Why See a Pediatric Dentist?
In the same way your child sees a pediatrician as their primary medical provider, a pediatric dentist is the primary oral health provider for your infant, your child and your teen. A pediatric dentist must complete an advanced post-doctoral course accredited by the American Dental Association, with a minimum of two academic years in the specialty of pediatric dentistry to obtain the skills required to be considered a specialist in the field. This extensive training provides pediatric dentists the knowledge to treat children's teeth, provide a positive dental experience and to educate children on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.
Early Dental Care Topics for Children
Good oral hygiene is important for the prevention of dental decay and gum disease. Brushing with a soft-bristle toothbrush twice a day and flossing once a day has been shown to be effective in preventing cavities. When brushing a small child's teeth it is important to be mindful of the amount of toothpaste that is used. It is recommended that children under 2 use only a smear of toothpaste while children 2-5 years use only a pea sized amount making sure that children do not swallow excessive toothpaste.
Limiting the frequency of exposure to sugar and simple carbohydrates helps prevent decay by reducing the food supply to cavity causing bacteria. These bacteria use sugar to create acid. In time, acid attacks your child's teeth and can decay through the enamel of teeth and cause cavities. By regulating the choices of food eaten and limiting the intake of snacks per day, you can help your child prevent dental cavities.
Normally the first tooth erupts around the ages of 6-12 months. Gums are sore, tender, and sometimes irritable until the age of 3. To help soothe the discomfort you can rub the area with the back of a cold spoon or a cold damp cloth. You can also use your finger to rub the gums, just make sure that your hands are clean to avoid introducing bacteria or viruses to your child which may possibly cause infection and fever.
Thumb sucking, chronic pacifier use, and other oral habits tend to be common among children early on in life. Parents are encouraged to remind children to stop when they see them displaying these habits. Long term habits can lead to irreversible damage to the developing teeth and surrounding bones. If your child has a problem breaking a habit or if you have noticed a change in their bite you should contact a pediatric dentist to have him/her evaluated for treatment.
Bruxing (tooth grinding)
Nocturnal bruxing, or tooth grinding, is an unconscious reflex that occurs mainly at night while the child is sleeping. Many times this habit goes on without the parent or child knowing of its existence until later when the parent starts to hear the child grinding away while the child is asleep. There is no specific cause for bruxing but many professionals believe that it is caused by possible stress at home or at school. While many children tend to show signs of bruxing, most outgrow this habit well before their permanent teeth grow in and any damage is done. Bruxers who continue with the habit long term can develop tooth wear, in which case a night guard would be recommended.
Primary teeth play an important role in a child's health. Without teeth children may have difficulties with chewing and language development. Primary teeth play an important roll in the development of the jaws and for guiding permanent teeth into place when they replace primary teeth starting around age 6.
Growth and Development
Growth of the soft tissues, teeth and bones occurs in the mouth from birth until the child reaches their late teens. Seeing the dentist early on is helpful to watch for early signs of abnormalities that can be caught and treated before they become a major concern. Common irregular findings include tooth eruption, pathology and dental crowding.
Common Dental Emergencies
Severe dental pain can limit you from normal daily activities. To help soothe the pain, begin by cleaning around the sore tooth meticulously. Using warm salt water, rinse the mouth to displace any food trapped between the teeth. Do NOT use aspirin on the aching tooth or gums. In the event of facial swelling apply a cold compress to that area. For temporary pain relief Acetaminophen is recommended. Make a dental appointment as soon as possible.
Cut or bitten tongue, lip, cheek
Cold compress can be applied to any bruised areas. For bleeding, apply firm but gentile pressure with sterile gauze or a clean cloth. If the bleeding does not stop with pressure within 15 minutes, go to an emergency room.
Rinse the area with warm water. Put a cold compress over the facial area of the injury. Recover any broken tooth fragments. Get immediate dental attention.
Knocked out Permanent Tooth
Recover the tooth, make sure to hold it by the crown (top) and not the root end. Rinse but do not clean or handle the tooth more than necessary. Reinsert the tooth in the socket and hold it in place using a clean piece of gauze or cloth. If the tooth can not be reinserted, carry it in a cup containing milk. Because time is essential, see a dentist immediately.