Pediatric Dentist Scottsdale, AZ - Caring for Your Child's Teeth
Even though children will eventually lose their first set of teeth called "primary " or "baby" teeth, it is important to take care of these teeth. What parents and caregivers do at home to care for children's baby teeth every day is just as important or maybe more so than what happens during a pediatric dental visit. Despite the presence of fluoride in the water in most metropolitan areas, dental decay in children continues to be a common problem.
The goal of "preventative" care is to prevent cavities and other dental problems before they start. Beginning at the age of twelve months, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that children begin to visit the dentist for "well baby" check ups. While most children under the age of two will not cooperative enough for a dental cleaning, the dentist can do a quick and easy visual exam. This gets the child used to being in a dental setting. In general, most children should continue to visit the dentist every six months unless instructed otherwise.
How can Dr. Blazer Help Me Care for my Child’s Teeth?
Dr. Marcia Blazer will first check your child's teeth for any signs of dental decay (or cavities). She will also looks at your child's overall face and jaw structure to see if there are early signs that an orthodontist may need to know about.
Once your child is old enough to sit still for a dental visit (usually by age 3-4), the teeth will be checked visually and also with several x-rays to check for cavities between the molar teeth. These early x-rays are especially important. Most children are not aware when they have food stuck between the back of molars (think of how much sand you pour out of your child's shoes after a trip to the playground!). Food accumulation between the baby molar teeth is a common cause of cavities between the teeth, These types of cavities can only be detected with a dental x-ray.
Your child's teeth will be professionally cleaned and topical fluoride might be coated onto the the teeth to protect tooth enamel. Dr. Blazer and the hygienist can teach your child good brushing and flossing techniques, advise you on dietary issues, provide strategies for thumb sucking and pacifier cessation, and communicate with your child on his or her level.
When the first set of adult molars start to erupt, usually around the age of six, Dr. Blazer will likely recommend the placement of a "sealant". The sealant fills in hard-to-reach grooves on the molars, sealing out bacteria, food particles, and acid. Dental sealants may last for many months or many years, depending on the oral habits of your child. Sealants are an important tool in the fight against tooth decay.
How Can I Help at Home? Our Scottsdale Hygienists and Dr. Blazer Have Tips for You
Though most parents primarily think of brushing and flossing when they hear the words “oral care,” good preventative care includes many more factors, such as:
Diet – Parents should provide children with a nourishing, well-balanced diet that is overall low in processed sugars. Bacteria that exists normally in the mouth feeds on leftover sugar particles in the child's mouth after each helping of food, producing harmful acids that can damage the tooth enamel. Very sugary diets should be modified and continuous snacking should be discouraged. Oral bacteria ingest leftover sugar particles in the child’s mouth after each helping of food, emitting harmful acids that erode tooth enamel, gum tissue, and bone. Space out sugary snacks when possible, and provide your child with non-sugary alternatives like celery sticks, carrot sticks, and low-fat yogurt. Keep in mind that foods that may be good for your child, such as dried fruits, are not necessarily good for your child's teeth. Dried fruit has a lot of sugar and is sticky. It can get stuck in the grooves of the teeth for a prolonged period of time.
Oral habits – Though most children outgrow thumb sucking and pacifier use, both can cause the teeth to misalign in the jaw if continued for a prolonged period of time. If the child must use a pacifier, choose an “orthodontically” correct model. This will minimize the risk of developmental problems like narrow roof arches and crowding. Sometimes, the orthodontist can recommend an oral appliance that helps the children outgrow thumb sucking quickly and easily.
General oral hygiene – Parents should avoid cleaning off toys and pacifiers by putting them in their own mouths. Parents may also share eating utensils with the child. In doing so, parents can unknowingly transfer harmful oral bacteria to their child, increasing the risk of early cavities and tooth decay. Instead, Dr. Blazer recommends rinsing toys and pacifiers with warm water, and avoid spoon-sharing whenever possible.
Sippy cup use – Sippy cups are an excellent transitional aid when transferring from a baby bottle to an adult drinking glass. However, sippy cups filled with anything other than water can continually bathe young teeth in sugars that can feed the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Sippy cup use should be discontinued between the ages of twelve and fourteen months or as soon as the child has the motor skills to hold a drinking glass.
Brushing – Children’s teeth should be brushed a minimum of two times per day using a soft bristled brush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Parents should help with the brushing process until the child reaches the age of seven and is capable of reaching all areas of the mouth. Parents should always opt for ADA approved toothpaste (non-fluoridated before the age of two, and fluoridated thereafter). For babies, parents should rub the gum area with a clean cloth after each feeding.
Flossing – Cavities and tooth decay form more easily between teeth. Therefore, the child is at risk for between-teeth cavities wherever two teeth grow adjacent to each other. The hygienist can help with teaching young small hands how to floss using aids that make it simple and fun to floss!
Fluoride – Fluoride helps prevent mineral loss and simultaneously promotes the remineralization of tooth enamel. Too much fluoride can result in fluorosis, a condition where white specks appear on the permanent teeth, but too little can result in tooth decay. Most children get adequate fluoride just by drinking regular tap water. However, with many families drinking only filtered water, the fluoride level may not be enough. Talk to Dr. Blazer about his during your child's next visit.
If you have questions or concerns about how to care for your child’s teeth, contact our friendly staff to schedule your appointment with Dr. Marcia Blazer!