First Dental Visit by Age 1!
Many parents are surprised to find out that the American Academy of Dentistry for Children (AAPD) recommends that children visit the dentist by the time they are one year of age. This is because tooth decay is the most common early childhood chronic disease.
At your first visit, you should expect to discuss:
- Your child’s diet
- Hygiene practices
- Fluoride use
- Your child’s risk for cavities
- Future growth and development
- How to prevent trauma
- Your child’s medical history
- The development of your child’s teeth
- Teething and your child’s bite
- Oral habits (pacifier or thumbsucking)
- Bottle-feeding/breastfeeding habits
At a young age, prevention is key! Never let your child go to bed with a bottle or breastfeed at will during the night. You should also keep your child’s intake of juice or sugary drinks to a minimum. The American Dental Association (ADA) discourages the use of sippy cups for an extended period of time. It recommends that children start drinking from a cup by age 1.
They’re Not Just Baby Teeth!
Many people don’t understand the importance of baby teeth. Primary teeth are necessary for children to chew and speak properly. They also hold the space for the permanent teeth to come in. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth can drift into the empty space. This makes it difficult for other permanent teeth to properly erupt into the mouth.
It is important to remember that cavities are contagious! The bacteria (usually Streptococcus mutans) can be transmitted from one person to another and from one tooth to another. If a primary tooth has an untreated cavity or infection, it can spread to the adjacent teeth and cause unnecessary damage.
Primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt around the age of six months. All 20 primary teeth usually erupt by the time the child reaches the age of three. These primary teeth will begin to shed (fall out) between the ages of six and seven. They are then replaced by the child’s permanent teeth. The last primary teeth are usually lost around 12 years of age, and by age 13, most of the permanent teeth are in place.
Healthy snacking is important to help fight against dental caries (cavities). To snack healthy, please remember a few basic rules:
- Avoid sugary and starchy snacks. Starchy snacks break down into sugars, once in your mouth. Sugars encourage the plaque and bacteria in your mouth to release more acids, which damage your teeth.
- Avoid gummy, sticky snacks. These foods stick to the teeth and cause more damage. Even healthy snacks, such as raisins and dried fruits, can cause tooth decay. Avoid gummy vitamins and instead choose the chewable versions. Also, avoid fruit snacks and sticky candy.
- Avoid acidic drinks. Tooth decay begins when the pH level of the mouth has been lowered. Since many sports drinks and soft drinks contain added phosphoric acids, they should be avoided. These beverages not only break down the tooth, they also reduce the amount of calcium in the teeth and bones! Most fruit juices are also highly acidic and promote tooth decay.
- Cut down on snacking between meals. This will help prevent plaque from producing acid and will reduce the time that your teeth are exposed to harmful acids.
Choose Non-Sugary and Low-Fat Options When Snacking, Such As:
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Whole grain crackers
- Nuts and nut butters
- Unbuttered popcorn
- Chocolate instead of sticky and sugary candy
How to Prevent Cavities
- Effective oral hygiene: Make sure that your child brushes every morning and night for two minutes. If their teeth are touching, they should be flossing every night.
- Visit the dentist every 6 months: Children with an established dental home have fewer cavities.
- Dental sealants: Protective sealants can help prevent cavities on the chewing surface of your child’s adult molars.