When Should My Child First Visit A Dentist?

A Child’s First Dental Visit May Be Sooner Than You Think

A child’s first dental visit to Boston Center for Oral Health should be scheduled around his/her first birthday. The most important part of the visit is getting to know and becoming comfortable with our team of doctors and hygienists. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future dental visits.

Teething

A baby’s teeth start forming before birth. The first tooth normally erupts between the ages of six to twelve months old. The remainder of the twenty primary teeth typically erupts by age three, causing a toddler’s gums to be sore, tender and easily irritated during this time period.

Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth can soothe the soreness. Teething rings also work well, but try to avoid teething biscuits as they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle tooth decay. Examine the teeth at least every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines.

Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by frequent and long-term exposure of a child’s teeth to liquids containing sugars. Among these liquids are milk, formula, juice, and other sweetened drinks. The sugar in these drinks mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. However, during sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.

Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or entirely prevented by not allowing an infant to fall asleep by breast or bottle-feeding. Infants that require the bedtime feeding ritual to fall asleep should be given a bottle with water or a pacifier.

Infants’ New Teeth

The primary or “baby” teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to the development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they replace the primary teeth around age six.

Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth, or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth, may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked.

The way a child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she will treat the permanent teeth. Establishing good oral hygiene practices will ensure that children are able to properly prevent plaque and gum problems in between regular exam and dental cleanings.

Good Diet and Healthy Teeth

The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eating a variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimize and avoid cavities and other dental problems. Many of the sugary snacks that children eat can cause cavities, so whenever possible, substituting these for wholesome snacks and meals including vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheese will promote strong teeth.

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