Healthy teeth, healthy kids – Answers to your frequently asked questions about oral health and dental care for children. | 6 min read

Navigating the world of children’s dental health can often feel like decoding a complex puzzle, especially for new parents aiming to lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles. Whether you’re curious about cavity prevention or when to schedule that first dental appointment, you’re in the right place to find answers.

1. At what age should a child have their first dental visit?

One of the most common questions we get often is when your child should first see a  dentist. Understanding the right time to schedule that first dental appointment can  set your child up for a lifetime of good oral health habits. Your child’s first dental visit should ideally be after their first tooth appears but by the first birthday. Why so early? As soon as your baby has teeth, they can get cavities. This early visit helps establish a dental home and allows the dentist to monitor growth and development, offer preventive care advice, and catch any potential issues early. Being proactive about your child’s dental health can help keep their smile healthy for life.

2. What are the most common dental problems for children?

Cavities (caries or tooth decay) are childhood’s most common chronic disease. Early childhood caries (ECC), or baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries, is a common dental disease affecting children under six. It involves the decay of primary teeth, leading to pain, infection, and potential complications.  The leading cause is putting children to bed with a bottle of juice or milk. Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when sugary liquids pool around a baby’s teeth while they sleep, leading to cavities.

3. When should I start brushing my child’s teeth? 

Baby teeth need to be brushed as soon as they appear. Taking good care of baby teeth helps ensure healthy permanent teeth. When baby teeth have many cavities, it can cause tooth pain, infection, inability to chew, loss of confidence, and permanent malformed adult teeth. Parents should be responsible for brushing and flossing their children’s teeth until they’re old enough to do it alone. Children can generally brush on their own when they’re 7 and floss on their own when they’re 10.

4. How can I prevent cavities in my child’s teeth?

Preventative dentistry is still the best dentistry. The importance of early prevention and education cannot be emphasised enough. Cavities can be prevented by ensuring good oral hygiene practices from an early age. This includes brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, limiting sugary snacks and drinks, and visiting the dentist regularly. Dentists can eliminate stubborn plaque and tartar that a regular toothbrush can’t tackle. They can also spot early signs of decay, making treatment more straightforward and effective. Should a cavity be discovered, dentists can remove the decay and insert a filling that matches the natural colour of your child’s teeth. In cases where decay has caused an infection, the dentist can do root canals on primary teeth, safeguarding the tooth with a crown until it naturally falls out.  Fluoride treatments and dental sealants a dentist provides can also offer additional protection against cavities.

5. Why is thumb sucking and dummy use wrong for children’s teeth?

Thumb sucking and the use of dummies (pacifiers) can have adverse effects on children’s dental health, primarily due to the way these habits influence the development and alignment of the teeth and jaw. 

Prolonged thumb sucking or dummy use can exert pressure on the teeth and jaw, leading to misaligned teeth, development of a crossbite, and abnormal mouth and jaw development. A narrower upper jaw can necessitate orthodontic correction later in life. Teeth that are misaligned or protruding are more vulnerable to injury and breakage, especially in active children. The dental issues arising from these habits can also impact speech development, potentially leading to lisps and other speech impediments.

It is generally recommended to discourage thumb-sucking and dummy use after one and a half years to prevent these potential dental issues. If these habits persist, consulting a dentist for advice and possible interventions is advisable.

6. What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?

If your child knocks out a permanent tooth, acting quickly is essential. Find and gently rinse the tooth without touching the root, try to reinsert it into the socket, and have your child hold it in place with a clean cloth or gauze. If you can’t reinsert the tooth, place it in a milk container or your child’s saliva and seek immediate dental care. The faster you act, the better the chances of saving the tooth

7. What is a child-friendly dentist?

A child-friendly dentist is particularly interested in providing dental care for children from infancy through adolescence. They can address young patients’ unique dental needs and concerns in a manner that makes them feel comfortable, safe and understood. They use simple, reassuring language to explain procedures and answer questions, helping to demystify the dental experience and build trust with their young patients.

Child-friendly dental practices are designed with the comfort and interests of children in mind. The decor often includes bright colours, engaging themes, and child-sized furniture. Waiting areas might have toys, books, and games to help children feel at ease and reduce anxiety about dental visits.

Understanding the fears and anxieties that children may have about dental visits, child-friendly dentists and their staff take a gentle, patient-centred approach to care. They are adept at managing a variety of behaviours and can adapt their techniques to meet each child’s individual needs.

Child-friendly dentists encourage parental involvement in their child’s dental care. They take the time to educate parents about their child’s oral health needs and how to support healthy habits at home.

Choosing a child-friendly dentist for your child can lead to positive dental experiences, fostering a lifelong commitment to good oral health. They provide comprehensive dental care and play a crucial role in the early detection of dental issues, ensuring that children grow up with healthy smiles.

These questions cover some fundamental concerns many parents have about their children’s dental health. Our child-friendly dentists have the training, expertise, and technology to treat kids’ dental problems quickly, comfortably, and effectively so that you can preserve their smiles and let the primary teeth continue to play important roles in their oral development. Regular communication with a dentist can provide personalised advice and help keep your child’s smile healthy and bright. 

Read next: Tips for a great trip to the dentist

References and sources consulted.

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