The eruption, or emergence, of a child’s first tooth represents the start of a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles. It also marks the beginning of a child’s risk for early childhood caries (ECC), otherwise known as cavities or tooth decay. Without proper intervention, ECC can spread quickly and lead to serious infection.
As a parent, you can help ensure that the smiles keep coming while reducing the risk of ECC. One of the most important preventive steps you can take is an infant dental examination.
‘Knee-to-knee’ infant dental examination
Children should undergo their first dental exam within six months of the first tooth erupting and no later than one year old, according to the American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Thereafter, exams should occur every six months or possibly more often if the child is at a high risk for ECC.
At Furey Dental Group, the initial visit involves a quick and simple “knee-to-knee” exam. The parent and I sit face to face and knee to knee, with the child in the parent’s lap and legs straddling the parent’s waist. The child is tipped back into my lap, giving me a good look inside the mouth, while the parent holds down the child’s hands. This brief exam allows me to check for cavities, plaque buildup, proper tooth eruption and condition of the gums.
Tips for preventing cavities in children
Following the exam, I discuss my findings and ECC risk factors with the parents, and I
review the following steps for preventing cavities in baby teeth:
• Current and expectant moms should practice good oral hygiene, including dental exams and necessary treatment, to prevent the transmission of cavity germs to their infants.
• Put only breast milk, formula or water in baby bottles, NEVER juice, soda or sweetened liquid.
• Do not put a child to bed with a bottle containing anything but water.
• Do not dip a child’s pacifier in anything sweet, and use only soap and rinse water to clean it — never your own mouth.
• Limit sweet snacks in quantity, portion size and frequency.
• Before teeth appear, use a clean, warm cloth to gently wipe the gums and inside of the baby’s mouth every day, especially after feedings and before bedtime.
• With the first tooth’s appearance, brush the baby teeth twice a day using a soft, age-appropriate toothbrush and a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children ages two to five years old, and perform or assist them with the tooth brushing.
During February, which is National Children’s Dental Health Month, I invite you
to bring your child (six months to three years old) to Furey Dental Group for a
complimentary infant dental exam. Call 651-490-9011 to schedule an exam, or
request an appointment by e-mail.