When it comes to a child’s health, some parents may not place as much importance on their dental health as the health of rest of their growing bodies. But seeing a dentist is important for a child’s overall well-being. Whether they visit the same family dentist as their parents or a pediatric dentist, kids definitely should start seeing a dentist early in life.
Pediatric Dentists vs. Family Dentists
Many dental practices are kid-friendly and welcome all members of the family, no matter what their age. They sometimes call themselves family dentists because the care they provide is appropriate for all members of a family.
Pediatric dentists are specialists who usually see children only . Their dental practices are designed to accommodate young patients and the specific issues they experience as they grow.
The decision of whether a child sees a pediatric or family dentist depends on the individual child.
Parents must weigh their child’s needs and the options available in making their choice. The family dentist is often a good option in addition to being convenient. In other cases, parents may feel more comfortable with a pediatric dentist who has received additional specialized training in dealing with kids. Find a family dentist or pediatric dentist using our search tool.
When to Call the Dentist Immediately
With children, accidents and emergencies go with the territory, and sometimes they involve a kid’s teeth. In certain situations, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible. If a child breaks or cracks a tooth, or if one gets knocked out, an appointment should be made right away. Failure to handle the situation could result in the loss of the tooth.
The same goes for a lost or loose filling. This can allow decay into the tooth making the cavity worse.
If a child experiences extreme tooth sensitivity or a severe toothache, it may signal a serious dental problem. Parents should not delay making a dental appointment in these cases.
Kids Need Dentists for Non-Emergencies Too
Seeing a dentist for an emergency may be a “no-brainer.” But regular dental checkups are just as important for maintaining healthy teeth. Getting in the habit of having routine dental checkups will keep a child’s smile bright and healthy.
Some children (and adults, for that matter) fear visiting the dentist or see it as an unpleasant chore. A good dentist/patient relationship, built when the child is young, will make future visits easy and relaxed. When kids establish good habits at an early age, they are more likely to keep them up as they get older.
Keeping an Eye on Development
Dentists recommend that children start seeing the dentist within six months of their first tooth coming in. Since this usually begins around six months of age, it is a good rule of thumb to make the first appointment around the child’s first birthday.
The fact that they might not have all their teeth yet is no reason to put off the first visit. A dentist will be able to determine if the child’s teeth and jaw are growing properly. Dentists are also a good source of advice. Habits like thumb sucking, reliance on a pacifier or overnight bottles can interfere with a child’s dental development. A dentist will be able to tell if these behaviors are becoming troublesome.
It’s Never Too Early to Keep Teeth Clean
Since primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, eventually fall out, some parents don’t think they matter. They actually matter quite a bit by helping kids learn to chew and talk, as well as making a pathway for their adult teeth.
Because they are important for kids’ future oral health, they need to be cared for. Even before an infant’s baby teeth come in, parents should regularly clean their gums with a soft cloth.
Brushing should start as soon as the teeth poke through. Not only will this keep a baby’s mouth clean, but it will start to establish the important habits of dental care.
Cavities can form in baby teeth just like they can in adult teeth. If a parent is brushing their kid’s teeth every day and watching for signs of decay, they may think they can skip the dentist until they see a problem. Unfortunately, by the time a cavity is visible as a spot on a tooth or the child has a toothache, it may already be serious.
Preventing and Spotting Decay at the Dentist’s Office
Whether they occur in primary teeth or permanent teeth, cavities are something that can’t be ignored. Regular dental exams are important for finding and treating cavities, and for hopefully preventing them from forming in the first place.
Teeth cleaning at the dentist’s office can get to plaque that normal brushing can’t reach. In addition to regular cleaning, dentists might recommend preventative measures such as dental sealants. Sealants are another way to protect a child’s teeth from decay and have been effective for kids who are especially cavity-prone. You can read more about them here.
X-rays can find cavities before they can be seen by the naked eye. When found early, they can be filled much easier than if they are allowed to grow and spread. Both pediatric and other kid-friendly dentists can fix cavities in young children. Again, who fixes them is not nearly as important as that they get fixed.
Helping Perfect Kids’ Smiles
Regular dental visits will allow a pediatric dentist or family dentist to become familiar with a child as they grow. They will have a first-hand view if issues like overcrowding, over- or under-bite, or crooked teeth start to appear. If braces or another straightening option like Invisalign can help, the child’s dentist will be the best source of information and advice about what is appropriate for their age and situation.
Seeing a Dentist Leads to Good Dental Health
Good dental health is a byproduct of good dental habits. The earlier those behaviors are taught and encouraged, the better chance a child has of carrying them on into adulthood. This includes routine dental visits in addition to regular brushing and flossing.
Whether it’s a family dentist or a pediatric dentist, the important thing is for kids to visit a dentist. It’s never too early to start taking care of their smile.