Children’s dentistry is an established part of my practice.
Parents are encouraged to start bringing their children to the dentist around the age of 2 or when all 20 baby teeth are erupted.
The first visit is an orientation to the dental office, including an invitation to the young patient to take a ride in the chair and to view his or her teeth on a TV screen by means of an intraoral camera. I will talk with both child and parent on these topics:
- Brushing and flossing
- Snacks and nutrition
- Tooth eruption
- Gum disease
- Thumb sucking
- Bruxism (grinding)
- Orthodontics (braces)
Dr. Blau was recently interviewed on MSNBC about the dramatic increase in children’s cavities. See the video below!
Baby’s First Teeth
Usually the first baby teeth to come into the mouth are the two bottom front teeth. They begin to appear when your child is about 6 to 8 months old. They are followed by the 4 upper front teeth. The remainder of your baby’s teeth will appear periodically, usually in pairs on each side of the jaw, until the child is about 2½ years old. By the time your child is 2 years old, all 20 baby teeth will most likely have come in.
Even though baby teeth will eventually be lost, they are just as important as the permanent teeth. They not only hold the space for incoming permanent teeth, but are also important for daily functions such as chewing food, speech, and physical appearance. Early tooth loss is due to dental decay and can have a serious impact on your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
For this reason, it is important to begin showing your child at an early age how to eat a wholesome diet and practice daily oral hygiene to maintain healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime of smiles.
Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth
Should you clean your baby’s teeth? Definitely. Even before the first tooth appears, use a soft, clean cloth to wipe your baby’s teeth, gums and cheeks after feeding. As soon as the first tooth appears, begin using a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean the tooth after eating. Don’t cover the brush with too much toothpaste. Young children tend to swallow most of the toothpaste, and swallowing too much toothpaste can cause dental fluorosis—permanent spots on the teeth.
Here are some suggestions about how to proceed. Try having your child lie down, on your lap or on the floor, steadying the child’s head with your legs. Or have your child standing, backed toward you, with the head tilted back slightly and resting against your body. Have the child hold a mrror and watch while you brush and floss.
As Your Child Grows
Every day plaque forms on the inner, outer, and chewing surface of teeth and their gums, and to remove plaque it is important to choose the right toothbrush. Choose a brush with soft, round-tipped bristles. A child will need a smaller brush than an adult, and when the bristles become bent or frayed, a new brush is needed.
Young children do not have the manual dexterity to brush properly. Your child will need supervision until the age of 8 to10 years old to ensure a thorough brushing. When the teeth touch each other and you can no longer brush in between them, it is time to start flossing.
Your Child’s First Visit to the Dental Office
Visits to the dental office should begin no later than the time of your child’s first birthday. But they may begin as early as you like—as soon as the first tooth erupts, or even sooner.
Make an appointment for a visual check of your child’s teeth.
Come in for a tour of the dental office and a casual, friendly, get acquainted checkup. Have a discussion with your dental hygienist or dentist about your child’s oral health care. To familiarize your child with the dental office, consider bringing him or her along when an older sibling comes in for a dental appointment, or when you do.
Cavity prevention starts with a healthy diet, brushing twice a day, daily flossing and regular dental checkups, but sealants can offer additional protection against tooth decay. Sealants are thin plastic coatings that are painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars). This coating bonds into the depressions and groves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surface, effectively sealing out the decay-causing bacteria and reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay.
Here’s How It Is Done
The application of sealants is easy and painless, and takes only a few minutes to complete. First the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and then etched with a solution to help the sealant adhere. The sealant is then painted onto the pits and fissures of the teeth, where it bonds directly or is hardened with a high-intensity light. Sealants usually last several years before a reapplication is required. They are monitored during subsequent checkup visits.
Although children and teenagers benefit most because they have the highest incidents of pit and fissure decay, adults with difficult-to-clean molars or wisdom teeth may benefit as well.
Bruce B. Blau D.D.S., F.I.A.D.F.E.
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