Pediatric Dentistry and Child Care

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Your child should visit the dentist by his or her first birthday. You can make the first visit to the dentist enjoyable and positive. Your child should be informed of the visit and told that the dentist and his staff will explain all procedures and answer any questions. The less to do concerning the visit, the better. It is best if you refrain from using words that might cause unnecessary fear, such as needle, pull, drill or hurt. Pediatric dental offices make a practice of using words that convey the same message, but are pleasant and non-frightening to the child.

It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems which affect developing permanent teeth. Primary teeth, or baby-teeth are important for: (1) proper chewing and eating. (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscle. Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (cuspids and molars) are not replaced until age 10-13.

Radiographs (X-rays ) are a vital and necessary part of your child's dental diagnostic process. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed. X-rays may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. X-rays allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.

Pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. The risk is negligible. In fact, the dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem . Lead body aprons and shields will protect your child. Today's equipment filters out unnecessary X-rays and restricts the X-ray beam to the area of interest. High-speed film and proper shielding assure that your child receives a minimal amount or radiation exposure.

Care of your child's teeth begins with daily brushing as soon as the child's first tooth erupts. A pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used after the child is old enough to not swallow it. By age 4 or 5, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with supervision until about age seven to make sure they are doing a thorough job. However, each child is different. Your dentist can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly.

Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces. When teaching children to brush, place toothbrush at a 45 degree angle; start along gum line with a soft bristle brush in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.

Flossing removes plaque between the teeth where a toothbrush can't reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. You may wish to floss the child's teeth until he or she can do it alone. Use about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss lightly between the thumbs and forefingers. Use a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the gloss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this procedure on each tooth. Don't forget the backs of the last four teeth.

Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet, Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which causes longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack choose nutritious foods such as vegetable, low fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese which are healthier and better for children's teeth.

Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. For older children, brush their teeth at least twice daily. Also watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.

Dental appointments should begin on your child's first birthday and routine visits every 6 months will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.
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