Contrary to what some may believe, children’s dentistry is just as important as regular dentistry. Just because a child will eventually shed their baby teeth doesn’t mean they should neglect them! Early dental check-ups for children can be a confusing time, especially when you throw dental anxiety into the mix. In this blog post, we’ll clarify some of the common concerns surrounding children’s dentistry and provide advice pertaining to those first few dental check-ups for children.
When Should My Child Have Their First Dental Visit?
Some parents are surprised to learn that children should see a dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts. Dental care does not necessitate a full set of pearly whites—just ask anyone with dentures or All-On-4 implants!
The general rule of thumb is that children should have their first dental check-up by age one—or two, at the very latest. Children’s dentistry begins in infancy, and this is the point at which to monitor growth and diagnose any early issues with the teeth or jaw. What better time than the formative years to invest in preventative care and make dental or orthodontic corrections where required?
How Can I Prevent Cavities and Dental Problems With My Child’s Teeth?
Preventing cavities and dental problems with your child’s teeth isn’t too different from the way you prevent these issues in your own mouth. The approach is just a little more fun-sized!
Encourage Good Brushing Habits
Try to establish a routine where your child brushes their teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. If they are under six, they should use a child-friendly or soft-bristled toothbrush topped with a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste. You should supervise your child’s tooth brushing routine until they are about eight to ten years old, correcting any poor techniques and ensuring they do not swallow the toothpaste. If your child is very young or struggling with technique, you can also step in and brush their teeth for them until they get a feel for the right way to go about it.
Introduce Flossing Habits Early
Start flossing your child’s teeth at about age two. As they learn better dental dexterity, they should eventually incorporate flossing into their dental routine. Flossing is the Cinderella of the dental hygiene routine: critical as it is, many people forget about it. Fusing flossing with brushing in your child’s forming mind is a great way to set them up for a lifetime of dental health.
Foster Healthy Snacking Habits
We’re not saying you have to enforce the I Quit Sugar diet, but you should certainly limit your child’s sugar intake in between meals. Sticky and sweet foods such as lollies, fruit roll-ups, biscuits and cake can stick to the teeth and cause cavities due to the high sugar content.
Instead of loading lunchboxes with ‘sometimes’ snacks, you should encourage kids to consume sugar-free dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, or nuts. Respectively, these snacks are high in calcium, high in fibre and water, and low in carbohydrates—and each of these attributes promotes teeth strengthening, teeth cleaning, and a lower risk of cavities compared to higher-carbohydrate options.
Choice of drink matters, too. If your child uses a sippy cup, avoid filling it with high-sugar drinks. Some well-intentioned parents will fill sippy cups with juice, believing it to be a healthy alternative to soft drinks or cordial, but the reality is its sugar content is on par with those of the aforementioned. Overall, it’s best to fill your receptacle with water—regardless of whether you’re a child or an adult—as it contains enamel-strengthening fluoride and tends to dislodge and rinse away food particles.
Get Your Child to a Dentist for Kids Every Six Months
Just like adults, children should go to the dentist every six months. If your child is experiencing dental issues or anxiety, some dentists will recommend scheduling an appointment every three months to either monitor the issue(s) or help alleviate the anxiety via exposure. Find a dentist for kids who are well-versed in children’s dentistry and know how to manage smaller, more anxious patients. If your child feels at ease with their dentist, this will make for a much more pleasant and comfortable experience all around.
Attending the dentist on a regular basis is the best way to keep tabs on oral health and, in the case of children’s dentistry, monitor growth. As critical as home care is, there’s nothing as reassuring as that professional seal of approval. If your child is experiencing dental anxiety, there are some great strategies you can use to reframe the experience into a positive one.
You can normalise the experience by reading your child fun picture books about going to the dentist. Another great strategy is to roleplay the upcoming appointment with your child, giving them the opportunity to play out the scenario in a safe environment.
What’s the Importance of Baby Teeth, and When Do They Start Falling Out?
Baby teeth are more important than you may think. Some parents mistakenly believe they’re not worth caring for because they’re just going to fall out anyway. If you think about it, baby teeth are rather temporary, seeing as they begin to fall out from age six.
Considering that a child finishes teething by age two or three, this means that some teeth may only stick around for about three years. Nevertheless, the duration of their stay is not a measure of their functional importance. More pressingly, the importance of baby teeth lies largely in the way they pave the way for permanent teeth to come through.
In order to eat and talk correctly, a young child needs their baby teeth. During these formative years, it’s important for a kids’ dentist to track development and correct any issues—such as bite alignment—so that the child can enjoy dental and orthodontic health from the get-go.
If a child nurtures their baby teeth, they will—touch wood!—avoid dental issues such as cavities that may trigger premature tooth loss. If they lose their teeth earlier than they should, neighbouring teeth may move to compensate for the losses, ultimately upsetting their dental layout.
Because baby teeth are holding the place of their permanent successors, disruptions to their ‘schedule’—born from inadequate care—would compromise the template they are supposed to maintain. The consequence of this is that structural issues—such as dental crowding and jaw deformity—would likely abound once the permanent teeth eventually erupt. Children’s dentistry does not deal with an inconsequential phase but a highly formative period that parents should treat with utmost care.
Is Thumb-Sucking a Cause for Concern, and How Can I Help My Child Stop This Habit?
Thumb-sucking is a common habit among infants and young children and is generally not a cause for concern during the early years of life. However, if thumb-sucking persists beyond the age of four or five, it can potentially lead to dental and speech issues, among which include dental misalignment, development of overbites or open bites, or tongue displacement.
Of course, if your child has developed any of the aforementioned conditions, it’s almost inevitable that chewing difficulties or developmental speech delays will follow. The good news is there are ways you can address thumb-sucking behaviours.
Identify Triggers & Talk to Your Child
Observe when and why your child tends to thumb-suck. It may be a response to stress, boredom or fatigue. Once you have a better understanding of where the behaviour is coming from, it may pay to have a gentle conversation with your child about why they suck their thumb and why it’s important to stop. Explain the potential consequences, like dental issues, in a way they can understand.
Whenever your child refrains from sucking their thumb, you can reinforce the behaviour by praising them or offering rewards. Rewarding them with something as simple as a sticker can work wonders. Avoid scolding or negative reinforcement, as this can create stress and anxiety, potentially reinforcing the habit further.
Provide alternative activities or distractions to keep your child’s hands and mouth busy. Activities involving toys, puzzles or engaging games can be fantastic alternatives to thumb-sucking.
Consult a Dentist for Kids
If you’re struggling to help your child stop thumb-sucking, it may be time to consult a dentist for kids. They can provide guidance and evaluate whether intervention is needed. In some cases, they may recommend a thumb guard or prescribe a dental appliance to deter thumb-sucking.
Book Dental Check-Ups for Children at Abbotsford Dental
There are many reasons why children’s dentistry is so important, and why children should go in for regular dental check-ups from an early age. These early years are when you want to monitor growth and keep an eye out for any issues that may impact formative dental development.
From nurturing those place-holding baby teeth to educating children about dental hygiene habits, introducing children to a great dentist for kids early in life comes with invaluable benefits. Normalising children’s dentistry via exposure is also one of the many ways you can nip dental anxiety in the bud, and even reframe it as a fun experience.
At Abbotsford Dental, we have children’s dentistry down to an art. We know how to make your little ones feel comfortable and contribute to a positive experience all around. Book your children in for a check-up at Abbotsford Dental and we can help them take those first steps towards a lifetime of dental success. We service some of the most central locations in Melbourne, from Fitzroy, Collingwood and Clifton Hill to Richmond and Kew. Which clinic will we see you at?