Here’s a statistic that you may not be aware of: one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the United States is tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of all children have some tooth decay – that is, some cavities – by the time they reach kindergarten. This is well before children have their adult teeth, and too early for many parents to even imagine that they might need a dentist. So, what’s a parent to do? To get your children’s teeth off to a good start, the first order of business is finding a family dentist who can help you. At Lifetime Dental Health, we understand.
Why do children need a dentist?
You don’t question why regular dental check-ups are important for you. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that they’re as important – perhaps more important – for your children. Just as good dental hygiene helps you stay healthy, good dental care can help your children grow up healthier, with strong teeth and fewer cavities (or none at all).
It’s easy to think that, because a child still has only baby teeth, dental checkups – and even good dental hygiene at home – can wait until he or she has permanent teeth. This simply isn’t a good idea. Baby teeth aren’t forever, but they will be your child’s teeth until around the age of five or six. A lot can happen in five or six years, including a lot of tooth decay.
Yes, tooth decay can happen to baby teeth. If baby teeth develop cavities, your child could be in pain (and not know why). And if those cavities aren’t treated, his or her permanent teeth could be negatively affected. Untreated tooth decay, even in early childhood, can lead to other dental and medical problems in adult life.
It’s that simple; and preventing those problems is just as simple. Starting your child on a regular program of dental checkups early in life helps to set that child up for a healthy set of permanent teeth. When teeth are healthy, children can chew food easily, learn to talk more quickly, and speak more clearly. And of course, children with good teeth also smile with confidence.
When should a child start seeing a dentist?
Briefly stated: the sooner, the better. The sooner children begin regular dental care, the healthier their mouths will be for their lifetime. In fact, the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children should visit a dentist at least once by the time they reach their first birthday, or when the first baby tooth appears. You’ll want to schedule a “well-baby” dental checkup within the first 18 months or so of your child’s life. At such a visit, your child’s teeth and gums will be examined to make sure they’re developing as they ought to be and that no dental problems are present.
At Lifetime Dental Health, we are also happy to discuss with you how best to handle your child’s at-home dental hygiene. We’ll explain ways to maintain your children’s teeth that are similar to how you take care of your own: the proper way to brush (and the right brush to use), how to floss and how often, and anything you need to know based on the specific condition of your child’s teeth. At a young age, most children can’t really handle good oral care by themselves, so you may need to guide them along – or, when they’re very young, do it for them. Fortunately, we have some helpful ideas for making this a pleasant experience for both of you – maybe even fun.
In addition to setting the stage for healthy adult teeth, introducing children to dental care as early as possible can go a long way toward eliminating the fear of dentists that some children experience when their first time in a dentist’s chair includes lots of uncomfortable scraping and the scary sound of a dental drill.
What problems could a young child’s teeth have?
Your child’s baby teeth are important because certain stages of a child’s development are dependent on dental health. At Lifetime Dental Health, our goal for your child is the same as our goal for you: to find and fix problems early and do the best we can to avoid additional problems in the future. Catching decay in its early stages means fewer and smaller cavities. If caught early enough, it may even be able to be stopped.
One specific issue that dentists come across often is dental decay caused by a child falling asleep while drinking a bottle of milk or fruit juice. As harmless as it may seem, this simple activity often generates tooth decay. That’s why we emphasize encouraging children to drink from a cup as they near their first birthday, and discontinuing nighttime breastfeeding after baby’s teeth emerge. Most dentists agree that a child should never go to sleep while nursing or with juice or milk in their bottle.
In addition to fighting tooth decay and instilling good lifelong dental habits, regular checkups also help to detect oral diseases in a timely fashion. Treating diseases in their early stages can keep them from getting worse, and, not unexpectantly, is likely to cost less than it would later.
For all of these reasons, finding a dental home for your children is an integral step in caring for your family. We at Lifetime Dental Health are here to help, right from the start. To talk to one of our dental professionals or to make your first appointment, contact us. We’ll be happy to serve you and your little ones.
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