Developing Early Hygiene Habits
Why Are Early Hygiene Habits Important?
Primary or “baby” teeth are less densely mineralized than adult teeth. This means that they’re more easily damaged through accidents or cavities than adult teeth, so dental hygiene is critically important.
When Should I Schedule Dental Appointments?
Schedule an appointment with a children’s dentist in NW Calgary after your child starts to grow primary teeth. The first appointment should be around your child’s first birthday.
The Secret to Teaching Dental Hygiene at Home
Regular checkups with your children’s dentist can only do so much. Your children need to learn how to practice other areas of dental hygiene as well. Use these tips to help them form healthy habits:
- Create a schedule. You already brush twice a day and floss once. Make this part of your children’s routine as well.
- Brush and floss with them. Children learn by example. If they see you doing it, they’ll know that it’s important. If you make it into a game (like seeing who can brush the longest), your children will be even more enthusiastic about brushing.
- Tell them why you do what you do. They may not understand everything you tell them, but as long as your children understand that brushing and flossing keep them healthy, they’ll keep doing it.
Getting Children Used to the Dentist
A dental practice is a strange and unfamiliar place to a small child. It’s natural for them to be uneasy and anxious when they visit for the first time.
There are several things parents can do to help children feel more comfortable when they visit the dentist.
Be Calm Yourself
Many adults are nervous visiting the dentist, and they pass this onto their children. One of the best things parents can do is to make visiting the dentist a calm and normal experience. Even if you’re nervous, putting on a brave face for your children can make all the difference.
Take Your Children From An Early Age
A child’s first appointment should be by their first birthday. However, bringing a child along earlier when you go for your own hygiene visits can also be a huge help.
By familiarizing them with a dental practice from a few months old, they’ll be even more comfortable by the time they need to come in themselves.
What to Expect During a Dental Visit
What to expect with a child’s visit to the dentist will obviously change depending on their age and needs. As they get older, their dental visits will start to look more and more like an adult’s.
Age One Care Visit
The first appointment should be made by the child’s first birthday. This appointment is typically with a hygienist, but may be with the dentist.
Typically what will happen is that the hygienist or dentist will review the child’s history, answer any questions or concerns you might have, and talk to you about your child’s overall oral health. This will include things like:
- Teeth development
- Their bite (how their teeth sit together when their mouth is closed)
- Soft tissues, like the gums and cheeks
- Habits such as sucking
- Diet and hygiene suggestions for maintaining oral health
There will typically be very minimal contact with the child, which will largely amount to taking a look in their mouth to assess their oral health. Our friendly staff will do everything to make your child feel at ease and enjoy their experience.
You will also be given advice on how to clean your children’s teeth and take care of their oral hygiene until they can brush for themselves.
From there, follow up visits will usually be scheduled. These are generally schedules for once every six months, but that can change depending on your child’s existing oral health and any risk factors, such as a family history of cavities.
Care Visits Age 3-6
By three years of age, most children have all of their baby teeth. At six years of age, the adult teeth start to come through.
Between 2-5 the development of the whole mouth is closely monitored by dentists and their teams. If there’s a problem with the growth and development of baby teeth, there’s a good chance there’ll be a problem with the adult teeth.
Additionally, the dental team will keep an eye on the arch of the child’s mouth, to ensure there’s enough space for all the teeth to prevent crowding.
During these visits it can start to become clear whether your child will require any sort of bridge or orthodontic work in the near future, and appropriate plans can be made.
Dental Visits Age 6+
Once the permanent teeth start to break through, regular hygiene checkups start looking a lot like adult ones. Teeth are checked, scaled, and cleaned if needed. Fillings are made if any cavities are found, and orthodontic treatments are discussed in more depth.
Calming Anxious Children
Various tricks and tools are used to calm particularly anxious children. Usually, a friendly manner and some entertaining distractions, such as their favorite movie or TV show, are enough to calm most children. Their parents helping to soothe them if they get upset also goes a long way.
In severe cases, nitrous oxide can be used to help calm your child as well. Nitrous oxide is an anesthetic gas that’s used to calm patients during procedures. It does not fully anaesthetize a person, and is not used to put them to sleep.
Nitrous oxide sedation is safe for children. If nitrous oxide is administered, there are a few care instructions to take note of:
- The child is not to move from the bed until told to by the nurse or dentist.
- The child is to avoid sporting activities for the rest of the day, as their balance and coordination can be effected for a short while.
- The child is accompanied by an adult at all times during and after the sedation.
Nitrous oxide can only be administered by a specially trained medical professional.
How Teeth Develop and Grow
By three years of age, most children will have their baby or primary teeth. There will be 20 in total, and they usually start growing from the lower jaw. When and how quickly they appear can vary from child to child and tooth to tooth.
Baby teeth usually start erupting by 6 months, and should all be finished by 3.
The Importance of Baby Teeth
Many people think that since baby teeth are temporary, they don’t need to worry about their care as much. This is very much not the case.
Baby or primary teeth are important for
- Proper eating and chewing
- Providing space and guidance for the permanent teeth
- Allowing the jaw bone and muscles to develop properly
- Speech development
If baby teeth aren’t properly cared for, a whole host of developmental problems can arise that will be uncomfortable, time-consuming, and expensive to fix in the future.
By around 6 years of age, permanent teeth start to erupt from underneath the temporary teeth. The front teeth, top and bottom, erupt first. After a gap of around two years, the molars start to erupt as well.
As you know, adult teeth are not replaced, so it’s important to look after them from an early age.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Preventing tooth decay in young children is important. Children love sugary, sweet foods, which makes them particularly susceptible to developing cavities.
Cavities in temporary teeth can lead to development problems with the adult teeth. Early cavities in permanent teeth can set children up for a long history of oral health issues as adults.
Cleaning Children’s Mouths and Gums
For infants, wipe their teeth down with a clean washcloth or some wet gauze.
When baby teeth first erupt, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently wipe the teeth down.
Use progressively more toothpaste with their cleaning as they age. Under two years old, a small smear of toothpaste is enough. From 2-5, a “pea”-sized drop of toothpaste will be more than enough to clean their teeth.
Preventing Cavities Through Diet
Sweets and candies should be kept to a minimum to help prevent cavities and decay.
Many people neglect to limit sugary liquid intake, as they forget that liquids play just an important role in our diet as solid food. Juice and other sweetened drinks should be supplied in moderation, and milk only at meal times. If you put your child to bed with a sippy cup of liquid, make sure it’s water.
Children suck their thumbs for a variety of reasons, but typically to make themselves feel secure and relaxed. This is a natural reflex in infants and isn’t a problem on its own.
By the time a child’s permanent teeth erupt, it’s best if the child has stopped sucking — either on their fingers, a pacifier, or other items. Vigorous thumb sucking during childhood while adult teeth are erupting can lead to misaligned teeth.
Some tips for weaning children off thumb sucking:
- Treat the cause of the sucking. Children often suck their thumbs or a pacifier when they feel uncomfortable or insecure. By providing comfort and security, the child won’t feel the need to suck their thumb.
- Reward children for not sucking their thumbs when in difficult situations, such as new locations, or when away from one of their parents. This will encourage them to give up the habit.
- Bandage the thumb to discourage sucking on it.
- Have the dentist or hygienist educate the child on the importance of not sucking their thumbs.
If necessary, your dentist may need to recommend a mouth appliance for use when your child is asleep.
In the early years, children’s dentistry is more preventive than restorative. Prior to the arrival of permanent teeth there’s little reason to fill cavities in temporary teeth. Chipped, broken, and missing temporary teeth generally aren’t repaired or replaced. It’s better to prevent issues and monitor them if they do appear.
However, after around the age of 2 it will be noticeable to the dental team if there are some developmental issues with the mouth. It might be necessary to start a treatment, say to widen a bridge, to prevent more painful, time-consuming and costly procedures later.
These pre-emptive treatments are designed to alleviate the need for long-term orthodontic work later. Your dentist and their team will be able to advise you during one of your visits.
Dental sealants can be used to prevent decay and damage to the teeth. It’s a safe, clear, nontoxic substance that forms a protective layer around the tooth. This prevents food from building up and bacteria from eating at the teeth.
When should I first take my child to the dentist?
You should make their first appointment before their first birthday.
Are baby teeth really that important?
Yes. Even though they’re temporary, baby teeth lay the foundation for your child’s ongoing oral health and development.
How often should my child see the dentist?
A checkup once every six months is usually recommended. More frequent visits may be advised by your dentist depending on your child’s circumstances.
What happens is baby tooth doesn’t fall out?
If a permanent tooth erupts behind a baby tooth, don’t stress. The tooth should come loose and fall out on its own within two months. Your child will usually help this along by fidgeting with the tooth. If it still hasn’t fallen out by then, see your dentist, and they’ll remove it for you. The permanent tooth will typically move into place.
Children’s Dentistry with Dentrix Dental Care
If you would like to know more about children’s dentistry in NW Calgary, don’t hesitate to contact Dentirx Dental Care. Our warm, friendly staff will be happy to answer your questions. We have experience with children of all ages. Contact us at our NW Calgary clinic today.