A child’s first visit to the dentist should be enjoyable. Children are not born with a natural fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. Our office makes a special effort to use pleasant, non-frightening, simple words to describe each treatment. We want you and your child to feel at ease from the moment your family arrives at our office. The more you and your child know about the first visit, the better you will feel.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends...
Children should visit the dentist by their first birthday. It is important that your child’s newly-erupted teeth (erupting at six and 12 months of age) receive proper dental care and benefit from proper oral hygiene habits right from the beginning.
Getting to know your teeth is fun!
When New Teeth Arrive
Your child’s first primary or baby teeth will begin to erupt between the ages of six and 12 months, and will continue to erupt until about age three. During this time, your child’s gums may feel tender and sore. To help alleviate this discomfort, we recommend that you soothe the gums by rubbing a clean finger or a cool, wet cloth across them. You may also choose to make use of a teething ring. When your child has finished teething, you can expect a total of 20 primary teeth.
Your child’s primary teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood. Permanent teeth begin erupting at age six, and continue until age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth (32, including wisdom teeth).
Adopting Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits
As your child’s teeth erupt, be sure to examine them every two weeks, looking for lines and discoloration that may be caused by decay. Remember that sugary foods and liquids can attack a new tooth, so take care that your child brushes after feeding or eating. We recommend brushing four times a day for optimal oral hygiene: after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, and at bedtime.
Brushing can be fun, and your child should brush as soon as the first tooth arrives. Fluoridated toothpaste is recommended for all children starting at tooth eruption, regardless of caries risk. A smear (the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste should be used up to age three. After the third birthday, a pea-sized amount may be used. We recommend dispensing toothpaste for young children and supervising and assist with brushing.
Flossing is also a part of good oral hygiene habits, and your doctor will discuss with you the right time to start flossing. If you notice signs of decay, contact your dentist immediately.
Preventing Tooth Decay with Regular Checkups
Tooth decay is caused by sugars left in your mouth that turn into an acid, which can break down your teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents do not practice regular, good oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away.
Your child should visit the dentist every six months for regular dental cleanings and checkups. We recommend fluoride treatments twice a year along with cleanings to keep teeth their strongest. Tooth sealants are also recommended because they “seal” the deep grooves in your child’s teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years, but will be monitored at your child's regular checkups.
Preventing Problems Before They Start
The health of your teeth and mouth is very important to the well-being of your entire body, and while routine brushing and flossing at home is necessary to keep your smile looking its best, visiting your dentist for a comprehensive exam and cleaning is essential. The American Dental Association recommends that you visit your dentist every six months to ensure your teeth stay healthy and your smile stays beautiful.
By routinely seeing your dentist for exams and cleanings, you can:
- Prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath
- Save money by avoiding costly and extensive dental procedures
- Keep your teeth white by reducing staining from food and drinks
- Shorten the time spent in your dentist's office
- Have a smile that will last a lifetime
During your exam, your dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other health problems. Your dentist may also want to take X-rays to see what is happening beneath the surface of your teeth and gums. Whether these X-rays are traditional or digital, the images provided will help your dentist discover dental issues not visible to the naked eye.
Your dental hygienist will begin your cleaning by exploring the surface of your teeth to determine if you have any cavities and to examine the quality of existing fillings. The dental hygienist will then perform a periodontal exam to make sure your gums adhere tightly to your teeth, and no periodontal disease or bone loss may be occurring.
Next, your hygienist will carefully clean your teeth with a variety of tools to remove any hard mineral buildup (tartar) from your teeth. Then your hygienist will floss your teeth, use a polishing compound, and apply fluoride. Cleanings usually aren't painful, but if you have any anxiety about your dental exam, be sure to let your hygienist know. They may offer several sedation options to ensure your comfort. If your dentist or hygienist finds tooth decay or gum disease, they will talk to you about changing your brushing or flossing habits. In severe cases, they may recommend antibiotics or other dental treatments. If your teeth and gums appear to be healthy, your dentist will probably recommend that you continue your brushing and flossing routine as usual.