We know that your child’s first experience with the dentist can have a lasting impression on them and their desire to take care of their oral health as adults. That’s why we take the trust you and your child places in us very seriously.
Having cared for patients for four generations (and having raised X kids of our own), we’ve had the pleasure of caring for many patients from infancy well into adulthood.
We take great care to ensure our younger patients feel comfortable by communicating with them in a way they not only understand but also are comfortable with. We share, in easy to understand language, what will happen during each stage of their care.
Introducing the pediatric patient to dental care during the infancy and toddler stages has numerous benefits for both child and parent. Establishing a daily regimen early helps ensure good oral health habits for life. Regular visits to the dentist help instill a sense of comfort and familiarity, and alleviate anxiety. Early evaluation also helps detect any potential problems, while minimizing consequences of delayed intervention.
The First Visit
Some dental professionals recommend your child’s first visit by age three. Because some oral issues can be detected in children as young as 15 months, more and more leading practitioners recommend an Initial Evaluation during infancy. Your child’s cooperation and comfort with regular dentist visits can be fostered by resolving any underlying conditions before they require more extensive (and expensive) intervention.
Our practice and team employ a gentle and conservative approach with all our patients, and are especially sensitive to the needs of our younger patients.
The concept of “dental home” is based on delivering continuing oral care by a qualified oral health professional who is familiar with pediatric conditions. It also begins an ongoing positive relationship with your Dental Team, and introduces your child to the proper at-home regimen.
Development of Teeth
The first teeth to appear in humans are the two lower middle teeth. These are then followed by the two upper front teeth. The rest of the primary dentition appears subsequently without any specific pattern. The primary set of teeth does not include premolars. By the age of three, all 20 primary teeth are fully erupted if no genetic predispositions are present. Between the ages of 5 and 6, the permanent dentition begins to emerge slowly replacing the baby teeth. As a child approaches its 12th birthday, they will typically acquire ‘mixed dentition’ whereby the primary teeth are still exfoliating as the permanent teeth simultaneously erupt. This is the most crucial time to properly detect and diagnose any existing oral conditions, then design a proper course of treatment, which may include orthodontic intervention.
Each person is unique, so each treatment plan we recommend is customized to the condition, wants and needs of that patient.
We encourage all patients to adhere to a daily regimen to ensure the health of both the teeth and surrounding soft tissues, both of which are essential for a lifetime of oral and overall health.
The Benefits of Early Introduction to Dental Care
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has established a policy, which encourages dentists to deliver:
- Preventive care and acute services
- Comprehensive assessment of oral conditions and diseases
- A Periodontal risk assessment
- A Caries risk assessment
- Guidance about development issues such as pacifier habits and teething
- Prediction of future growth and discrepancies
- Prevention diagnosis and guided at-home care
- Proper professional maintenance of oral structures (regularly scheduled cleanings, fluoride applications, sealants)
- Patient education
- Nutritional counseling
- Referrals to dental specialists when oral care cannot be continued at the patient’s “dental home.”
These methods of care allow for the opportunity to prevent oral disease in the youngest of our population, and help patients achieve and maintain optimal oral health from infancy well into adulthood.
How Cavities Develop
Without proper oral health care, teeth will eventually become affected: many will develop cavities. The hard enamel layer of the teeth is weakened by the presence of destructive acidic agents. White spots may begin to appear. At this stage, the process can be reversed. The key is early diagnosis. Optimal care at home and professional cleanings, which include fluoride applications are often the preferred choice of preventive treatment.
Unfortunately, once enamel is penetrated beyond repair, and extensive decay occurs, the only viable treatment alternative is removal of the affected dentition. In some cases restorative materials may be applied to replace the missing tooth structure and regain function of the tooth. In other cases, extraction of the tooth may be necessary.
How to Prevent Cavities
Trauma, heredity, diet, and oral health habits all play a role in the health of the mouth. A healthy balance of certain bacteria helps to keep a positive oral flora. Poor nutrition, for example, one that is high in sugars and carbohydrates, disrupts this balance and leads to rampant caries and premature tooth loss. It also greatly affects the periodontal health of the mouth, and may result in gum disease, mobility of the teeth and, ultimately, extractions.
Another factor contributing to the development of cavities is the presence and consistency of saliva. Runny (thin) saliva washes away excessive debris, and helps keep teeth clean. Ropy (thick) saliva creates a perfect environment for bacteria accumulation, and can only be removed by more frequent brushing and rinsing with appropriate solutions.
A healthy diet can help enhance saliva’s texture. A lack of sufficient saliva may also contribute to decay. The condition is called xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome. It is frequently caused by medications that create such side effects. Fortunately, the condition can be remedied with special toothpastes and oral rinses.
The process of cavity formation begins with plaque, a sticky biofilm that should be removed daily. If not cleaned systematically every day, plaque transforms into tartar, a hard deposit, which can only be removed with specially designed dental instruments. Excessive deposits of tartar can cause recession of the gums, expediting the process of decay.
The following steps will prevent the formation of caries:
- Daily brushing, flossing and rinsing with antiseptic solutions
- At a minimum, rinsing your mouth after each meal or sugary drink
- Avoiding sticky foods. Spicy foods may actually help maintain good oral health.
- Limiting the number of snacks that contain carbohydrates
- Regular cleaning visits every six months
- Deep cleaning appointments every three months for patients with periodontal issues
- Application of fluoride to maintain the mineral properties of tooth enamel
- Application of sealants on both primary and permanent teeth not already affected by decay
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommends addressing and monitoring oral health status as early as possible. Ongoing professional care will assure accurate diagnosis and treatment throughout the person’s lifetime.