Caring For Primary Teeth
It is essential to take good care of your child’s primary teeth (sometimes called baby teeth). Neglecting cavities or other problems in these teeth can lead to problems in their gums and permanent teeth.
Though your child will lose these teeth as they grow, primary teeth play important roles in your child’s oral health. Primary teeth:
- establish proper patterns of chewing and eating;
- provide space for permanent teeth;
- allow for correct development of the jaw bones and muscles; and
- affect the development of speech.
First Dentist Visit
It is important that you help your child establish a good attitude toward visiting the dentist from the very beginning. Before their first visit, tell them what to expect and explain that the dentist and assistants are there to help. Listen to your child’s concerns and help them understand that they don’t need to be afraid of anything that happens at the dentist. Keep your descriptions simple and avoid using words that may scare them, including mentions of needles, pulling, or other painful procedures. Discourage older siblings from teasing the child about the dentist.
Regular Dentist Visit
You should take your child to the dentist every 6 months, starting at their first birthday. These regular visits will help keep your child’s teeth strong and help you identify early signs of trouble.
Here are some tips to help make your visits to the dentist as easy as possible:
- Dental visits are part of growing up. You shouldn’t offer rewards or indicate in any way that there is anything to fear.
- The less “fuss” the better. It’s best to tell your child about a dental visit the day of the appointment.
- If you child wants more information about the dentist, explain to them that the doctor will look at his/her teeth to make sure they are healthy.
- Make sure that your child is well rested the day of the appointment.
- Don’t threaten a visit to the dentist as a form a punishment for bad behavior.
A sealant is clear or translucent plastic that is applied to a child’s back teeth that prevents food, plaque, and acid from getting in the cracks and areas of the teeth that are prone to decay.
The right amount of fluoride can help strengthen teeth and protect against cavities. However, too much fluoride can lead to discoloration of the teeth. Make sure your child does not swallow the toothpaste. If they are too young to spit it out, use a toothpaste that does not contain fluoride. Also make sure you are aware of other sources of fluoride before giving your child additional fluoride treatments. Many cities add fluoride to their drinking water and some foods contain fluoride, including infant formula, dry cereals, baby foods, and white grape juice.
Dental radiographs not only detect cavities, but also show progress of teeth growth and help alert your dentist of bone diseases and other problems. They let your child’s dentist see patterns and symptoms that are not visible in a physical examination. By finding and treating potential problems early, you can save money and avoid unnecessary procedures later. Your child’s dentist may recommend x-rays once or twice per year, depending on their risk factors for tooth decay and other problems. The amount of radiation from a dental x-ray is small and your child will be protected by a lead apron and other protective measures.
Pulp therapy is also called “children’s root canal,” “nerve treatment,” “pulpotomy,” or “pulpectomy.” The pulp of a tooth is the inner core that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When a child has a severe cavity or a tooth injury, pulp therapy can be used to remove the damaged pulp and seal the tooth to prevent further problems. A pulpotomy removes the diseased pulp within the crown (top) of the tooth and uses an agent to prevent bacterial growth and calm the nerve tissue. The tooth is then capped with a crown. A pulpectomy is a more extensive treatment that removes all the pulp tissue from both the crown and the root. The canals are then cleansed and filled before being capped.