It is never too early to being achieving a healthy, beautiful smile! At Oconee Dental, PC, we provide early dental care to help children begin learning the oral habits that will lead to a lifetime of healthy smiles. We do our best to make sure that children feel comfortable and safe at our practice, and to make your child’s visit as stress-free as possible. We welcome you to contact us at 706-769-1659 to learn more about early dental care in Watkinsville, Georgia, and to make your child’s appointment with one of our gentle dentists.
Your Child’s First Dental Visit
Your child’s first dental visit is a big step. It is recommended that you bring your child to visit the dentist for the first time within 6 months of his or her first tooth emerging – usually at about 1 year of age. The most important part of this initial visit is helping your child get to know and become comfortable with our dentists and team. A pleasant, comfortable visit builds trust and helps your child feel at ease during his or her future visits. If possible, we allow your child to sit in a parent’s lap during the examination. We encourage children to discuss any fears or anxiety they feel.
The first tooth usually erupts between 6-12 months. Teeth continue to erupt until about age 3. During this period, your child’s gums will be sore, tender, and sometime irritable. To help alleviate this discomfort, you can rub your child’s sore gums gentle with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon, or a cold, wet cloth to soothe the gums. Teething rings are also a great option. Avoid teething biscuits, as they contain sugar and are not a healthy option for baby teeth.
While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side, every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines. A bottle containing anything other than water and left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.
Infant Tooth Eruption
Children’s teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the primary or “baby” teeth push through the gums—the lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age 3, but the place and order varies.
Permanent teeth begin eruption around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. Adults have 28 secondary (permanent) teeth—32 including the third molars (wisdom teeth).
Infant’s New Teeth
The primary, or “baby,” teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they replace the primary teeth around age 6.
Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups.
Why Primary Teeth Are Important
Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Foremost, good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier. Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.
Good Diet and Healthy Teeth
The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups help minimize (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Most snacks that children eat cause cavities, so children should only receive healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and cheeses, which promote strong teeth.
For more information on early dental care and to schedule an appointment for your child with Dr. Harmon-Smith, Dr. Anthony, and Dr. Watson, please contact our office today.