Early Childhood Dental Care
Protect Your Child’s Teeth
Early childhood is a pivotal time for your children and their dental health. The years between infancy/toddlerhood and becoming an adolescent or teenager, are critical when it comes to developing proper oral health habits that will stay with them for a lifetime. That’s why early childhood dental care and education are so important, and why you and your kids should see a dentist like Dr. Stuckey regularly for oral exams and cleanings.
Developing Healthy Hygiene Habits
Protecting Primary Teeth
Despite the fact that primary (baby) teeth start to fall out around age 5 or 6 to make way for the permanent teeth, these teeth play a critical role during the development of your child’s smile. Primary teeth help maintain proper spacing in your child’s mouth and allow the permanent teeth to erupt correctly. If a primary tooth is lost or damaged, your child’s teeth may not develop properly.
That’s why it’s important to take steps to prevent issues like tooth decay from affecting your child’s baby teeth. Proper care for primary teeth includes brushing for at least 2 minutes, twice per day. You will need to assist your child when they brush their teeth until they have the skill to do so themselves (usually at about 6 years old).
Once your child can brush their own teeth, you should still supervise them to ensure they are brushing for at least 2 minutes and using proper technique. In addition, it’s important to floss your child’s teeth once per day until they are 10 years old, or until they have enough manual dexterity to do it on their own.
Finally, regular visits to a family dentist like Dr. Stuckey will help keep your child’s mouth healthy. Dr. Stuckey can clean your child’s teeth, check for cavities, and recommend treatments like dental sealants or fluoride treatments that will protect your little one’s primary teeth.
The Role Parents Play
Encouraging Proper Oral Hygiene
When it comes to helping your children develop proper oral hygiene habits, you are the best role model! By setting an example of proper oral hygiene (this includes visiting the dentist regularly, brushing and flossing, and helping your kids understand the importance of their teeth), you can help them develop better life-long oral health habits!
Common Dental Services
Beyond teeth cleanings, there are a few preventive treatments that are common and very beneficial for kids. Fillings to repair primary or permanent teeth are common, as are fluoride treatments, which help reverse minor tooth decay. Dental sealants are also common, and this treatment includes special resin to cover teeth and protect them from decay.
Mitigating Dental Anxiety
Care, Comfort, And Sedation Options
We know that seeing the dentist can be a bit scary for younger children. That’s why we do our best to keep our office fun and comfortable. Dr. Stuckey will explain dental concepts to your kids in a way that they will understand and appreciate, and make sure they always feel informed and comfortable. Additionally, we offer minimal inhaled sedation (laughing gas) for children, which can be helpful for anxiety when it comes to certain dental procedures.
what causes tooth decay in early childhood?
Cavities appear as holes in the teeth when your tooth’s enamel has broken down. The combination of bacteria, acid, and food can lead to tooth decay by causing a buildup of plaque. If food particles are left behind on the teeth from inadequate brushing or flossing, bacteria inside the mouth can convert these food particles into acid. Acid is not a friend to enamel and will cause it to break down and lead to cavities.
Certain foods and other factors can increase the risk of your child’s risk for tooth decay, such as:
- A diet high in starches or sugar
- Limited fluoride intake
- Reduced saliva
- Poor oral hygiene practices
- High levels of bacteria
why are dental visits important in early childhood?
Dental visits are important because they prevent the risk of tooth decay, problems caught early can potentially be reversed, and establishing the importance of good oral hygiene early on will cement their attitude for the rest of their life.
Your child should go to the dentist by the time they turn 1 year old or have their first tooth grow in. From then on, they should have a checkup every 6 months. During your child's dental visit, an oral exam will be performed, their teeth will be cleaned, and x-rays will be taken.
The importance of dental checkups in early childhood can not be overstated. Baby teeth are vital for your child's ability to speak, chew, and act as a placeholder for their adult teeth. With a lack of good oral hygiene and checkups, your child is at a higher risk for developing tooth decay which will pose problems with speaking and eating, as well as causing your child pain and potentially leading to infection.
Another risk of tooth decay is the overcrowding of adult teeth and more invasive and expensive procedures that will be needed later on. It is not uncommon for children to experience tooth decay, which is why it is important to catch the early warning signs, so we can stop it in its tracks. Early-stage decay could be reversed but if it is left alone, it will only get worse.
oral health practices
at what age should my child start brushing their teeth?
Teeth normally start to come in at around 6 months old and your child will have all of their teeth by age 3, though there is a little variation from child to child. Your child’s adult teeth will come in at around age 6. Although your child will lose their baby teeth and be replaced with adult teeth, maintaining healthy baby teeth is crucial to have healthy adult teeth.
When your child’s first tooth comes in, that is when you should begin brushing their teeth with a child’s toothbrush and water. In addition to the tooth or teeth, you should also brush their tongue and gums twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Begin flossing your child’s teeth by age 2.
For ages 18 months to 6 years old, your child will need to have their teeth brushed with toothpaste, but only a pea-sized amount. The toothpaste should contain low amounts of fluoride until they are 6 years old.
Children usually learn to brush their teeth on their own by about 8 years old. Until then, you will need to brush and floss their teeth and gums for them twice a day and provide assistance when they learn to do it by themselves.
be proactive, not reactive
Maintain optimal oral health with regular cleanings
In dentistry, your chances of maintaining healthy teeth are much better with preventative dentistry than they are with restorative dentistry. Treating cavities, getting root canals, and having teeth extracted or replaced are not cheap or simple procedures like dental cleanings, checkups, and fillings.
At your child’s 6 month dental cleaning and checkup, we will check for signs of tooth decay, infection, or other oral health problems. We will respond to any risk or signs of cavities with fillings, sealants, and fluoride. Finally, we’ll professionally clean your child’s teeth with our specialized tools to rid them of plaque and tartar, bacteria, and food particles.
Don’t wait to protect your child’s teeth. If they haven’t had their bi-annual dental cleaning and checkup, then act now. Cavities and infections can lead to much more extensive dental work with costs that can quickly rack up.
At Patrick Stuckey, DDS in Ruston, we can prevent the formation of cavities and stop active ones in their tracks. Contact us or schedule an appointment online with Dr. Patrick Stuckey. Keep your child healthy and happy with preventative early childhood dentistry.
what causes tooth decay
in early childhood
Tooth decay can be understood as the destruction or erosion of your tooth’s enamel, which is the outermost layer of the tooth. When enough of the enamel has been worn down, this can lead to holes in the tooth or cavities.
Cavities occur when naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth feed off of sugar to turn them into acids. These acids are what cause enamel erosion and cavities because they break down the structure of the tooth.
While some kids are more prone to developing cavities because they have inherited a thinner enamel, it is mostly behavioral and environmental factors that lead to tooth decay. Eating a diet high in sugar, carbohydrates, and acid increases your risk of developing cavities. Other behaviors that increase your risk for tooth decay include:
- Improper brushing technique
- Neglecting to consistently brush and floss
- Mouth breathing or lack of saliva
- Using a baby bottle at night
- Using a pacifier for many years
- Coming into contact with someone else’s saliva
- Inadequate fluoride levels
- High levels of bacteria in the mouth
why are dental visits
important in early childhood
Dental visits are so important in early childhood because baby teeth are at a higher risk for decay than permanent teeth. Through early detection and prevention, your child can defend their teeth against cavities and other oral health problems like gum disease in their most vulnerable teeth.
You should take your child to their first dental appointment by the time they turn one year old or when their first tooth comes in. From then on, they should return to the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups every 6 months.
Tooth decay can develop over months so foregoing dental visits can result in plaque accumulation that causes decay and cavities. If left untreated, these cavities can do severe damage to your teeth, cause infection, and need to be treated with a root canal or be extracted.
To book a pediatric dental checkup for your child at Patrick Stuckey, DDS, contact us at (318) 255-8648 or schedule an appointment online with Dr. Patrick Stuckey. Prevent tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease with regular cleanings that remove plaque and tartar buildup, fluoride treatments that protect your teeth, and checkups that assess your risk of oral health problems.
at what age should my child
start brushing their teeth?
Oral hygiene begins before the eruption of your child’s first tooth. Before any teeth have poked through the gums, wipe your child’s gums with a wet soft cloth. Your child’s first tooth will come in within the first year of life.
A child may receive their first tooth as early as 3 months old, but usually around 6 months. Whenever this first tooth comes in is when you need to start brushing their teeth very gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush and some water.
You should not use toothpaste on your baby’s teeth until they are 18 months old. From the ages of 18 months old, you can begin brushing your child’s teeth with a child-strength fluoride toothpaste no larger than the size of a pea until they are 6 years old.
From 6 onwards your child can use standard fluoride toothpaste. Brush your child’s teeth twice a day as soon as their first tooth emerges. Flossing should begin once their teeth are close enough to be nearly touching.