My Child’s First Visit to the Dentist
Dr. Han recommends that you bring your baby in for their first visit around three or four. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier you baby visits us, the more likely he/she is to avoid problems. We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral health, and check in with you about the best way to care for his/her teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
A child’s first visit to the dentist should be enjoyable and positive. The more you and your child know about the first visit, the better you will feel. Children are not born with a fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. We want you to feel at ease from the moment your family arrives at our office. In most cases, we focus on getting to know your child and giving you some basic information about dental care. We will attempt to take a quick look into your child’s mouth and if possible do a bit of cleaning. We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your child’s teeth as they develop.
How often should my child visit the dentist?
We generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.
Pediatric Dental Emergencies
If you face a dental emergency, give us a call immediately. If you need urgent treatment after hours, you can call our emergency number. We are always here to assist when your child’s dental health is at risk. Below are tips on dealing with urgent dental situations; you may want to display this list on your refrigerator or place it with your emergency phone numbers for easy reference.
Bitten Lip or Tongue
If your child has bitten their lip or tongue severely enough to cause bleeding, clean the bite gently with water and use a cold compress (a cold wet towel or washcloth pressed firmly against the area) to reduce or avoid swelling. Give us a call to help determine how serious the bite is.
Object Caught In Teeth
If your child has something caught between his/her teeth, use dental floss to gently remove it. Never use a metal, plastic, or sharp tool to remove a stuck object. If you are unable to remove the item with dental floss, give us a call.
Broken, Chipped, or Fractured Tooth
If your child has a chipped or broken a piece off of his/her tooth, have him/her rinse his/her mouth with warm water, and then use a cold compress to reduce swelling. Try to locate and save the tooth fragment that broke off. Call us immediately.
If your child’s tooth has been knocked out of his/her mouth, find the tooth and rinse it with water (no soap), taking care to only touch the crown of the tooth (the part you can see when it’s in place). If you can, place the tooth back in its socket and hold it in place with a clean towel or cloth. If you can’t return the tooth to its socket, place it in a clean container with milk. In either case, call us immediately and/or head to the hospital.
If your child has a very loose tooth, it should be removed to avoid being swallowed or inhaled.
If your child complains of a toothache, rinse his/her mouth with warm water and inspect his/her teeth to be sure there is nothing caught between them. If pain continues, use a cold compress to ease the pain. Do not apply heat or any kind of aspirin or topical pain reliever directly to the affected area, as this can cause damage to the gums. Children’s pain relievers may be taken orally. Schedule an appointment immediately.
If you know or suspect your child has sustained a broken jaw, use a cold compress to reduce swelling. Call your local emergency number and/or head to the hospital immediately. In many cases a broken jaw is the result of a blow to the head. Severe blows to the head can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
You can help your child avoid dental emergencies. Child-proof your house to avoid falls. Don’t let your child chew on ice, popcorn kernels, or other hard foods. Always use car seats for young children and require seatbelts for older children. And if your child plays contact sports, have him/her wear a mouth guard. Ask us about creating a custom-fitted mouth guard for your child. Finally, prevent toothaches with regular brushing, flossing, and visits to our office.
Many children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it by the age of four, without causing permanent damage to their teeth. If your child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt, or sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.
Along with favorite blankets, teddy bears, and nap time, thumb-sucking can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood. According to a recent report, between 75% and 95% of infants suck their thumbs, so chances are there’s a thumb-sucker (or a former thumb-sucker) in your family. In most cases, this is not a cause for worry; however, it’s important to pay attention to your child’s habits. In this case his/her behavior has the potential to affect his/her oral health.
What is Normal Thumb-Sucking Behavior?
Many children suck a thumb or a finger from a very young age; most even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.
According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them.
However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower the chances of continued thumb-sucking). If your child is still sucking when the permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.
What Signs Should I Watch For?
First, take note of how your child sucks his/her thumb. If he/she sucks passively, with his/her thumb gently resting inside hi/her mouth, he/she is less likely to cause damage. If, on the other hand, he/she is an aggressive thumb-sucker, placing pressure on his/her mouth or teeth, the habit may cause problems with tooth alignment and proper mouth growth. Extended sucking affects both the teeth and the shape of the face and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future.
If at any time you suspect your child’s thumb-sucking may be affecting his/her oral health, please give us a call or bring him/her in for a visit. We can help you assess the situation.
How Can I Help My Child Quit Thumb-Sucking?
Should you need to help your child end his/her habit, follow these guidelines:
- Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb-sucking, give praise when he/she doesn’t suck.
- Put a band-aid on his/her thumb or a sock over his/her hand at night.
- Let him/her know that this is not a punishment, just a way to help him/her remember to avoid sucking.
- Start a progress chart and let your child put a sticker up every day that he/she doesn’t suck his/her thumb. If he/she makes it through a week without sucking, he/she gets to choose a prize. When he/she has filled up a whole month, reward him/her with something great; by then the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in his/her treatment will increase his/her willingness to break the habit.
- If you notice your child sucking when he/she is anxious, work on alleviating his/her anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb-sucking.
- Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides, while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions.
- Explain clearly what might happen to his/her teeth if he/she keeps sucking his/her thumb.
Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the thumb-sucking habit.
Dental Care for your Baby
Taking Care of Your Baby’s Teeth (and Future Teeth!)
Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your baby will be on his/her way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Caring for Gums
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, his/her gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast or bottle feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gum tissue. This practice both clears you little one’s mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process of building a good habit of daily oral care.
Baby’s First Tooth
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your finger. In each case the bristles are soft and few. At this stage, toothpaste isn’t necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn’t react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don’t give up; switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months, then try the toothbrush again. During the teething process your child will want to chew on just about anything-a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.
Brushing with Toothpaste
When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child’s brush. However, for the first three years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing, to prepare him/her for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.
Avoid giving you baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. You should be aware that the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, milk, and even breast milk can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle – sugary liquids in prolonged contact with his/her teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Baby teeth aren’t permanent; why do they need special care?
Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, your child’s first teeth play an important role in his/her development. While they’re in place, these primary teeth help your little one speak, smile, and chew properly. They also hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth. If a child loses a tooth too early – due to damage or decay – nearby teeth may encroach on that space, which can result in crooked or misplaced permanent teeth. Also, your child’s general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.
What causes cavities?
Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.
How can I help my child avoid cavities?
Be sure that your child brushes his/her teeth at least twice a day. Flossing daily is important also important, as flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can’t. Check with your dentist about a fluoride supplement, which helps tooth enamel be harder and more resistant to decay. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet. And finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child’s teeth and provide professional cleanings.
Does my child need dental sealants?
Sealants cover the pits and fissures in teeth that are difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to decay. We recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach.
My child plays sports; how can I protect his/her teeth?
Even children’s sports involve contact, and we recommend mouth guards for children active in sports. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other sports, ask us about having a custom-fitted mouth guard made to protect your child’s teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
When should my child have dental x-rays taken?
We recommend taking x-rays around the age of two or three. The first set consists of simple pictures of the front upper and lower teeth, which familiarizes your child with the process. Regular (at least yearly) x-rays are recommended once the baby teeth in back are touching each other. Permanent teeth start coming in around age six, and x-rays help us make sure your child’s teeth and jaw are healthy and properly aligned. If your child is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having x-rays taken at an earlier age.