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Your child's dental health is important to their overall health. There are things you can do to prevent cavities and promote healthy teeth from the time your kids are born. Around 20 percent, or 1 of 5, children between the ages of 5 to 11 years old have at least one decayed tooth that's not treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s why it’s imperative that kids get treated for dental care at Yuma Dental within their first year of life.

At What Age Does It Make Sense to Start Practicing Dental Care with Children?

Your child's first dental care visit should happen no later than their first birthday, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). The general rule for their first dental appointment is about six months after their first tooth has erupted. The best way to prevent tooth decay and other dental problems is to take your child to the dentist at an early age. The dentist will teach you how to clean your children’s teeth and determine their fluoride needs.

Decay can occur any time after your kid's teeth appear. When you bring your children to the dentist at a young age, it can acclimate them to the dental office and will reduce their fear and anxiety and promote stress-free future visits. It also creates a lifetime of healthy oral care habits.

Children often get their entire set of 20 primary teeth by their third birthday. Your child's jaw will grow right along with their own growth, making room for their permanent teeth.

What to Expect

Before taking your children to the dentist for the first time, ask the dentist what to expect during this visit so you're prepared, and there are no surprises. Have a plan of action ready for your child's reaction, whether it be cooperative or uncooperative.

Your child may become fussy and refuse to sit still. Discuss what to expect with your child ahead of time, so they understand what will happen during their upcoming visit. Try to build up excitement if you can.

Your first visit to your local Yuma, AZ dentist is an icebreaker to get your child acquainted with their new dentist and the practice. Prepare for your child to feel uncomfortable, frightened or non-cooperative. If this happens, stay calm and patient with your child and reassure them. Your dentist probably has some tricks up their sleeve for calming them down, too.

Short, consecutive visits will help build up your child's trust in the dental office and help if your child has a dental problem later that the dentist needs to treat.

At Your First Visit

Schedule your child's appointment earlier in the day if possible, when they’re fresh and alert. If your child is under 3 years old, you may have to sit in the dental chair with them and hold them during the exam. Once children are older, sitting out in the reception area during the visit may be best. It allows your child to build up a relationship with their dentist.

If your child is cooperative, their first visit may only take around 15 to 30 minutes. Depending on their age, their visit may include:

  • A thorough but gentle exam of their teeth, bite, jaw, oral tissues and gums to see their development and growth and identify any problem areas.
  • A gentle cleaning, if needed, which includes removing plaque, stains and tartar build-up and polishing their teeth and X-rays.
  • An assessment to see if they require fluoride and a proper home cleaning demonstration.

During the visit, the dentist will do their best to make your child feel comfortable and answer any questions you may have. The entire dental team will likely provide a non-threatening, relaxed atmosphere for your child.

Why It's Important for Kids to Brush and Floss Their Teeth

Making the task of brushing and flossing your child’s teeth a daily routine is important not just for their dental health, but also for their overall health and should be instilled in childhood.

As your child's baby teeth erupt, which typically occurs around six months, they are at risk for decay. Various factors can cause tooth decay. These include:

  • Giving your child sugary drinks reguarly
  • Putting your child to bed with a bottle of nursing through the night.
  • Using a bottle in place of a pacifier can cause tooth decay

Typically, decay in babies and toddlers is due to Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, which commonly occurs on their upper front teeth, but it can affect other teeth as well. Sometimes, toddlers and infants get decay that is so severe, there's no way to save the tooth, and it requires removal.

Fortunately, you can prevent tooth decay and promote good dental health for kids at our local practice in Yuma, AZ. Teaching proper oral care to your child at a young age is a sound investment in their health for a lifetime. Begin by setting a good example yourself. When you take proper care of your teeth, you’re sending a message to your child that healthy oral health is something they should value.

Teeth do a lot of work. Ways in which your child's teeth are important include:

  • Learning to Talk. The enamel on their primary teeth is not as densely mineralized as it is on their permanent teeth that make them more vulnerable to caries, or cavities. Your child's primary teeth are essential tools for them to learn to talk and chew. A full set of teeth is an essential prerequisite for your child to learn correct pronunciation.
  • Learning to Chew. Your child’s primary teeth assist in breaking up their food into small pieces and thereby helping them to digest their food efficiently. When your child eats, the teeth collect sugar that the bacteria thrives on. The bacteria break down the sugar and turn it into acids that eat away at your child's enamel, causing cavities.
  • Gingivitis can also occur from this plaque. It’s a gum disease that makes your child's gums swollen, red and painful. When your child's teeth are not taken care of properly, unhealthy gums and cavities will make their mouth sore and can make eating difficult.

  • Setting up Permanent Teeth. Their primary teeth are also important for the proper spacing and alignment of their permanent teeth. Therefore, it's necessary they're taken care of properly and preserved until natural exfoliation occurs. You're encouraging the foundation for the development of strong and healthy permanent teeth by establishing a good oral care routine early in your child's life.

When your child's first permanent teeth erupt — around six years and on — their mouth contains both primary and permanent teeth. During this time, your child’s risk of dental caries increases. Most times, neither the parent nor the child even notices the eruption of the first permanent tooth since it erupts behind their last primary molar and replaces no primary tooth.

Even though your child's enamel is formed at eruption, the tooth surface is inadequately mineralized and remains porous. Afterward, a second maturation, called secondary mineralization, occurs where oral cavity ions penetrate hydroxyapatite, a calcium phosphate, and thereby increase your child's enamel against caries.

Moreover, if your child has primary teeth with dental caries, bacteria accumulate and may attack the immature enamel of their new permanent teeth. The occlusal — grinding or biting tooth surfaces — of your child's new permanent teeth during the eruption are on a lower level than their primary teeth.

With the combined loose primary teeth, new erupting permanent teeth and gaps, tooth brushing is more involved than before. Your child's jaw is growing and making space for new teeth. As more permanent teeth come in, it becomes necessary to clean the narrower interdental spaces.

More on Fluoride

All water sources contain the mineral fluoride, even rivers, lakes and oceans. It's added to tap water in some communities as well as some mouthwash and toothpaste. Fluoride is important for toddlers and infants since they have an increased risk for tooth decay when they don't get an adequate amount of it. Fluoride helps make your child's tooth enamel more decay resistant.

Fluoride also helps to repair weakened enamel. Bottled water doesn't contain fluoride, so if your child drinks bottled water regularly or tap water that's not fluoridated, they are missing out on the benefits of the mineral. You can contact your state or local health department or your water supplier to see if your tap water contains fluoride.

Talk with the dentist about your child's fluoride needs. They may prescribe your child a daily fluoride supplement if your community water doesn't contain fluoride.

How to Encourage Healthy Dental Care

Motivating children to brush and floss their teeth is not always an easy thing to do. Dental care for kids takes time and patience since it's not always what children consider fun. It's important that your child learns, understands and practices how to brush and floss their teeth properly.

To reduce your child's risk of caries and help them protect their gums and teeth, have them practice the following steps:

  • Brush their teeth with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste twice a day to remove plaque from the surface of their teeth.
  • Floss their teeth daily to remove plaque from under their gum line and between their teeth before it turns tartar. Once their teeth form tartar, Yuma dentistry for kids will have to remove it. The ADA recommends flossing between your teeth once daily, which helps to prevent cavities and gum disease.
  • Ensure the water your child drinks is fluoridated. If your supply of water isn't fluoridated, your child's dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups for your child.
  • Ensure your child eats a well-balanced diet that's healthy and limits sugary or starchy foods. These foods produce plaque acids that can lead to tooth decay.

Brushing Techniques to Teach Your Child

Kids dental health starts with brushing their teeth properly and regularly visiting our local Yuma, AZ practice. You can show them the following steps. Supervise them until they learn how to do them properly. These steps include:

  • Add a pea-sized dab of ADA approved toothpaste on the brush. Ensure your child doesn't swallow the toothpaste.
  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and have them brush their teeth from the inside surfaces first where there's more plaque accumulation. Have them brush their teeth back and forth.
  • Brush the outer teeth surfaces next, angling the toothbrush along their outer gum line and brushing back and forth gently.
  • Brush the chewing surfaces of their teeth, brushing back and forth gently.
  • Clean behind each of their front teeth both bottom and top with the tip of the brush.
  • Brush their tongue.

A good diet is important for your child's development and growth. Almost all foods contain some sugar, including vegetables and milk, and they may contribute to tooth decay. Read food labels carefully and select low-sugar foods and beverages to help control how much sugar your child is consuming.

According to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion's website MyPlate, a well-balanced diet should include:

  • Vegetables and fruits: Together, these should be half of your child's daily meals.
  • Dairy: Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods are best.
  • Grains: Ensure half your child's grains are whole grains like whole wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice.
  • Lean Proteins: Choose lean protein foods like skinless fish and poultry and lean beef. Include foods like beans, eggs, legumes and peas, too.

Remember, your child's bottles, pacifiers and snacking habits will impact their oral health as well.

Tips to Keep Their Teeth Healthy & How to Make It Fun

Any methods you can incorporate to make the task of taking care of teeth fun is helpful at your child’s young age. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Let your child choose their toothpaste. Your child might not run to the bathroom to use your “grownup” minty toothpaste, but they can look forward to brushing with a watermelon or strawberry flavor.
  • Give your child the opportunity to select their toothbrush. Today’s toothbrushes for children options include child-friendly characters, such as Dora the Explorer or SpongeBob, and lively colors to keep them entertained.
  • Brush and floss your teeth right along with them to encourage good oral care. Teach your child proper oral health habits by example. Let your child watch you brush your teeth so you can show them the right way to do it and how important good oral hygiene is. By forming healthy habits at a young age, your children can have healthy teeth for a lifetime.
  • Use a reward poster. Place stickers on the poster for each day’s brushing and flossing, and reward your child with a healthy snack once they’ve completed a week’s worth of stickers.
  • Plan a surprise event after each six-month dental appointment. Regular dental checkups are an important part of keeping your child’s teeth healthy. After your child’s next dental appointment, surprise your child with a trip to the park, pool or indoor play center.

At Yuma Dental, our goal is to improve your entire family’s dental health through a wide range of services. To help ensure your kids have healthy teeth, schedule a check-up with Yuma Dental. As your child grows, set up a dental checkup schedule once every three to six months.