The American Dental Association states that children should have their first dental visit either after their first tooth erupts or before their first birthday (whichever happens first). This first appointment is crucial to creating the foundation for life-long oral health.
Here are some key topics that a pediatric may go over during the first dental visit:
Growth and Development of Teeth and Jaws
Surprisingly to most people, genetics play a minimal role in jaw development. Jaw development is primarily a product of the environment in which they are growing.
The “big three” impacts on facial development and resting oral posture are:
- Lips sealed with teeth lightly touching
- Proper tongue posture on the roof of the mouth
- Nasal breathing
Craniofacial imbalances happen when these three factors are not present during growth and development. This may create cosmetic and medical issues, such as midface deficiency and long-face syndrome.
Thumb and Pacifier Habits
Babies have a natural sucking reflex that encourages self-soothing. Sucking thumbs, pacifiers, and other objects may help babies feel more secure and content as they navigate the world around them and help them fall asleep.
The American Dental Association encourages children to stop sucking before the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt (typically between ages two and four). Sucking modifies the roof of the mouth. After the permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause issues with the proper growth and alignment of teeth.
Unfortunately, cavities are a common occurrence in young children. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that 42% of children will develop at least one cavity before their 11th birthday. Cavities aren’t difficult to treat but diligently preventing cavities is the best way to treat them.
Here are some ways to keep tooth decay at bay in young children:
- Engage in proper oral hygiene routines early: Parents should start cleaning their child’s teeth with water as soon as they erupt. A wet rag or baby toothbrush will work. When children become more active, turn teeth brushing into a fun game! Who can clean all their teeth the best? Child vs. parent, child vs. child, or both!
- Avoid carbohydrate-rich foods: Bacteria love sugary and starchy foods as much as we do! Prolonged exposure to oral bacteria creates enamel erosion, which increases the risk of decaying baby teeth. After enjoying a sugary snack, have your child drink a glass of water. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing to protect his or her dental enamel.
- Never allow your child to go to bed with a baby bottle: As mentioned above, oral bacteria thrive on sugar (including lactose found in milk). Baby bottle tooth decay develops after long-lasting exposure to sugary liquids. If your child needs a drink during naps and bedtime, choose water.
- Brush with a fluoridated toothpaste at two years old: Fluoride can help make the “terrible twos” better by protecting your toddler’s teeth against cavities. Talk to a pediatric dentist about how much fluoride toothpaste is appropriate for your little one.
- Plan regular visits to the dentist: Like people of all ages, children should see the dentist every six months. Routine visits an experienced and friendly pediatric dentist can help monitor and preserve dental health.
Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Visit Today
Our Smiles Dentistry for Kids family is dedicated to protecting the smiles of your little one by offering personalized, detail-oriented check-ups in an easy-going environment. Schedule your child’s first dental appointment with Dr. Matt by calling (913) 685-9990.