Pediatric dentistry is a dental specialty that focuses on the oral health of young people. Following dental school, a pediatric dentist has two to three years additional specialty training in the unique needs of infants, children and adolescents, including those with special health needs.
“First visit by 1st birthday” is the general rule. To prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears – usually between 6 and 12 months of age – and certainly no later than his/her 1st birthday.
A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head, especially one designed for infants, is the best choice for babies. Brushing at least once a day, at bedtime, will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.
Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing. It happens when a child goes to sleep while breast-feeding and/or bottle-feeding. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced, and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle.
When teeth erupt, sore gums are part of the normal eruption process. The discomfort is eased for some children by use of a teething biscuit, a piece of toast or a frozen teething ring. Your pharmacy should also have medications that can be rubbed on the gums to alleviate the discomfort.
Thumb and pacifier sucking habits that go on for a long period of time can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems. If children are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when their permanent teeth erupt, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist. Most children stop these habits on their own.
Do not use fluoridated toothpaste on children until age 3. Earlier than that, clean your child’s teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. After age 3, parents should supervise brushing. Use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, and make sure children do not swallow excess toothpaste.
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