When should you take your child to the dentist for the first time?
According to recent studies it is recommended that infants who get their first tooth within the first 6 months of life consult a dentist before the age of one in order to ascertain if there are any underlying oral health concerns.
The Rourke Baby record suggests that children should see a dentist for the first time from the ages of 9 -15 months. Taking your child to the dentist will also ease them into what is to follow, allowing them to get used to the atmosphere, the noises, and what the dentist will be doing. This is essentially to make your little one more comfortable and get used to a sort of routine when visiting the dentist’s chair.
Your child should ideally visit the dentist for a check-up between the ages of three to five years old and more regularly once the permanent teeth erupt. This will be a preventative measure to aid in combatting tooth decay, oral bacterial colonization and its cariogenic effects. Tooth decay is 5 times more prevalent than asthma in children ages 5-17 years and is one of the most common childhood health conditions in the United States. Studies in Canada reported that children between the ages of 6 and 11 who have had a cavity equated to 57% of that demographic.
Ensuring that your child visits the dentist when necessary is vitally important because dental health can affect your child in the later years of life whether it be on a physiological or social level. Tooth / oral pain can have long lasting and devastating effects which includes behavioural problems, lack of sleep and poor growth due to lack of adequate nutrition as a result of pain. Self-esteem can also be negatively impacted in a child if they are experiencing dental problems. (1)
Why is fluoride important?
Fluoride is very important because it can minimize cavities in a baby’s primary teeth. The tooth enamel will also become stronger and hardened as a result of its use. Children will mostly get the fluoride they need from drinking water. If the water you are consuming doesn’t contain the fluoride, you may need to administer an oral supplement, but always consult your physician first to ascertain whether supplementation is necessary or not.
Once the dental visits are in full swing, your child will receive a thorough teeth cleaning and fluoride varnish will be applied. Fluoride can also result in stains on the teeth if too much is used, so always discuss this with your dentist before attempting any DIY fluoride applications at home. It’s important to monitor your child when brushing their teeth so as to ensure that they don’t swallow and ingest fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste.
Dental caries or cavities as they are more commonly known, form when there is a build-up of bacteria within the mouth. These bacteria produce acid that damages the tooth’s enamel and underlying dentin, resulting in holes in the teeth. Sugar based items in food, juices and drinks exacerbate the condition, as the bacteria present turn these into acids which further damage the teeth. Children are generally more susceptible to cavities as a result of improper hygiene as they often find it difficult to brush their teeth properly. This is why it is your job, as a parent to brush your baby’s teeth properly and once they are older, to teach them proper brushing techniques as well as supervise the process.
It’s vitally important that everyone, adults included, take care of their teeth because the bacteria that causes cavities can be passed on to unborn babies, infants and children through oral contact.
Your child / children could be exposed to cavities if they:
- Were premature of underweight at birth (2)
- Have brown areas on their teeth or white marks / spots
- Are experiencing other health issues
- Don't attend regular dental visits
At the end of the day, what your child consumes on a daily basis plays a massive role in their oral hygiene. Children who consume sugary drinks and high sugar content foods have a greater risk of getting cavities. You as the parent have this control, so don't give your children too much, limit the intake of sugar between their meals and make sure that they have a good routine in terms of brushing their teeth.
Things to ponder when it comes to thumb sucking and dummies and their effects on teeth
It’s a natural thing for babies to stick their thumb (or all of their fingers) in their mouths and suck on them or even a dummy. However, after the age of four, they should be weaned from this habit as it may affect the alignment of their teeth, never mind the germ aspect associated with it. If you find that your child is struggling to break this habit after four years of age, chat to your dentist who can keep an eye on any problems that could occur when the permanent teeth start to develop.
(1) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 18 January 2018. Oral health care for children - a call for action. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3680273/ Accessed [26/04/2018]
(2) The Sahlgrenska Academy. 2012. Preterm Infants Odontological Aspects. Available at: https://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/28265/1/gupea_2077_28265_1.pdf Accessed [26/04/2018]