Some people have the wrong idea that taking their children to the dentist isn’t that important, and that it’s really a healthcare choice for adulthood. Young teeth are vulnerable to bacteria that lead to cavities and gum disease, so teaching your kids how to practice good dental hygiene is a must. However, it’s just as important to get into the habit of taking your kids for regular checkups at the dentist.
Does it matter which dentist we choose?:
Sometimes the hardest part about the whole process is talking your child into seeing a dentist. Many kids are afraid of the dentist, even if it’s just the idea of an unknown experience. Then once they go to the dentist and see all the unfamiliar and sometimes noisy equipment, you can be in for an uphill battle. That’s why it’s important to choose a dentist who is experienced in treating kids and equipped for their unique needs. Select a dental office that strives to make kids comfortable and helps them through the process. You may even want to consider a pediatric dentist, who specializes only in treating kids.
What can we expect at a checkup?:
The goal of a dental visit is to clean and protect your child’s teeth, and to prevent and treat diseases or other problems. The dentist will start with an examination and X-rays if needed, in order to get a better view of your child’s oral health. The appointment will also include a teeth cleaning, which provides a much more thorough and deep cleaning than your child is able to perform at home. If there are any problems diagnosed, treatment procedures will be discussed and you can decide with the dentist how to proceed.
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Kids don’t always play it safe or make the best decisions when it comes to protecting their teeth. Tooth decay and mouth injuries are just a couple of things parents must worry about for their kids, whether it’s the elementary school or college years. Here are some simple ways that parents can teach their kids to protect their teeth.
Limit sports and energy drinks.
Sports and energy drinks are both heavily marketed toward today’s youth. It is true that sports drinks help replace electrolytes during exercise, but many people drink them too much or outside the exercise realm. Experts have deemed sports drinks to be unnecessary in the lunchroom or as a snack on the playground. The high acid levels in these drinks can erode tooth enamel, with energy drinks determined to cause twice as much damage. It is recommended to save sports drinks for very strenuous activities, and instead stick with water for hydration and refreshment without the negative effects.
Insist upon mouthguards.
Parents should provide mouthguards for kids in nearly any sport, even if it isn’t considered mandatory by the school or team. Mouthguards can prevent chips, fractures, or knockouts of teeth, as well as protect the soft tissues of the mouth. According to research estimates, 3 million teeth were knocked out in youth sports in 2011. Dentists suggest that athletes who don’t wear mouthguards are 60 times more likely to sustain oral injury. Inexpensive basic mouthguards or the boil-and-bite variety are available at sporting goods stores, or customized mouthguards can be purchased through your dentist.
Say no to oral piercings.
Although it applies primarily to teenagers and older, the Academy of General Dentistry advises against oral piercing for active people. Those with piercings should remove them before participating in sports, because puncture wounds can lead to infections related to increased blood flow and breathing rates during exercise. If your child is considering and oral piercing, make sure you discuss the risks and need for removal during physical activity.
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Many children aren’t excited about seeing the dentist, either as a result of comments others have made or the idea of an unknown experience. Dental visits are necessary for everyone though, beginning around the child’s first birthday. Here are some basics to know about your child’s dental care.
What happens at the first appointment?:
When your child sees the dentist for the first time, the dentist will look for tooth decay and determine your child’s risk for it. You will be shown how to properly clean your child’s teeth. Also, your dentist will explain the risks of habits that may affect your child’s teeth, such as thumb sucking or sugary drinks.
How often should my child see the dentist?:
You should continue to take your child to visit the dentist every six months, or in some cases more often if your child’s risks are high for tooth decay. Regular checkups can reduce your child’s risk for cavities because plaque will be removed and fluoride will be applied to strengthen the teeth. Also, potential dental issues may be caught early to avoid problems in the future.
What if further treatment is recommended?:
Even though your child might not have permanent teeth yet, dental work may be required on baby teeth too. Cavities can be painful and should be filled. Also, healthy baby teeth help your child properly chew, speak, and develop permanent teeth.
How can I help my child feel more comfortable?:
It is important to help your child’s dentist visits go smoothly so that lifelong habits of regular checkups without fear can be developed. You might consider choosing a pediatric dentist who specializes in children’s oral health and is trained to help kids through the dental visit. Discuss an upcoming dentist appointment with your child, and explain what to expect during the visit. If possible, take your child by the dentist’s office before your first appointment to see what it’s like. During the checkup, remain near your child to increase feelings of security and comfort.
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Proper dental care is vitally important for every member of your family. Children should begin visiting a dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts, which in most cases is by their first birthday. Your family dentist is trained to take care of both adult and pediatric dental needs. An experienced family dentist can offer a wide array of dental care services to the children in your family.
A family dentist can perform routine pediatric oral exams and twice yearly professional cleanings, as well as other preventative care such as treatment with fluoride and protective sealants. In the unfortunate case your child should suffer trauma to a tooth, your family dentist is available to treat a loose, broken, or knocked-out tooth. Your dentist can diagnose and treat gum disease, tooth decay and cavities as well as identify and treat misaligned or crooked teeth and jaw or bite problems.
Your family dental practice may also offer a variety of kid-friendly amenities to make visits to the dentist less stressful. Game rooms, televisions with kid videos, and treasure box treats are just a few of the things that might be available to help your child feel at ease.
As your child ages, there will be no need to switch dentists because your family dentist can treat your child from infancy to adulthood. Having the same dentist for your entire family makes life easier when it comes time to schedule routine examinations. Often you can schedule several family members at the same time. Your family dentist will be familiar with your entire family’s dental history, which is a major benefit of taking everyone to the same dentist.
When the time comes to choose a dentist for your children, you can feel confident your family dentist will provide a lifetime of excellent dental care.
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It is vital for parents to understand not to wait until an oral health problem arises to begin dental treatment for their kids. Parents should be aware that in order for children to have the best chance for healthy teeth and gums throughout life, preventive dentistry is one of the keys.
Good oral care should begin when your child is an infant. As soon as babies start drinking milk, sugars can attack the gums even though there aren’t any teeth yet. To avoid damage, clean your child’s gums by gently rubbing them with a damp soft cloth. Around age one, schedule your child’s first appointment with the dentist. The examination will include looking for any issues, teaching home care, and allowing your child to become accustomed to a dentist setting.
As you child grows, dentists and parents can partner together to teach preventive dentistry habits to children. Dentists can show parents the ideal ways to guide children in proper brushing and flossing, and parents can ensure that the methods are carried out consistently at home. You and your dentist may decide together as your child grows whether to opt for dental sealants to help protect your child’s teeth from potential decay and cavities.
Another aspect of good oral health that parents should be involved in is providing nutritious foods for their children. Your dentist can educate your family on the best foods for your teeth and gums, as well as the foods and drinks to avoid. Some items are known to contribute to tooth decay, gum disease, and staining. Teaching your child to make healthy diet choices will promote a healthy mouth.
Preventative dentistry both at home and in your dentist’s office will make your child feel confident about oral care and become comfortable with the dentist. If the time comes for more extensive services, your child will likely trust the dentist and have less apprehension about the dental visit. Good preventive care, however, helps avoid problems and your child will be less likely to encounter major problems requiring painful procedures and lots of time in the dental chair.
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Teaching your kids good dental habits and making sure they get dental care are some of the most important things you can do for them. Guidelines for helping your child improve their oral health depend upon their ages. Here are some oral health tips for various stages of childhood.
Infants (up to 2 years):
It’s never too early to begin oral care! Clean your baby’s gums with a damp cloth after feedings to remove bacteria. Once the first tooth erupts, use a soft toothbrush for babies to gently brush the teeth and gums. Use a pea-sized dab of toothpaste and brush at least twice a day. Around the first birthday, begin taking your child to the dentist for regular checkups.
Preschoolers (2-4 years):
This age group has the highest incidence of tooth decay, because most preschoolers love sugary foods but may not love brushing their teeth. Brush your child’s teeth yourself until they are old enough to do it well, but continue supervising the process to make sure all areas are clean. Consider flavored or character fluoride toothpastes if it encourages your child to brush. Also, limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks your child consumes.
Young elementary (5-7 years):
As more and more teeth grow in, your child needs to brush carefully with fluoride toothpaste. Make sure all areas of your child’s mouth are being reached, and help your child use dental floss to clean between teeth and gums. Continue helping your child make healthy diet choices.
Older kids (over 8 years):
Most children should be able to brush on their own by age 8, but performing spot checks is a good idea to make sure they are doing a good job. Teach your child to brush after meals, especially when eating sugary or sticky foods, and emphasize the importance of flossing every day. Continue taking your child for regular dental checkups every six months, which will help create a life-long habit of good oral care.
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