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National Children’s Dental Health Month – February 2013
There is much research supporting the important benefits of early childhood dental care. Beginning proper oral hygiene habits at a young age will lead to better dental health and reduced pain and trauma for your children. The American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month every February to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. Developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits helps children begin a lifetime with healthy teeth and gums. Dental disease is one of the most common, yet preventable conditions today.
Here are some common dental questions asked by parents of young children.
- When should my child first visit the dentist? The first dental visit should be scheduled shortly after your child’s primary teeth begin eruption, around the age of one year. The exam should be short and upbeat. This gives your child an opportunity to sit in the dental chair and meet their future dentist before dental care begins. Having a positive experience at this visit will help put your child at ease during future dental visits. Concerns with diet, dental anomalies, or decay can be addressed at this time. Exams are most often done “lap to lap” or “knee to knee.” Dental visits at this age are usually performed by a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists are specialists in the dental field that concentrate on caring for infants, children, and adolescents, including patients with special needs.
- Are primary (baby) teeth really important? Primary teeth are the first set of teeth erupting in the mouth. Healthy teeth help the child eat and maintain good nutrition. They also guide permanent teeth into proper position for eruption.
- My child plays sports; should I do anything special to protect his teeth? Athletic mouth protectors or mouth guards are made of soft plastic and made to fit comfortably over the upper teeth. They protect the teeth, lips, gums, and mouth from sports-related injuries. This should be a priority if your child participates in sports. Generic mouth guards can be purchased at any sporting goods store, but your local dentist can make a custom-fitted one for best protection.
- Are dental sealants really necessary? Sealants are placed in the deep grooves and pits of permanent molars to block bacteria and food from entering. They are a clear or milky-white plastic coating that prevents tooth decay on the chewing surfaces of posterior teeth. They are easy to apply and an anesthetic is not necessary. Sealants are highly recommended as a low-cost preventive measure.
- How can I teach my child good oral hygiene habits? Parents can set a good example for their children by receiving routine dental care themselves. Establishing and following habits of good nutrition, receiving routine dental visits, and practicing daily oral hygiene will give your child a life-long example to follow.
Follow these helpful tips for establishing early dental hygiene habits.
- Begin brushing with a soft bristled toothbrush made for infants after their first teeth erupt. A pea-sized amount of toothpaste can be added for toddlers and older children.
- NEVER put a baby to bed with a bottle or nurse them to sleep at the breast. The small amount of milk or other liquids pooling around the gumline can break down the enamel surface and place the child at a high risk for cavities. Use plain water if children need a drink before bed.
- Pacifiers are helpful in soothing fussy babies but prolonged use can affect the shape of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth. Pacifiers should not be used past the 2nd birthday.
- Thumb sucking can also be harmful to developing dentition if allowed to continue for a prolonged period. A pediatric dentist can recommend a mouth appliance if the habit is extremely difficult to break.
- Be watchful of the foods in your child’s diet. Soda is a definite no-no for young children, not only because of the sugar content, but due to the acidic nature of both regular and diet soda.