Both the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend taking your child to see a dentist within six months after the first tooth comes in, but no later than one year of age. At the first visit your child may only be introduced to Dr. Van Pelt and his staff, take a ride in the dental chair and play with some of the equipment. It is very important that the first visit be pleasant and enjoyable. This will help put your child at ease for future dental visits. Dr. Van Pelt does not charge for these “happy visits.”
At the first visit, Dr. Van Pelt and his staff will also review the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene. This will include instruction on tooth brushing and flossing, which is something parents need to do for their child until he or she is old enough to do it well.
Children should be encouraged to discuss any fears or anxiety they feel. However, parents should not make a big deal out of the visit and should refrain from using any words that could cause unnecessary fear, such as “needle” or “drill.” Dr. Van Pelt is experienced in dealing with anxious children, and can explain treatment procedures in a positive and pleasant manner which will help avoid any negative feelings toward dentistry.
Once your child is comfortable enough, Dr. Van Pelt will complete a comprehensive examination of your child’s mouth and the dental hygienist will clean your child's teeth. In addition, your child may be given a fluoride treatment to strengthen teeth and protect them against decay. This may take multiple visits, depending on the comfort level of your child.
If, during routine visits, Dr. Van Pelt discovers tooth decay or another dental problem he may use X-rays to determine the nature of the problem and to plan a course of action. An X-ray examination can detect unseen cavities and determine whether permanent teeth that are forming below the gum surface are in the proper position.
It is important that good oral hygiene habits are established early. Oral care should begin soon after the birth of your baby. A warm wet washcloth wrapped around your finger can be used to gently massage and clean the gums. This should be done twice each day. This early introduction will accustom your baby to the cleaning process.
As teeth begin to erupt, introduce a soft bristled baby toothbrush. Gently brush the teeth with water or a non-fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoridated toothpaste can be used only after your child learns how to spit it out. Use only a small “pea” size amount and push the paste into the bristles. It is very important that children do not swallow fluoridated toothpaste.
Children often become resistant to having their teeth brushed by their parents. One way to encourage a reluctant child is to make tooth brushing a family event. Children are more open to learning and following directions when they have a role model. By making tooth brushing and flossing a family event your child will be encouraged to follow by example.
Since young children lack the muscle coordination to brush effectively, parents should do it for them. Children under the age of six should be assisted when brushing their teeth. Parents should brush their child’s teeth first, and then allow the child to brush on their own afterwards. Teeth should be brushed for 3 to 5 minutes, based on your child’s ability to manage the toothbrush.
As a parent it is your responsibility to evaluate your child’s teeth and look for signs that teeth don’t look right. For instance, look for red swollen gums, bleeding gums, dark spots or chalky white spots on the teeth. All these are signs that Dr. Van Pelt needs to see your child.
Regular cleanings and examinations are extremely important for children. As part of their successful oral health care children will benefit from sealants and fluoride treatments.
Sealants are thin plastic coatings that seal crevices in permanent teeth and act as a physical barrier to prevent oral bacteria from collecting and creating the acidic environment that allows tooth decay to develop. There is no pain involved in applying dental sealants. The cost of preventing tooth decay by placing dental sealants is much less than treating oral disease once it has developed, and many insurance plans cover sealants for children.
Tooth decay rates in children in the United States have decreased dramatically. Much of this decrease is due to the widespread use of fluoride in both systemic and topical forms. Fluoride is one of the most effective decay prevention measures.
Fluoridated water, fluoride drops and tablets are systemic fluorides, which means they are taken internally. Topical fluorides are placed directly on the teeth in the form of toothpastes and mouth rinses, and can be professionally applied by our dental hygienist. Topical fluoride reverses early decay by helping tooth enamel rebuild itself. Topical fluorides are especially important in communities whose water is not fluoridated.