Starting Your Child Out Right with Dentistry

By Neal R. Benham, D.D.S., KiDZ.R.US Pediatric Dentistry

When should child have their first dental visit? Before the rest of the information, it is important that you keep your teeth clean starting in pregnancy. Decay is passed from the main caregiver to the child. The AAP, ADA, and AAPD recommend a first visit by age one.
What should you expect to happen at the visit?

• Expect some crying. All children cry except those who don’t. It’s a new experience, and it is normal for children to cry.
• A review of concerns of the parents.
• Hygiene instructions.
• Review of flouride use, both topical and systemic.
• Cavity check. Yes, one year olds do get cavities.
• Feeding issues, bottle, breast, and snacks
What should parents do before the first visit?
• Work with your child about opening and showing their teeth. Be persistent and consistent. This should start with cleaning gums before teeth erupt and brushing when they do erupt.
• Be positive. If you have issues with going to the dentist, have your spouse or a grandparent be the one to bring your child for their visit.
• Read books about visiting the dentist. Bernstein Bears is a good example.

How often do children need to visit the dentist?
Every six months is usual due to the rapidly changing development. Different things happen as the child grows and develops. They get used to the office. They get more teeth. Teeth get closer together. Children become more cooperative.

What happens if my child gets cavities?
Options depend on the number, location, and severity. Postponing with daily topical fluoride applications, removing decay with hand instruments, and a fluoride-releasing filling being placed, or if more involved, sedation or general anesthesia in the hospital.

The key is start early – be positive – it’s a life-long journey, not a single visit.

What Can Be Done to Reduce the Likelihood of My Child Getting Tooth Decay?

There are only three areas that can be addressed to reduce the possibility of tooth decay: the teeth, the bacteria, and what feeds the bacteria.

1. The teeth can be made stronger by making the enamel stronger. Basically fluoride. It can be topical fluoride from toothpastes and fluoride rinses. Some people recommend “training toothpaste” for very young children. The key is to use smaller amounts of fluoridated toothpaste. If the child swallows some, they will not be affected by the small amount. The teeth are good at absorbing fluoride when they first erupt and that would be losing a prime opportunity to allow the enamel to get as hard as possible.

2. Getting bacteria off of the teeth starts with the moms having their teeth repaired and kept clean BEFORE the child is born. Dental decay is a bacterial disease and can be passed from person to person and the primary caregivers are the main source of inoculating the child with bad bacteria. If the caregiver has good teeth, the children have a much better chance to have good teeth. After that, brushing, flossing, and making it harder for the bacteria to stick to the teeth reduces the chance of decay. Brush the teeth as soon as they erupt into the mouth. Children will need help with this until the teeth start growing together. Making it harder for the bacteria to stick to the teeth can be done by xyletol-containing products. Gum, sprays, or candy are good sources. Xyletol makes it harder for the bacteria to stick to the teeth, and if they do, it interrupts the way they process sugars. As a bonus side effect, children have fewer ear infections.

3. Teeth can be assaulted by acids and sugars that increase the decay count. Several things can be done to change the odds in our favor. Limit things that have sugar or acid in between meals. That is soda, fruit juice, milk, or energy drinks. In between meals causes too much time that teeth are in the wrong environment. Water is the best in between meals.

Article submitted by All Family Dental in Eau Claire.