Tooth decay often begins at an early age, making young children particularly susceptible. Nearly half of children between the ages of 2-11 have experienced tooth decay while 32% of kids between the ages of 9-11 develop cavities in their permanent teeth. Major contributing factors to this public health problem include baby formula with added sugar and heavily-sugared fruit juices. Even breast milk can cause cavities in baby teeth because of the natural sugars present.

Care for baby teeth should begin as soon as the first tooth appears. We recommend that you bring your child in for an exam no later than his or her first birthday. Regular six-month checkups will put kids on a schedule like most adults, establishing a routine that will last a lifetime.

The following early steps can help guard your child against tooth decay, even before their first dental visit:

  • Your baby’s teeth should always be rinsed with water or wiped down with a damp cloth after feeding, especially before they fall asleep. Milk or formula residue left in the mouth can promote decay even in the youngest patients.
  • Try to wean your child off bottle feeding by their first birthday. This helps avoid decay and minimizes the chance of jaw growth problems from excessive sucking.
  • Begin brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. Even if it’s barely poking through the gum, a tooth can develop decay if not cleaned properly. Start by brushing with a soft bristled brush and water and ask your dentist when it’s ok to begin using a small amount of toothpaste.
  • Help your child brush and remember that kids don’t have the dexterity to clean their teeth on their own until after they can tie their shoes.
  • Don’t give bottles of sugary drinks or milk before bedtime.
  • If you do choose to offer sugary beverages, have your child use a straw, so the teeth to have less contact with the liquid.
  • Try to limit the overall sugary foods your child eats and drinks.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age should I schedule my child’s first dental visit?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends scheduling a child’s first dental visit by their first birthday or within six months after the first tooth erupts.

Why is early dental care important for children?

Early dental care is crucial for monitoring oral development, preventing cavities, and establishing good oral hygiene habits. It helps build a positive attitude towards dental visits from an early age.

 What services are typically offered in children’s dentistry?

Children’s dentistry services include routine check-ups, dental cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants, and guidance on proper oral hygiene practices. Pediatric dentists are trained to address the unique needs of children.

How can I prepare my child for their first dental visit?

To prepare your child, talk positively about the dentist, read books about dental visits, and explain the process in simple terms. Avoid using negative words that may cause anxiety.

Are dental X-rays safe for children?

Yes, dental X-rays are safe for children. Pediatric dentists use lower radiation doses and take precautions such as lead aprons to minimize exposure.

When should my child start brushing and flossing their teeth?

Parents should start brushing their child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. Once two teeth touch, it’s time to introduce flossing. Encourage independent brushing and flossing as your child grows.

 What is dental sealant, and how does it protect my child’s teeth?

Dental sealants are thin protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of molars to prevent cavities. They create a barrier that helps keep out food particles and bacteria.

What should I do in case of a dental emergency involving my child?

In a dental emergency, contact your dentist immediately. Common emergencies include knocked-out teeth, broken teeth, or severe toothaches. Having a dental emergency kit at home is advisable.

How often should my child see the dentist?

Regular dental check-ups are typically recommended every six months for children. However, the frequency may vary based on individual oral health needs.

Can children with special needs receive dental care?

Yes, many pediatric dentists are trained to provide dental care to children with special needs. It’s important to communicate any special requirements or concerns with the dental office in advance.

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