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The Importance of Pediatric Dentistry

At Kingston Dental, we want our patients, adults, teens, and children, to have a healthy dental life.  That means that parents not only need to understand how to properly take care of their own dental health, but they also need to recognize that their children’s teeth need dental care too.  

Here’s a guide on how to handle teething, how and when to teach your children how to brush and floss as they grow up, and when it’s time to start regular dental visits for the kids.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

Teething can be a challenging time for both babies and parents.  Babies are in pain as teeth push through their gums one after another, so they tend to cry and fuss a lot.   And parents—especially new ones—don’t always know what to do.

Teething often happens during the evening and nighttime hours, so be prepared for some sleepless nights.  In addition, your baby may refuse to eat or drink while teething.  They may have a low-grade fever, and teething often causes more than usual drooling.  

Don’t worry.  This is all part of the natural growing process that has been going on for thousands of years.  It will eventually pass.  Be patient with your baby and try to comfort them as much as possible.

Here are some tips to help parents get your babies through the teething process:

  • Massage your baby's gums.  First wash your hands.  Then use a clean finger, a soft toothbrush, or a soft, non-abrasive, damp, cold, cloth to massage your baby's gums. This can help to relieve teething pain, much like an icepack can soothe aching muscles.                
  • Look for teething toys to provide your baby with something to chew or suck on to help relieve their teething pain. Choose toys that are specifically made for teething and are made of safe materials that are free of small removeable parts that could be swallowed or sharp edges that could hurt your child.  Many teething toys are made to put in the freezer so that when chewed or sucked on, they numb the baby’s painful gums.
  • Teething gels can be applied to your baby's gums to numb them and provide temporary relief from pain. Talk to your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist for advice on which teething gel is the right one for your baby.
  • Frozen vegetables and fruits, such as carrots, bananas, orange slices, fresh fruit purees, or strawberries, can be tied into a neat cheesecloth bundle to provide your baby with something to chew and suck on to soothe their sore gums.  Teething “fresh food feeders” are also available at many stores or online if you would rather not make one yourself.
  • When you feed your baby, stick to soft foods that are easy for them to eat.  Hard foods can irritate the gums and heighten teething pain.  Soft foods are easier to swallow and don’t need to be chewed.

So, all your child’s teeth have now come in.  They are toddlers now, and it’s time to teach them how to brush and care for their own teeth.  Patience and daily consistency are key to teaching your child proper oral hygiene habits.

With positive reinforcement and making it a fun activity to brush their teeth, you can help them develop and maintain healthy lifelong habits that will result in a beautiful smile and healthy, cavity-free teeth.  Of course, up to a certain age, you will need to supervise them, however.

Here's a brief step-by-step guide on how to teach your child how to brush and floss their teeth effectively:

  • Introduce toothbrushing and flossing from an early age.  As stated above, use a soft toothbrush or a clean finger to massage their gums after feeding. This helps your child get used to the sensation of teeth cleaning and prepares them for regular brushing when the time comes around.
  • Turn toothbrushing into a fun activity. Let your child choose their own toothbrush fashioned with their favorite cartoon characters or in a bright color. Use a timer to make it a game and encourage them to brush for the recommended two minutes.  Or teach them how to use an electric toothbrush.  Because their bristles rotate, electric toothbrushes are able to clean more difficult-to-reach areas and can be gentler on gums and tooth enamel, so there is less erosion.  They also have an automatic timer and shut-off after two minutes.
  • Brush your teeth together with your child to demonstrate the importance of oral hygiene.  This is not only a great way to spend some bonding and fun time with your child, it’s also a perfect time to emphasize the importance of healthy teeth.  It also allows you time to be sure they are brushing correctly and for the proper length of time.
  • Show your child how to brush their teeth correctly by angling the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums and using gentle back-and-forth motions.  Demonstrate how they should brush all surfaces of their teeth, including the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces.  And don’t forget the surface of their tongue.  By brushing the tongue, layers of bacteria that can cause cavities and bad breath are removed.
  • Once your child has developed enough practice and has some dexterity with a toothbrush, usually around the age of six, you should introduce them to the process of flossing.  You can show them how to gently guide the floss between teeth and slide it up and down to remove plaque, tartar, and food particles.  If plaque and tartar buildup is left unchecked, cavities and gum disease will eventually become a dental health issue as they grow older.
  • Set consistent times for brushing and flossing.  Make it an after breakfast and before bedtime routine for them to follow.  Be sure to supervise your child until they can brush and floss without your guidance or supervision.  This consistency while they are young, sets up a lifetime of good habits.
  • Encourage and praise your child for brushing and flossing correctly.  Keep track of good dental hygiene behavior on a calendar and then use rewards (not candy), such as stickers, a new book for you to read to them, or extra play time as a reward.  You should continue to use positive reinforcement to inspire and maintain their good dental habits.  You can also download “Chomper Chums”, or other fun, instructional apps that are interactive games designed to make tooth brushing, flossing, and rinsing fun for children.  The Chomper Chums app uses colorful animations and cuddly animal characters to help promote oral health.  And, because it’s a participatory app, it will engage your kids in the process keeping establishing oral hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.

When to start your child’s dental visits:

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you should start dental visits by your child’s first birthday.  They even recommend that once your child gets their first baby tooth, even if it’s before their first birthday, it’s time to make a dental appointment.  This early exposure to dental care allows for prompt detection of any potential problems, and it helps to establish a positive relationship between the child and the dentist.  

They go on to say that from the age of one year to 18 years of age, children and teens should see their dentist every 3 to 6 months to prevent tooth decay and for the early detection of any dental issues.  After the age of 18, the American Dental Association recommends that adults should schedule a dental cleaning and check-up at least twice per year.

Many people believe that very young children can skip seeing a dentist because baby teeth don’t last forever, but the opposite is true. Seeing a pediatric dentist is essential to discover any early health concerns or issues that may impact lifelong dental health.  

Regular dental visits are essential for maintaining good oral health and preventing dental problems. During these bi-annual visits, the dentist will examine your child's teeth and gums, clean their teeth, and provide guidance on oral hygiene.

They may also recommend additional treatments or preventive measures, such as fluoride treatments or sealants, to protect your child's teeth against cavities.  Early detection and treatment of dental problems can help prevent more serious issues in the future.  And early dental treatment can also prevent overall health issues caused by bad dental health from developing at an early age.

Good oral healthcare is important at every age, from young children to seniors.  Regular dental checkups and cleanings for your child so that you and your dentist can monitor their oral health is a vital routine we should all adopt as a lifetime habit.  

At Kingston Dental Care, we want to make sure your teeth stay healthy, function properly, and look great, no matter how young our patients are. This means that protecting the health and safety of our patients and their families is our number one priority.  Our highly professional dentists, dental assistants, and hygienic staff provide quality, comprehensive dental care so that we can serve all the dental needs of our community.   We never lose sight of our #1 goal: Patients always come first.

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