First Birthday, First Dental Visit
Many parents think there is no reason to bring their baby in for a dental checkup until they are old enough to sit in the chair by themselves. According to the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it is recommended to establish a dental home for your child by the age of 1 year. These early visits are vital to educate families on the importance of good oral health and proper nutrition, to monitor growth and development, and to provide anticipatory guidance for oral habits or feeding challenges that your baby may be experiencing. Tethered oral tissues are also something that impact many infants when they are establishing their feeding and sleeping routine. We assess for all of these anatomical structures and any associated symptoms at their dental visits. Establishing good oral care from an early age helps to develop positive, lasting relationships with the dentist and the dental office environment for the rest of the child's life.
Pacifiers and Thumb/Finger Sucking
Prolonged use of pacifers or chronic finger/thumb sucking can have a direct negative effect on the devleopment of teeth, jaws and occlusion. They impose a force on the upper palate to push it in an upward direction which contributes to narrowing of the upper jaw. This can cause the bite to develop in what is referred to as "malocclusion" and can negatively impact facial development and bone growth within the upper and lower jaws as well as the nasal cavity. We recommend cessation of pacifier and nonnutritive sucking habits by the age of 1 year. If your baby struggles with these habits, please schedule a dental visit so that we can provide guidance in habit cessation.
Prevention of Cavities
It is important to establish regular oral hygiene habits by brushing twice daily and flossing once daily when you notice teeth are touching. Proper nutrition is also very important in the prevention of early decay in teeth. We recommend staying away from sweetened liquids such as juice, lemonade, or soda or sticky, chewy, carbohyrate rich snacks (ie fruit snacks, fruit roll ups, granola bars, goldfish, cereal, crackers) as these are associated with a high risk of developing early cavitis in children. It's also very important to not put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk to prevent the development of baby bottle tooth decay.
Setting a Good Example
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will begin to mimic your actions at an early age and thus learn the importance of your good habits. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about six or seven (when they can tie their shoes well by themselves), so you’ll have to do that part of the job. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!