According to a recent poll on children’s health, nearly half of the parents who hadn’t received advice from their pediatrician or dentist believed that their child’s first dental visit could wait until age two or three. But oral care should begin even before baby teeth emerge, and caring for your child’s primary teeth is essential to their overall health and development. Find out why you need to be concerned about baby tooth health and learn when your child should begin getting regular dental checkups.
Why You Need to Care for Your Baby’s Teeth Even Before You Can See Them
Even if your baby’s first tooth hasn’t erupted, their mouth can still harbor bacteria. And despite the fact that the first set of teeth will fall out, they still play a crucial role in a child’s development:
- Baby teeth can develop decay, just like permanent teeth. Decayed teeth can make it more difficult to chew, which means your child may not receive the proper nutrition.
- More severe decay can lead to an infection that can affect the permanent tooth bud and impact the way facial bones and muscles develop. An infection can also spread to other parts of the body, like the brain or lungs.
- Baby teeth need to remain healthy so that they act as placeholders for permanent teeth. If your child loses a tooth prematurely, adjacent teeth can shift to take up the space, and that can cause crowding or impaction when permanent teeth come in.
- If teeth are not in their proper place (because of tooth loss and shifting), speech development may suffer.
What Parents Should Know About Baby Tooth Health
Follow these best practices for taking care of your child’s teeth at home:
- Wipe gums. If your baby has not yet started teething, use a damp washcloth or moist gauze pad to wipe the gums.
- Avoid nighttime bottles. Never let your child go to bed with a bottle. The breast milk or formula can pool around the teeth, and when left there for several hours, the sugars can lead to decay.
- Gently brush emerging teeth. When baby teeth begin to emerge, brush teeth with an infant toothbrush, water, and a rice-grain-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. You’ll want to use a very small amount of toothpaste to minimize the risk that your child will swallow it.
- Practice spitting. At two years old, teach your child to spit after brushing. The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that you don’t let your child rinse with water before spitting since that could cause accidental swallowing.
- Begin flossing. Start flossing your child’s teeth when they begin to touch.
- Introduce toothpaste. Between ages 3 and 6, you can apply a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Supervise while your child learns to brush his or her own teeth.
When Should Your Baby First Visit a Dentist?
The ADA recommends that children start seeing a dentist when they reach their first birthday, but it’s always wise to consult with your pediatrician to get advice specific to your child.
During the first appointment, you’ll spend much of the time talking to your dentist about your child’s diet and any pertinent medical conditions. The dentist will also ask about teething, habits like pacifier use or thumb-sucking, and the current oral care routine in your household. Then, while your child is seated on your lap, the dentist will perform a short examination to assess the growth and development of the teeth and identify any areas of concern.
These early visits should help make your child more comfortable in the dental office and establish familiarity with the dentist and staff. It’s important to establish trust early so that your child will not fear future dental visits.
Find Your Trusted Partner in Family Dental Care
When choosing healthcare providers for your child, you want to be sure that the practitioners are highly qualified as well as caring and compassionate. That’s what you’ll find at Empire Dental Care. Dr. Tehila Cohen and her staff will make you and your child feel at ease right away, with thorough and gentle dental care. Regular dental visits are key to healthy teeth and gums, so making your child feel comfortable will help eliminate any fear surrounding going to the dentist. Schedule a consultation or call us at (585) 671-1650 to learn more about our children’s dental services.