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Front Page » March 24, 2005 » Holiday Focus » Proper dental care is important from a young age
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Proper dental care is important from a young age

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Dr. Ryan Bailey gives Carver Cammans a dental checkup. It is important that children go to the dentist at a young age.

Raising a child can be one of the most joyful and rewarding experiences that life has to offer. People never forget their children's first steps, their first words, their first tooth, or their first day of school. All of these experiences bring over whelming feelings of pride and happiness.

Unfortunately, with the highs of parenthood come the worries and frustrations that fill the voids in between. One could almost replace the word parent with worrier. People worry about what their children eat, what they wear and whether they are getting enough sleep. They even worry about their teeth, if they have them, or worry because they don't.

I have had the opportunity to speak to many parents over the years, and have found that when it comes to their children's teeth, most adults have had the same basic questions. People always have a lot of questions.

•At what age should babies get their first tooth? If one really wants to see a young mother squirm, just tell her that there are children younger than hers, who have already gotten their first tooth. The first thing to remember is that all children develop at their own rate. On average, a child should get their first tooth around 6 months (+ or - 2 months) of age. Most kids will fall within this range. However, some children won't get their first tooth until they are almost 1 year old and, yet, they develop a normal, healthy dentition.

•Can anything be done to keep a child from being afraid of the dentist?

The answer to this one is a resounding yes. Dental fear is infectious. Children are a lot smarter than we often give them credit. They can pick up the subtlest of clues and if they perceive that a parent or even an older sibling is afraid, then they will be afraid as well. Adults should mask their fear. Avoid any negative comments about going to the dentist while they are around. And never use having to go to the dentist as motivation or discipline.

A good example of this is when someone says, "If you don't brush your teeth you will have to go to the dentist," or "If you eat too much candy you will have to go to the dentist."

Start bringing them with the family to check-ups when they are two years of age. The more people bring them in , the more familiar they will become with the dentist and the dental environment. As they become comfortable we can progress towards dental care, while often avoiding any dental fear.

•How can one know when children need braces? Whether or not a child will need braces can be difficult to predict. It is important to remember that children will have two sets of teeth during their life. Around the age of six children will begin to replace their baby teeth with their permanent set. The best thing that a parent can do is make sure that children see the dentist on a regular basis. This allows the dentist to monitor the transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth.

In most cases if a child does need braces, the braces will be put in place once all of the baby teeth have been replaced with permanent ones. This usually occurs around the age of 11 or 12. However, in certain cases there are things that can be done at an earlier age to make the orthodontic process a little easier. Because of this, I will often refer a child I think will need orthodontic treatment to the orthodontist around the age of 7 or 8 for an evaluation.

•How can one keep children from getting cavities?

There are several things that parents can do to help prevent cavities, most of which is fairly well known. First, get rid of the excuse that "bad teeth" run in the family. The worst teeth can be cavity free if they are kept clean.

Parents need to brush their children's teeth until they are seven or eight years old. Kids do not have the dexterity in their little fingers that is needed to adequately clean their teeth. Older kids should be encouraged to brush their teeth on their own. However until they reach the magical age of seven or eight, an adult needs to clean up the spots they miss. This usually means brushing them again.

Make sure that a child is receiving a source of fluoride. In some areas, kids will receive adequate amounts of fluoride from the water. Talk to a dentist about the possible need for fluoride supplementation.

Parents have a lot to worry about. Their children's teeth do not need to be one of the worries. The key to a healthy dentition is proper home care followed by regular visits to the dentist.

A dentist is there to serve families by helping them to have a happy and healthy smile.

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