Promoting the oral health of children in Massachusetts
Child - Pediatric Dentist - Parent
When should I take my child to the pediatric dentist?
Your child should start seeing a dentist when the first tooth appears or no later than his/her first birthday. Why so early? This appointment gives the pediatric dentist an opportunity to discuss diet/nutrition, proper oral hygiene care and prevent any dental problems that can occur. Primary teeth are important. It’s true that they will fall out. Baby teeth should remain in place until they are naturally lost. Baby teeth act as guides for the adult teeth. They have nerves just like the adult teeth. If decay is allowed to progress rapidly, children will feel pain or discomfort just like the adult teeth. Healthy teeth allow children to chew food more easily, learn to speak clearly, and smile with confidence. The general guideline is that primary centrals fall out around age six. Whereas primary molars usually fall out around age eleven.
Prevention for children includes:
1. Children, the Parent and Pediatric Dentistry
Before the first visit Please discuss the positive aspects of dentistry with your child. Convey good feelings about dental visits as being a part of growing up. Expect your child to react well and enjoy the first visit to our office. Chances are he/she will do exactly that!
During the first visit Your child will be introduced to the dental team and the dental environment. "They are going to count and brush your teeth." Use positive words. We encourage the parent to use these terms when talking to their child about their dental experiences.
Positive Reinforcement This is a technique used to reinforce good behavior by praising you child or providing a reward following a desired response. We feel this will promote continued good behavior.
2. Proper diet
Your child must have a balanced diet to help his/her teeth and gums develop properly. A diet high in sugar and starches may place your child at risk for tooth decay. These foods are safer for teeth if they are eaten with a meal and not as a snack. Sticky foods, such as fruit roll ups and gummy bears, tend to stick on the teeth and are not easily washed away by saliva, water or milk. These sticky foods have more potential to cause cavities.
Don’t put your child to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or sweetened liquid. Any un-swallowed liquid in the mouth supports bacteria that produce acids and attack the teeth. Putting your child to bed with nothing more than a pacifier or bottle of water will protect him/her from severe tooth decay.
3. Flossing and brushing
Your child should brush after breakfast and in the evening prior to going to bed. Flossing is critical in the evening.
4. Oral habits
It is normal for babies and young children to suck on fingers, pacifiers or objects. It provides security. For young babies, it’s a way to make contact with and learn about the world. Most children stop their habit on their own between two and four years of age. No harm is done to their teeth or jaws. Some children who retain a habit past four years old, may result with upper front teeth that tip out and lower front teeth that tip inwards. The key time to stop with the habit is by age four, just before the permanent front teeth come in. In some cases children need the help of their parents and their pediatric dentist to help them stop. The last resort is for their pediatric dentist to fabricate a mouth appliance that blocks the sucking habit. The thumb, finger and pacifier all affect the teeth essentially in the same way. The pacifier habit is often easiest to break.
Sealants are a plastic coating applied by the pediatric dentist to aid in the prevention of cavities. Sealants are recommended for the permanent six year molars and permanent twelve year molars. When the molars fully erupt, the sealants are applied to the biting surfaces of these teeth .
Dental problems for children include:
1.Early childhood caries (also known as baby bottle decay or nursing caries)
To prevent tooth decay from a bottle or nursing, encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle. Night-time breast feeding should be avoided after the first baby tooth begins to erupt. Drinking juice from a bottle will also cause decay. Choose a cup instead. Bottle-feeding should be weaned at 12-14 months of age.
2. Interproximal dental decay (cavities in between the teeth)
To prevent interproximal dental decay, gummy and sticky foods should be avoided. Flossing should be encouraged and supervised until the child has the dexterity to floss independently (usually around the time the child can tie their shoes).
Dental check-ups should be at least twice a year for most children.
Some children need more frequent dental visits because of increased risk of tooth decay due to poor oral hygiene. During the check up the dentist will review your child’s medical and dental history. He or she will gently examine your child’s teeth and oral tissues. Their teeth will be cleaned by removing debris from both the teeth and gums. Fluoride will be applied to the teeth to renew the fluoride content in the enamel, thus strengthening the teeth and preventing cavities. Hygiene instructions will improve your child’s brushing and flossing. X-rays are only taken when necessary to protect your child’s dental health. Your pediatric dentist will discuss the need for x-rays with you before any are taken.
Help your child enjoy good dental health:
a. Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
b. Floss at night prior to bedtime.
c. Beware of frequent snacking throughout the day.
d. Assure proper fluoride in drinking water and use supplements if needed.
e. Continue with regular dental check-ups.
f. Have sealants applied when appropriate.
A dental home:
Your child needs to start developing a relationship with their dentist at a young age. They need to see how fun a kids dental office can be and allows them to get familiar with the office staff. Children develop trust with consistency. The goal is to start them early in order to develop a relationship in which they progress from an exam to a cleaning to sealants and any restorative treatment that needs to be done. Children usually don’t do well if their first visit to the dentist is at age four with cavities. They tend to get overwhelmed with new noises, vibrations, and of course local anesthesia.
The initial visit is informative for the parent. Parents develop an individualized preventative program with the pediatric dentist. Questions will be answered about diet, brushing, flossing and any habits your child may have. As the child gets older, parents will be informed about growth and development. Referrals may be given to other dental specialists, such as orthodontists, due to tooth crowding.
The pediatric dental office is a warm, friendly and caring environment. Children love coming to the dentist. Their perceptions of dentistry are much different than their parents.