Q&A Topic: Optimizing Infant and Toddler Dental Health
Q. Why is it important for your infant/toddler to see a board certified pediatric dentist?
A. A board certified pediatric dentist has two to three years of specialty training following dental school. The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD) is the only certifying board for the specialty of pediatric dentistry that is recognized by the American Dental Association. The ABPD certifies pediatric dentists based on standards of excellence that lead to high-quality oral health care for infants, children, adolescents, and patients with special healthcare needs. Certification by the ABPD provides assurance that your pediatric dentist has successfully completed accredited training and a voluntary examination process designed to continually validate the knowledge, skills, and experience requisite to the delivery of quality patient care. Your board certified pediatric dentist has voluntarily submitted himself or herself to this rigorous examination process.
Q. Why are baby teeth important if they eventually fall out?
A. It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth, which are also called baby teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems, which adversely affect developing permanent teeth. Primary teeth, or baby teeth, are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing and maintaining space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front four teeth last until age 6 or 7, the back teeth (canines and molars) aren’t replaced until age 10 to 13.
Q. What is an ideal time to bring your child to a board certified pediatric dentist?
A. Your child’s first visit to the dentist should happen around his or her first birthday. The general rule is six months after eruption of the first tooth. Taking your child to the dentist at a young age is the best way to prevent problems such as tooth decay, and can help parents learn how to clean their child’s teeth. Cavities can occur as soon as teeth appear. Bringing your child to the dentist early, often leads to a lifetime of good oral habits and acclimates your child to the dental office, which helps reduce anxiety and fear, and paves the way for plenty of stress-free visits in the future.
Q. What can be expected during your infant or toddle’s first dental visit? Are radiographs ever used?
A. During your child’s first dental visit, several topics will be discussed to help maintain your little one’s oral health. Your Board Certified Pediatric Dentist or hygienist will discuss topics such as nutrition, caries counseling, and the growth and development of your child. A child’s first visit primarily focuses on informing the parent about prevention techniques and building a trusting relationship with the child. An examination by the dentist, and caries/nutritional counseling are the most important factors in your child’s first visit.
As your child gets older, radiographs allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions beyond cavities that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. For example, radiographs may be needed to survey developing and erupting teeth and surrounding supportive structures, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment.
Q. How can you implement prevention techniques at home?
A. Prevention starts at home. Wiping your infant’s gums and teeth with a clean cloth or gauze morning and night is the first step. As more teeth come in, begin a brushing routine using water. Once your child turns 2 years old, begin using a fluoride toothpaste. Never give your child a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened liquid as a pacifier at naptime or bedtime. Limit the amount of snacks/sugar your child consumes on a daily basis. Parental help is highly recommended until your child is old enough to take personal responsibility for their oral hygiene routine.
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