Over the years, I’ve had so many parents ask me why they need to take their babies and young children to the dentist and why, if their young child has a cavity, it would need to be fixed if the tooth is just going to fall out. Of course I understand these questions and concerns. We definitely don’t want to do unnecessary procedures on anyone, especially children. I hope that I can explain why pediatric dentists want to see infants by the time they have their first tooth or reach their first birthday, whichever comes first, and why it’s important to restore baby teeth.
This may seem really basic, but it’s true: teeth help children chew and speak and look sweet! They are also important for the growth and development of the jaws and face and help make sure there is room for the permanent teeth and that they come in where they are supposed to be.
To reduce the risk of your child ever having cavities, YOU NEED TO HELP THEM BRUSH AND FLOSS. They just don’t have the manual dexterity to do a good job, or understand what they are trying to do. Remember 2 x 2 x 2: Brush two minutes, two times a day, and see your pediatric dentist two times a year! It’s also extremely important to watch their diet and limit anything full of sugar (gummies, candies, juice) or that can stick in their teeth (crackers, chips).
So when should you start brushing your baby’s teeth? As soon as there is a tooth there! Or you can even start before then. Most infants really like it when you gently rub their gums. The pressure feels good and it will desensitize them to having you in their mouths. You can start with a soft finger brush or go straight to a soft bristle toothbrush.
Should you use toothpaste on your infant? You sure can! Just make sure you use a very small amount…like the size of a grain of rice. Children under the age of 6 cannot spit consistently because the musculature of the oropharynx is not fully developed, so they end up swallowing toothpaste.
Another great reason to bring in your baby is that we will evaluate their growth and development, swallowing, lip ties and other oral habits they may have like thumb sucking or pacifier use.
Small children can and do get cavities. And it can cause them pain. Many young children are not able to communicate well if they are in pain, or explain what is bothering them. We can help you learn how to evaluate their mouths and keep an eye on potential areas that may bother them. If cavities are left untreated they can also cause damage to permanent teeth even if they haven’t erupted yet.
We can’t wait to get to know you and your sweet little ones. The earlier you bring them in to see the dentist, the less likely they are to ever get cavities!