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Tips for Parents

A Child's Dental Care Begins Before Birth

Bringing Up Baby

The First Dental Visit

Babies and Bottles

The Growing Years

Sealing Out Decay

Nature's Cavity Fighter

Accidents Can Happen

What to Tell the Dentist
What to Ask the Dentist
Anesthesia

Your Right to Know

Second Opinions

What to Tell Your Child

A top priority for parents is helping their children develop good oral health habits. You can help your child enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles by starting dental visits at an early age.

A Child's Dental Care Begins Before Birth

Teeth begin to form between the third and sixth months of pregnancy. Good health habits are important for development of the unborn child. Unless a physician recommends otherwise, pregnant women should remember to consume dairy products, which are the best sources for calcium, the main building block for bones and teeth.

Bringing Up Baby

You can't see them, but at birth your baby already has 20 primary teeth, some of which are almost completely formed in the jaw. Wiping baby's gums with a clean gauze pad after feeding will remove the plaque and bacteria that can harm erupting teeth. Usually, the first four teeth begin to appear when the baby is between age six months and one year.

The First Dental Visit

The ADA recommends parents take children to the dentist by the child's first birthday. In addition to checking for decay and other possible problems, the dentist will teach you how to properly clean your child's teeth daily, evaluate any adverse habits such as thumb sucking, and identify your child's fluoride needs.

See also: Overcoming Dental Anxiety (.AVI, 1.2 MB)

Babies and Bottles

The primary (baby) teeth are very important for chewing, speaking and appearance. They also help hold space in the jaws for the permanent teeth. One serious form of tooth decay among young children is early childhood decay (sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay). This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant's teeth to liquids that contain sugar, such as milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.

See also: Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

The Growing Years

Begin brushing your child's teeth with a little water as soon as the first tooth appears. If you are considering using toothpaste before age two, ask your dentist or physician first. 

Parents need to supervise toothbrushing to make sure children over age two use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and avoid swallowing the toothpaste. Children should be taught to spit out remaining toothpaste and rinse with water after brushing. Most children will be able to brush on their own by age six or seven. Parents should be using floss or an interdental cleaner on their child's teeth as soon as any two teeth touch. Cleaning between the teeth is important because it removes plaque where a toothbrush can't reach. Brush your child's teeth twice a day unless your dentist recommends otherwise.

Sealing out Decay

As permanent teeth come in, talk to your dentist about having dental sealants applied to protect teeth from decay. A dental sealant is a clear material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay most often occurs. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting teeth from bacteria and the acid that attacks enamel.

See also: Sealants

Nature's Cavity Fighter

Fluoride is one of the most effective agents for preventing tooth decay. Ask the dentist if your child is getting the proper amount of fluoride. The best way for your child to receive fluoride's protection is by drinking water containing the right amount of the mineral. Children who from birth drink water containing fluoride on average have up to 50 percent fewer cavities. Your dentist can provide fluoride supplements for your children if you live in a community that does not have optimally fluoridated drinking water. Your dentist may also recommend office fluoride treatments.

See also: Fluorides & Fluoridation

Accidents Can Happen

Active children require proper mouth protection to prevent injuries to the face, tongue and lips, injuries that could include broken or knocked out teeth and even jaw fractures. Ask your dentist for advice on the proper mouthguard for your child, whether he or she is playing a contact sport like football or just having fun bike riding or inline skating. If an accident does happen, call the dentist as soon as possible.

See also: Dental Emergencies

What to Tell the Dentist

It's important for parents to take an active role in their child's oral health care. Parents should let the dentist know about their child's health. Things parents should tell the dentist: If the child is ill; What medications the child may be taking; If the child has any known drug allergies.

See also: How to Get the Most Out of Your Dental Visit

What to Ask the Dentist

If you don't understand the dentist's recommendations for your child's oral health treatment, don't be afraid to ask for more information. Ask if there are other treatment options available for your child. How do the options differ in cost? Which option will best solve the problem?

See also: How to Get the Most Out of Your Dental Visit

Anesthesia

Some difficult or complex dental procedures may require the dentist to administer medications to control your child's pain or anxiety. Ask the dentist what type of medication will be used and what possible side effects it may have; ask what follow-up care may be required for the child. You may also want to ask what training and experience the dentist has had in administering these agents and what procedures are in place for the child's safety, such as monitoring equipment and back-up emergency medical services.

See also: Understanding Dental Anesthesia: What Every Patient Should Know

Your Right to Know

Parents have the right to be carefully informed about the benefits and risks of any dental treatment for their children and to be involved in treatment decisions. You should feel comfortable that all your questions have been answered and that you understand the options before giving your consent to dental treatment.

Second Opinions

If you have talked to your dentist and are still uncertain about the treatment recommendations for your child, get a second opinion. To find another dentist, you can call the local dental society (listed in the white pages), search ADA.org or ask a relative or friend for a referral.

What to Tell Your Child

Children should know that the dentist is a friendly doctor who will help them take care of their teeth. Be positive and try to make dental visits an enjoyable experience for your child. Set a good example by brushing your own teeth twice a day, using floss or an interdental cleaner between your teeth once a day and visiting your dentist regularly. Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in helping your child maintain good oral health throughout life.

 

Dr. Kourosh Mehrnia
201-01 Hillside Avenue
Hollis, NY 11423
718-479-2120

 

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Copyright 2001 American Dental Care, P.C.
Last modified: July 2, 2001