cavity-free visit. We can also provide some essential tips and tricks that can help your child see dental hygiene and their dental appointments as enjoyable and fun.
- A dentist or pedodontist of their very own. When you have an established family dentist, emergencies can be handled much more efficiently. At our Southfield Dental practice, we know that small children, 12 to 18 months, can be curious, mobile and can get into trouble fast. All it takes is one unfortunate fall for a dental emergency to pop up. With mobile technology, we can have you send us a picture of what’s happening to see if you actually do need to come in. Sometimes, if conditions warrant, we will refer your child to a specialist, a pedodontist (children’s dentist) and we can arrange that referral for you.
Our goal is to make sure every child is cavity-free for their entire life. You can help us get there by visiting our website at drmarklangberg.wpenginepowered.com or calling our office at 248-356-8790 to schedule an appointment today!
Thank you for your time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD