Thursday, December 6, 2012

Your Child's First Dental Visit

When should you bring your child to the dentist for the first time ?        
It is recommend that you take your child to their first dentist appointment within about six months of their first tooth’s arrival, or by the time they turns one. The purpose of the under age one dental visit is to learn about your child's oral health and how to best care for your child's unique needs before any problems occur. Many dental problems can be prevented if proper oral care is started as early as possible.  The first visit is a great chance for you to get all your questions answered.  Your dentist should provide you with enough information both verbally and written that will ensure your child has a healthy start to oral care. 
How do you prepare your child for first dental visit?   
Preparation for the first dental visit should be age specific.  A child under the age of two needs little if any preparation.  The first visit will likely be only a visual inspection and has more to do with the new parent than the child. It’s a chance for the dentist to gauge a parent’s knowledge of oral care for an infant. With an older child, my approach has a less is more flavour to it.  Over preparation can lead a child to think that something is going on.  I wouldn’t prepare them too far in advance either. If anxiety does set in, having a longer period between the “talk” and the actual appointment may make matters much worse.  Parents are usually a source of misinformation rather than information when it comes to what will happen during a dental visit. Simply tell the child that the dentist is going to count their teeth.  That should get the ball rolling and the dentist and/or the hygienist can take it from there.
How often should you brush and floss your teeth?  
Generally speaking, a thorough brushing of the teeth should take place twice a day.  The most important time to brush is just before bedtime.  The last thing you want is the bacteria and plaque you have left behind working overtime creating cavities whilst you sleep.  The second most important time is after breakfast in the morning.  No sense brushing before you eat.  Flossing at least once a day is also a must. The floss cleans an area between your teeth that the bristles of a brush have no access to.  It is important to note that brushing not only keeps your teeth clean but also stimulates the gums.  Preventing plaque around the gum line will ensure that your gums and underlying bone, the foundation of your teeth, remain healthy. You should brush your teeth well for no less than three minutes and your brush should be replaced at least once every three months.  Always use a soft bristled brush and for children able to rinse well it is suggested that a fluoride containing toothpaste be used.  If the child is young and has a tendency to swallow rather than spit, a non-fluoride containing toothpaste should be used.  This is especially true in areas that already have fluoride in the water supply.  I’m a big fan of electric toothbrushes.  Buy a good quality one.  It should be rechargeable and have a small head to get in all the nooks and crannies.  There is no way manual brushing can compete with the modern electric toothbrush.
How important is a healthy diet to your teeth and gums?    
In addition to basic oral hygiene, a healthy diet protects teeth from decay and keeps the gums healthy. A well-balanced diet provides the minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients essential for healthy teeth and gums. Fluoride, occurring naturally in foods and water, or added to the water supply, can also be a powerful tool in fighting decay. It is a proven cavity fighter.

Fluoride is supplied through fluoridated water (not all municipalities fluoridate their water supply, however), beverages made with fluoridated water, tea, and some fish, as well as many brands of toothpaste and some mouthwash. Fluoride supplements are available for children who don’t have access to fluoridated drinking water. Your local government offices can inform you of their fluoridation policy and levels in the water.  Excess consumption of fluoride can cause mottling of the teeth so the use of fluoridated toothpaste in infants and small children (i.e. those that tend to swallow rather than spit out the toothpaste) is discouraged in areas where water fluoridation already exists.

Even eating right during pregnancy can give your child a head start to good oral health. Calcium in the diet along with the vitamin D that is required to absorb it helps to form strong teeth and bones.  Supplements are usually not required if a healthy diet is followed.

In children, it is important to limit their sugar intake.  Sticky sugary snacks adhere to teeth creating an ideal cavity-causing environment that acid creating bacteria are just waiting for.  In particular dried fruit snacks should be avoided and replaced with the fresh variety.

How often should you see your dentist?                   
Most children should see a dentist every six months. Those with a higher risk of decay or with poor oral hygiene should be seen more frequently.  The same holds true for adults. People at a greater risk for oral diseases should have dental check-ups more than twice a year. Smokers, diabetics, and smokers should be seen more often.  In addition, pregnant women should make it a point to see their dentist as the body tends to hyper react to even mild plaque build up.   A history of gum and periodontal disease will undoubted require an increase in maintenance trips to the dentist.  Finally, poor oral hygiene and certain medical conditions are also factors that your dentist takes into consideration when deciding how often you need your dental cleaning and check up.  Visiting your dentist is about more than checking for cavities.

What are the benefits to regular visits?      
Regular dental check-ups are an important consideration to maintaining optimal GENERAL HEALTH as well as oral health.  There is more and more evidence linking overall health to oral health.  As the links between oral health and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, preterm birth and respiratory disease are investigated, we do know that oral health is an integral part of a person’s well being.  In addition to examining your gums and teeth, you dentist regularly screens your mouth for oral cancer. Early detection and diagnosis is the key a cure and the prevention of catastrophic results from oral cancer.            
Mark Librach DDS
Dentistry on Dundas