As a parent, your child’s health is in your hands. However, part of your child’s overall health includes healthy teeth and gums. With the right approach to dental care, you can provide your child with the gift of oral health for life. Because prevention starts at home and continues with preventative care through regular dental checkups, it is important to understand why pediatric dentistry is vital to your child’s well-being. Here we take a look at how pediatric dentistry positively impacts your child’s health and creates lifelong habits to prevent dental issues.
What Is Pediatric Dentistry?
Pediatric dentistry focuses on dental health in children. Dental health begins from birth. Parents can contribute to their child’s oral health from day one, along with regular pediatric dental checkups once they begin teething. Pediatric dentistry concentrates on preventative care as well as:
- Teething problems
- Malocclusion or misaligned teeth
- Dental caries and tooth decay
- Gingivitis and dental abscesses
- Regular dental health checkups and hygiene maintenance
Your dentist assists in all these areas, while also introducing your child to proper oral hygiene habits.
The First Dental Appointment
According to the Canadian Dental Association, the first dental visit should follow within six months of the appearance of your baby’s first tooth. However, if this is not possible, then your child should be seen within the first year. This is an important step as it sets the foundation for ongoing dental checkups in order to take a proactive approach to your child’s dental health.
At the first appointment, we can check to make sure your child’s teeth are erupting as expected and offer important advice to help keep your child comfortable while teething. For older children, their first appointment includes a “chair ride” to introduce them to the exam room and dentist. Most importantly, children learn the dental office is nothing to fear.
As your child’s first teacher for brushing, it is easy to miss important details that can increase the risk for decay. By taking your child to the dentist from an early age, you will be provided with important instruction on proper oral hygiene. This ensures your child is brushing and flossing properly. However, regular dental checkups also provide opportunities to look for issues including signs of decay and irregular tooth development.
Potential Teething Problems
For some children, teething is delayed which can lead to issues with weaning and moving on to solid food. Pediatric dentistry ensures your child’s teeth are erupting properly, and can address teething problems that may lead to feeding issues as well as improper speech development.
Malocclusion And Misalignment
As your child grows, so do their teeth and jaw. With regular pediatric dentistry checkups, we watch for issues such as malocclusion where the teeth do not meet properly when the mouth is closed. This can lead to issues with eating and speaking, but can also be painful. Children with malocclusion are more prone to injuries such as biting the tongue or hurting their gums and inner cheek. Misaligned teeth also lead to bite issues, or can affect the appearance of your child’s smile. We follow development to look for issues so treatment can be provided such as braces to straighten the teeth.
Dental Caries And Tooth Decay
Many parents are unaware that even baby teeth are prone to issues caused by decay or small dental caries. While regular dental checkups improve oral hygiene to prevent decay, it is still possible for children to form cavities. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria and food remain on the teeth after eating. This increases the production of acid in the mouth which creates plaque. Plaque sticks to the teeth which eventually begins to eat away at the tooth enamel, leading to caries or cavities.
Children who are prone to decay or who show signs of caries can be treated with dental sealants. Once applied your child’s teeth are protected from further decay and the risk for cavities.
As well, some children might require fillings. While it might not make sense to fill a baby tooth that will soon fall out, baby teeth can remain in your child’s mouth until as late as the age of 12. Cavities and decay can lead to breaks, infections, and pain. Fillings therefore might be recommended when there is risk for deepening decay. Should decay become serious, we often have to pull the tooth.
Although the tooth is meant to fall out eventually, if it happens too soon, a space maintainer is required until the permanent tooth comes in. All of these treatments are far more complicated than a simple filling or sealants.
Forming Healthy Attitudes
Many adults suffer from dental fears or are extremely anxious when visiting the dentist. In most cases these fears can be avoided with an early introduction to dental care. With early pediatric dentistry appointments, your child forms healthy attitudes towards their dentist, dental checkups, and the importance of oral care.
Our team is especially sensitive to the need to make a good first impression, as how your child reacts to their first visit can dictate their oral health attitudes for life. Early childhood pediatric dentistry appointments are:
- Caring interactions between your child and their dental team
- Gentle and informative to alleviate uncertainty and anxiety
- Fun and educational
- An important life lesson
The key is to find a dental office that takes special steps to make children feel safe and welcome. From the moment they arrive, they need to feel comfortable with the team and be stress-free when they enter the treatment room. We encourage kids to ask questions and we explain everything we do so they can prepare themselves. Kids of all ages and learning abilities are treated in a manner they will respond to positively and, when needed, special accommodations are made.
With proper pediatric dentistry, your child will learn how to brush and floss properly while accepting regular dental checkups as a required step in their general health care for life.