Providing dental care for children is one of THE most important things that we do, because if we help your child get a great start on dental health, their lives will be so much better, and so will yours! So let’s talk about pediatric dentistry and all the important things you need to know for your little ones as they grow into teens:
Be a Great Role Model – Care for Your Teeth Too
While it’s a very understandable sentiment, we here too many parents say, “I can’t take care of my teeth, because my kids’ teeth have to come first.” Please don’t do that! Remember that you are THE role model to whom your kids look to learn, even with your personal health. If you don’t take good care of your teeth, what are your children learning? Even if it’s just getting check-ups and cleanings, it’s so important for your child to see you take care of your teeth. I make sure to brush my teeth every morning with my daughter, Elizabeth, so she knows how important it is for all of use to brush and floss.
Baby Teeth Are Important – Take Care of Them
One of the most wrong statements we ever hear a parent make is this: “Oh, it’s just a baby tooth and it’s going to fall out, so what’s the big deal?” So why are baby teeth so important? Let’s count the ways, shall we?
- Baby teeth hold space for the permanent teeth that come later. If the baby teeth go missing too early, and others start drifting around, the permanent teeth often don’t have enough room to come in properly. If some of the permanent teeth are in, and other baby teeth go missing early, the permanent teeth then start drifting and causing more problems for the next permanent teeth to erupt. It becomes a vicious circle that gets progressively worse.
- Baby teeth help your child eat, of course. Yes, they can eat without teeth, but it’s more difficult, and if they’re gone early, it is harder for your child to chew and digest properly, which can lead to more upset stomachs and health problems.
- Failing to care for baby teeth leads to a simple but slippery slope idea of, “Well, if it hurts, just take it out.” If that’s what you do every time, pretty soon you end up without many teeth. Please don’t start your child on a path in life that’s potentially so devastating.
- Baby teeth cavities hurt and get infected, too. Too many children miss days from school and activities due to painful and infected teeth. Please don’t let your child suffer!
It’s Important to Monitor Your Child’s Dental Habits
More than anything else, parents of young children really need to take responsibility for developing good habits of brushing and flossing. We ask you to remember – your child’s dexterity takes a long time to develop, and that means they have trouble doing a good job of brushing and flossing, even when they’re trying hard.
How can you help your child develop good brushing and flossing habits? Here are some ideas:
- A Timer: whether you use a timer app on your smartphone, or one of the simple hourglass sand timers, make sure that your child brushes for at least a full minute, preferably 2 minutes. This is one of the simplest, best ways to get the teeth clean – take enough time and don’t rush.
- Electric Toothbrush: since children take time to develop the hand coordination to brush well, using a child’s electric toothbrush can help. The vibrations feel good and almost ticklish, so children think it’s more fun, and they also help loosen the plaque so it comes off more easily. We recommend the Sonicare for Kids, which you can pick up at most drugstores and grocery stores.
- Disclosing Tablets: this is an old-fashioned one, but I still like it. Give your child a purple tablet to chew for 30 seconds and spit out, and it stains all the plaque on their teeth. This makes is super easy for your kids to see, AND to see when it’s all off.
- Floss their teeth for them: children really don’t have the dexterity to floss, and to a certain extent, it’s not even always necessary once they’re losing teeth, because there are lots of spaces. But it’s a good habit to start.
When Should Your Child See a Dentist for the First Time?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child’s first dental visit should be when the first tooth comes in, and no later than 12 months. In our office, we don’t actually charge for this visit if you bring them to your own visit. It’s not meant to be a “real” check-up, but an introduction to the dentist. They sit in your lap after your checkup is done, and if they’ll let us look in their mouth, maybe even brush their teeth, that’s great, but if not, no worries. They still get a toy from the treasure chest and a cute sticker as a reward, because it’s meant to be fun.