Dental care begins much before the first tooth erupts in your baby’s mouth. Both breastfed and bottlefed babies benefit from having their gums wiped with a soft gauze or washcloth after feeding. Once the gums are ready for the teeth to erupt, they can be massaged with clean fingers or a soft, wet washcloth to relieve soreness. As the teeth begin to come in, age appropriate dental equipment like toothbrushes meant specifically for babies can be introduced. 

First Visit To The Dentist

It is a misconception that the child’s first dental visit should be only when he / she experiences pain or discomfort in the teeth or mouth. Regular dentist visits should be an essential part of maintaining good oral health, with the child’s first dental visit planned between one and two years of age. Pediatric dental care for young children enables the dentist to remove any plaque or buildup of food debris that regular brushing is unable to remove so that growth of bacteria can be stemmed. Left untreated, the bacteria could grow and lead to oral diseases like cavities, tooth decay, or inflammation of the gum tissue. The dentist will also be able to correct any errors in the method of brushing or flossing of teeth at home and introduce the concept of brushing twice a day on a daily basis so that the mouth can be kept clean and free from decay at all times. Maintaining healthy oral hygiene habits in early childhood are the foundation for ensuring healthy smiles throughout the child’s life. 

Pediatric Dental Care

Pediatric dentists are slightly different from regular dentists. They undergo specialized training in dentistry for children from the time they are infants up to early adolescence, and children with special needs. By visiting a pediatric dentist regularly, children will become familiar with the dental environment and this will reduce the anxiety surrounding dental visits in the future. They provide comprehensive oral health care which usually includes 

  • Oral health examinations for infants, including risk assessment for caries in both the mother and child
  • Preventive dental care including professional cleaning and fluoride treatments to care for the teeth as well as nutritional recommendations
  • Enabling healthy oral habits and counselling for breaking habits like thumb sucking or use of soothers and pacifiers
  • Orthodontic assessments and treatments for straightening of teeth and correction of improper bite
  • Treatment of dental cavities or other defects and management of gum diseases and conditions including mouth ulcers and pediatric periodontal disease
  • Caring for dental injuries like fracturing of teeth
  • Diagnosis of oral conditions that can occur in children with special needs or who have other diseases like diabetes, asthma, or congenital heart defects. 

Preventive Dental Treatments

Young children are just as prone to oral health issues as adults are. Poor oral hygiene, consumption of excess sugar in sweets, candies and juices and nutritional deficiencies can lead to caries and other forms of tooth decay. There are a few preventive treatments that form a part of pediatric dental care. 

  • Cleaning Treatments – Accumulation of plaque and tartar can lead to cavities and tooth decay. Pediatric dentists have special tools that can remove plaque from between children’s teeth and keep them clean. 
  • Fluoride Treatments – Application of fluoride to teeth helps to increase its strength by protecting enamel, making the teeth less prone to decay. 
  • Dental Sealants – Sealants can be applied easily onto the surface of children’s teeth to stop the formation or spread of cavities as it prevents contact of food with the surface of teeth. 

Space Maintainers – After the loss of a temporary tooth, a small empty space appears till the arrival of the permanent tooth. Space maintainers are dental appliances that keep the remaining teeth steady in their place till the new tooth appears.

Addressing Dental Concerns

There are number of problems that affect the oral health of children, including tooth decay , thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking and early tooth loss. As temporary teeth get replaced by permanent teeth, orthodontic problems also become common and it is best to have them addressed in adolescence so that the child does not face issues later on. 

  • Tooth sensitivity – Tooth sensitivity can be a result of many things : cavities or decay, acid erosion or wearing down of enamel, teeth grinding (bruxism), other orthodontic treatments, or even due to eruption of new teeth. Dental treatments are often tailored to address the cause of the sensitivity and to reduce pain and discomfort that arises from it. 
  • Dental emergencies – Childhood is the time for adventure and accidents in the playground, or roughhousing with siblings or friends can lead to teeth chipping, breaking, cracking or falling out. The pediatric dentist may be able to fix the teeth with retainers or may advise the child to wear mouthguards while playing to protect against further damage. 
  • Pediatric gingivitis or gum disease – Marked by red, swollen gums, and slight bleeding while brushing or biting into hard food items, gingivitis is a precursor to gum disease and will need to be immediately addressed by the dentist. 
  • Orthodontic issues – While the common issues seen in children are improper bite and spacing problems, the child may develop problems with jaw alignment, cracking of teeth or oral hygiene issues if the teeth are not aligned correctly. This can also affect the confidence and self-esteem of the growing child or adolescent. 
  • Bad breath – Bad breath can be caused due to poor oral hygiene, gum problems, dry mouth, chronic sinusitis, diabetes, tooth decay and digestive problems. It is important to correctly identify the cause of the bad breath and address it effectively so as to prevent oral health issues later on. 

Partnering for Lifelong Dental Wellness

While parents have an important role in ensuring that the child develops good oral health habits, regular visits to the pediatric dentist are necessary to keep the child’s teeth healthy and strong and to avoid oral health problems once they grow up. By prioritizing pediatric dental care, families can set the stage for a lifetime of bright and confident smiles for their children.