Taking care of children’s teeth is an important part of their care. While children are not likely to need dramatic dental interventions like dental implants, consistent dental work for children is necessary to prevent the need for such interventions later on. Helping children take care of their teeth can form good habits that will last a lifetime.
That being said, dental work for children is a little different than maintaining oral hygiene as an adult. Here we look at eight of the most common questions about pediatric dental health to help caregivers succeed.
When Should I Expect My Child’s First Teeth?
The teething phase usually comes as no surprise, accompanied as it often is by fussing and crying. A baby’s first teeth usually erupt around six months of age, and the first to show are almost always the lower central incisors (the two lower front teeth). The two upper central incisors usually follow, but after that teeth don’t follow a set pattern as they surface. By the age of two or three, most children have all 20 of their primary teeth above the gums.
How Do I Care for My Baby’s Teeth?
Baby’s gums are especially sensitive, so care should be taken when brushing infant teeth. Use a baby-specific toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. Use only water for the first few years, especially before the teeth are put to real use.
What’s the History of the Tooth Fairy?
While this question about dental work for children doesn’t have the immediate practical presence as the others on this list, it is fun to know where such a strange tradition comes from. The mythical tooth fairy helps ease the nervousness and fear of losing a tooth when children are young, but its origins are not clear-cut.
Humans have always had a fascination with teeth. Viking parents would string their children’s lost baby teeth into necklaces and carry them into battle for luck. In other areas of Europe, it was common to burn or bury lost baby teeth to avoid the bothers of witchcraft. The American version of the tooth fairy (unlike the Le Petite Souris, the little mouse of French culture) may have its origins in a bedtime story told to King Alfonso XVIII by a catholic priest.
Is Thumbsucking a Problem?
Thumbsucking is an unfortunate habit from a dental perspective. It causes teeth to shift, becoming crowded or crooked, and can ruin the bite. The best strategy to avoid this negation of hard-won dental work for children is to break the habit before permanent teeth come in. Otherwise, a dentist may have to recommend a corrective appliance.
When Should Parents Include Toothpaste in Their Dental Work for Children?
The biggest factor for using toothpaste is fluoride. While fluoride strengthens teeth and bones in the correct doses, an abundance of fluoride actually does the opposite. For this reason, it is wise to hold off on toothpaste and just use water to brush until around the age of three. Even then, parents should only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and supervise nightly brushing to prevent excessive swallowing.
Is Fluoride Safe for Kids?
As mentioned above, fluoride is safe and helpful at the correct levels. When such levels are exceeded, it can cause tooth discoloration and bone loss. These effects are amplified in children. Caregivers can help their children avoid the downsides of too much fluoride by monitoring the fluoride levels in their water and by being careful how much fluoridated toothpaste children ingest.
Are X-Rays Safe for Kids?
Some parents worry about the dangers of radiation during dental x-ray examinations. However, the risk of harm is greater for undetected or untreated dental issues than it is for x-ray radiation exposure. With proper safeguards like lead aprons and high-speed film, the amount of radiation received during a dental X-ray examination is almost negligible. Pediatric dentists take heightened care to minimize child exposure to radiation.
Is Anesthesia Safe for Kids?
Sedation and general anesthesia make most people nervous, to say nothing of when they are applied to children. However, some dental treatments require sedation, regardless of age. When used in dental work for children, anesthesia has heightened safeguards.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are very stringent about sedation, especially during pediatric anesthesia. When a child is sedated, at least two people must be present who have life support training: an independent observer and a dental anesthesiology professional.
Do Cavities in Baby Teeth Need to Be Corrected?
Although they are not permanent, primary teeth should be treated as thoroughly as adult teeth. This is because dental care is holistic, and infection in one or two can quickly spread to other areas of the mouth.