When should my child first visit the dentist and why?
At Johnson Pediatric Dentistry Dr. Cody believes it is critical that children attach a positive association with their first dental experience. There are many reasons for this, but none more important than teaching a child not to fear the dentist. This is arguably the most important reason a child should begin dental care as soon as the first teeth emerge, or no later than the child’s first birthday(learn more). The younger a child is when introduced to the dental office, the easier it is for them to develop a positive association with it. Another very important reason is the chance we can detect and manage early signs of oral disease or abnormalities before they become a more difficult problem to solve.
If you have experienced a cavity as a child, chances are you don’t have a particularly fond memory of it. It is likely the negative experience shaped the way you feel every time you go to (or even think about) the dentist. Having children experience success at the dentist’s office before they have a dental problem allows them to conquer their fear of the unknown, builds their confidence and ultimately empowers them. Admittedly, not all parts of a checkup are inherently enjoyable, especially the first time, but familiarizing kids with the process at a very young age gives them a chance to build a set of emotional coping skills. The more positive and successful visits, the less likely they will ever develop anxiety over a trip to the dentist. This is a concept known as “latent inhibition” and is best described as giving a child an emotional emergency tool kit should they ever need to undergo treatment to fix a cavity or repair an injured tooth.
Baby teeth aren’t permanent. Why are they so important?
We often hear people downplay the importance of primary teeth (also called “baby teeth). Here are four reasons why caring for primary teeth is so important:
- Permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. (learn more) Like any muscle, your baby’s face and jaw muscles need exercise to help them develop; healthy primary teeth allow for proper chewing to build these muscles. Without well-developed jaw muscles, your baby’s jawbones may not develop properly
- Providing space for the permanent teeth. (learn more) Primary teeth reserve space for the permanent teeth. They help in guiding primary teeth into the correct position.
- Proper development of speech. (learn more) Missing teeth can affect the ability for a child to form words and learn to speak properly. These speech problems can translate into difficulty later in life.
- Proper chewing and eating. (learn more) A cavity free mouth often means that it’s easier to enjoy healthy foods without pain or discomfort. It also means that children are more likely to chew their food completely and are less likely to develop bad eating habits.
- Healthy smiles encourage a positive self-esteem and develop skills needed for caring for our future permanent teeth.
Braces. How can I tell if my child is ready?
The best age varies from patient to patient. Orthodontic treatment most commonly begins between ages 9 and 14 because kids in this age range have at least some permanent teeth and are still growing. (learn more) Here are some things to look for, indicating that a child is likely to benefit from seeing an orthodontist:
- Early, late, or irregular loss of baby teeth
- Difficulty in chewing or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Thumb or finger sucking
- Crowded, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth
- Jaws that shift, make sounds, protrude, or are recessed
- Biting the cheek or roof of the mouth
- Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
- Jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face