No kidding — children should begin practicing good oral health as early as their first tooth! With the help of the gentle, caring professionals at McLean DDS, you can help your kids establish a strong foundation of oral health practices, which begins with early visits to the dentist. The more your child becomes accustomed to our office and energetic staff, the less anxious he or she will be about dental cleanings and procedures. Let’s work together to start your child on the path to a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiling and chewing.
Oral Health for the Whole Family
Proper dental care is vital at every stage of life. All family members should practice good oral hygiene at home and visit their dentist regularly. It’s never too soon to start — even the youngest children benefit by learning and adopting good oral health habits at an early age.
For Babies & Toddlers
Your child should visit the dentist by his or her first birthday. Our dentists will talk to you about preventing early tooth decay and will show you how to clean your baby’s first teeth. Not only is this desirable for good oral health, but early visits to the dentist make your child more familiar with the dentist’s practice and procedures, reducing fear and anxiety in the future. Here are a few things you can do at home:
- Twice a day, clean your baby’s gums with a clean, damp cloth
- Reduce the amount of sugar-containing fluids at nighttime, including milk
- Acclimate your child to the flavor of toothpaste by rubbing a tiny smear on your child’s gums, but only after asking your dentist at what age you should begin to do this
- Brush your baby’s first teeth with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush topped with a pea-sized dab of toothpaste
- Help young children with their nighttime teeth brushing; this is the most important time to brush
Schedule your child’s appointments earlier in the day so they are more alert. Generally, a child’s dental exam includes:
- A quick yet thorough exam of the teeth, gums, jaw, bite and oral tissues
- A gentle cleaning, if necessary, that includes teeth polishing and removal of plaque, tartar and stains
- X-rays to ensure proper eruption of teeth
- Addressing early habits such as thumb sucking
- Proper brushing demonstration; children should be capable of brushing their teeth, with some parental supervision, by age five
- Assessment of the need for preventive care such as fluoride treatments and sealants
For Tweens & Teens
In addition to regular checkups, our dentists evaluate your tween or teen to assess the need for orthodontia. Braces straighten the teeth, improving your child’s smile; help to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss later in life; and improve biting and chewing. Your dentist will help you determine which style of braces — traditional metal, clear or tooth-colored, or removable clear retainers — is most appropriate for your child.
Wisdom teeth are a concern at this age as well. Wisdom teeth usually appear during the late teens or early 20s, or they may be impacted, which means that there is not enough room for these late molars to grow straight. An oral surgeon extracts wisdom teeth that are impacted or those that have problems, such as decay.
Together, we can promote good oral health for your tweens and teens by advising them to:
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes at a time
- Floss between teeth every day
- Avoid sugary and starchy foods, soda, juice and energy drinks
- Wear a mouthguard during sports activities
- Don’t smoke tobacco; it stains teeth, causes gum disease and tooth loss, and can cause oral cancer
- Don’t pierce lips or any part of the mouth; dangers include infection and cracking of teeth
- Get help for eating disorders, as they can cause serious oral health issues
All members of your family, children and adults alike, should see the dentist every six months. Familiarizing children with our dental office and staff helps them stay calm and focused during exams, and more receptive to our message of good oral hygiene. Our goal with children is to gently emphasize prevention — preventing cavities is better than treating them — by encouraging comprehensive oral health habits. With your help, we can keep your children smiling for a lifetime!