Your child’s oral health is incredibly important, as it’s connected to their overall health. The particular issues that will affect your child’s oral health can evolve as they progress through different life stages.
Read on in this blog from Maple Grove Pediatric Dentistry to learn about the different stages of pediatric dental care and what to monitor throughout your child’s childhood and adolescence.
A lot can happen in one year and this includes your child’s oral health! This first year is about preparing your child for the eruption of their first tooth. This usually happens anywhere from 6 months to 1 year.
Before then, keep your child’s gums clean by wiping them with clean gauze. This removes food particles and bacteria but also gets your baby acquainted with the sensation of brushing. Your child should go to their first dental appointment by their first birthday unless their first tooth erupts before then.
This appointment is important because we will show you how to care for your child’s teeth and educate you about their oral development. We will perform an oral exam to ensure they’re in good oral health and don’t have any abnormalities that need to be treated like tongue or lip ties. We will also talk about brushing the teeth twice a day with an infant toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste.
After your child’s first appointment at the dentist, they will need to return for routine visits every 6 months. Continue to brush their teeth with a child-sized toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. To prevent fluorosis, don’t use more than the size of a grain of rice.
Once the teeth begin to touch, usually around 2 or 3 years old, it’s time to start flossing once a day. We will advise you to wean your child off of baby bottles by the time they turn one to prevent baby bottle tooth decay.
We also recommend weaning your child off of pacifiers and thumb sucking. This will prevent serious oral health problems like bite problems and changes to the roof of their mouth.
If this behavior continues by the time the permanent teeth come in, they are at high risk for oral health problems. It’s best to discourage it with positive reinforcement by the tie they are 3 years old.
Young children are at high risk for cavities because they have thinner enamel and tend to eat diets higher in sugar. By 3, your child should have all 20 primary teeth. Monitor your child’s diet and limit their consumption of sugar.
Make sure they stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet high in nutritional value. By 3 years old, children can brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Your child will not develop the dexterity to brush their teeth on their own until they are 6 or 7 years old so you will need to brush and floss for them.
However, it’s important that you explain what you’re doing, demonstrate, and explain the proper way to hold the toothbrush, the way they should brush their teeth, and how long they need to do it.
Your child should start trying to brush and floss on their own now, but it’s important for you to monitor them to ensure they’re doing it properly and for at least 2 minutes twice a day. We recommend that your child get an orthodontic screening at age 7 to check for signs of misaligned teeth or bite problems.
If your child has signs of orthodontic problems, early-stage orthodontic treatment can take advantage of their development to correct issues before they cause long-term problems. Your child will be losing their front primary teeth and receiving permanent teeth in the front and the rear molars.
Your child’s first and second permanent molars are at a higher risk of developing cavities because of the additional pits and grooves in these teeth. You should place dental sealants over these teeth as soon as they erupt at ages 6 and 12.
They protect against cavities by sealing out acids and bacteria and providing smoother surfaces to more thoroughly brush the teeth. If your child plays contact sports, they are at higher risk for dental trauma. Make sure they wear a mouthguard to prevent injury and damaged teeth.
Your child should have all of their permanent teeth by the age of 13. At this stage in their life, they will be preparing to receive their third set of molars, known as the wisdom teeth. These can start to come in at 17 years old but may not develop until 25.
If your child’s wisdom teeth are coming through, we will need to take a panoramic x-ray of their mouth to see the position of these teeth in the jaw. This will help us determine if the wisdom teeth are likely to cause problems like impaction and we can determine if they need to be removed.
Orthodontic problems will become more apparent at this life stage if your child has not gone through early-stage orthodontic treatment. If your child’s teeth are misaligned, overcrowded, have gaps, or if they have a bite problem, they may need to wear braces.
While your child is likely more independent now, you can still help them make good dietary decisions and ensure that they’re attending regular 6-month checkups and dental cleanings.
When your child has turned 18, it’s time to make the transition into a family or general dentist. The reason for this is that pediatric dentists specialize in treating the oral health problems of children.
A general or family dentist will be better able to accommodate their dental care from here on out. We are more than happy to accommodate you during this transition and help refer you to some excellent general dentists in the area.
Exceptions may be made for patients with special needs who greatly benefit from seeing pediatric dentists that have been trained in the treatment of special health care needs.
If your child is 18 years old or younger, we can help them maintain good oral health, prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer, and educate them on how to eat a healthy diet that reduces cavity risk. Contact us at Maple Grove Pediatric Dentistry today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Matt.