Early Dental Care
Proudly Serving Hood River, OR
Dental Care for Young ChildrenMany new parents may wonder whether they should be concerned with the dental care provided to their children early on in life. After all, the reasoning goes, those baby teeth will eventually fall out and be replaced anyway, so is it really a big deal what happens to them?
The answer is a resounding yes. Although the baby teeth do eventually fall out, they play a number of important roles in your child’s development before doing so.
Reasons to Care for Baby TeethThere are several reasons parents should ensure that their child’s teeth are being cared for and—once the child is old enough—assist the child in developing good dental hygiene habits.
The first reason has to do with the primary function of teeth: eating. Of course, without teeth, a child will struggle to eat solid food. Further, his or her speaking will be impacted and he or she will speak improperly even after the permanent teeth come in.
Moreover, when the permanent teeth begin to grow in, they are guided into their proper places by the pre-existing baby teeth. If those baby teeth have already fallen out the permanent teeth may come in crooked, or with uneven spacing, or even too close together. In addition, if your child is missing his or her teeth prematurely, this will certainly have an impact on his or her self-image and may foster self-esteem problems that follow him or her throughout the rest of his or her life. Finally, although your child will eventually get new teeth, children are just as likely to develop gum disease as adults are, so proper dental hygiene practices are key even as a child.
How to Care for a Child’s TeethDental care begins when a child’s teeth start erupting, typically around the age of 6 months. As you know, erupting teeth can cause a significant amount of pain and discomfort, and there are a few things that parents may do to bring relief to their children.
To soothe irritated gums, try rubbing them with a (clean) finger or a spoon that has been chilled in the refrigerator. The cool sensation will help soothe the hot spots where teeth are coming in. Using teething rings is a great option but try to avoid teething biscuits, which contain sugar that will damage the new teeth.
When the child is very young and still using a bottle, parents should be on the alert for a condition known as baby bottle decay. This condition develops when an infant goes to sleep while sucking on a bottle with juice, milk, or anything besides water in it. When this happens, bacteria in the mouth react with the sugar in the drink to create an acid; this acid attacks the teeth. When a child is awake the saliva circulates and helps wash the acid away; however, when he or she is sleeping the acid can pool around the teeth, leading to baby bottle decay.
To check for baby bottle decay take a look at the teeth, paying particular attention to the insides (the tooth surface facing the tongue). Baby bottle decay will show up as minor discolorations or lines on the surface of the tooth. If you find baby bottle decay you need to pay special attention to keeping that area clean so no further decay will result.
To prevent baby bottle decay keep a close eye on your child. When he or she starts to become drowsy, be sure to remove his or her bottle.
Sometimes a child will need the soothing action of sucking on a bottle in order to drift off to sleep. If your child is like this the best thing to do is give him or her a bottle containing water. The water will not contribute to acid formation and can even help keep the mouth clean by rinsing away impurities.
When it’s Time to Visit the Dentist for the First TimeMost experts recommend that a child be taken to the dentist for the first time around six months after his or her teeth start coming in. This will usually be around one year of age, given that most children begin getting their teeth at around six months old.
A dentist’s office can be a scary place and if possible, it may be a good idea to bring the child with you when you come to get your own teeth cleaned. He or she can watch you sit in the chair and see that it’s a happy, fun experience.
When it comes time for the child to be in the dentist’s chair, it is a good idea for you sit in the chair and let the child sit on your lap if this is possible. Explain to the child what will happen and be there to console them.
Continuing Care as the Child GrowsAs a child grows, he or she should be taught proper dental hygiene habits as early as possible. Explain the importance of keeping your teeth clean, and help him or her to develop regular brushing and flossing habits.
Also, a good diet contributes to healthy teeth, so be certain to make sure that your child is well-fed and that the sugar he or she consumes is limited to a reasonable amount. Remember that acids attack your teeth for roughly 20 minutes after consuming sugar, so encourage your child to at least rinse out his or her mouth after eating sugary foods.
We are here to assist in promoting your child’s dental health so please give us a call at (541) 386-2020 to get them scheduled. We look forward to helping him or her develop and maintain a healthy smile!