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Some parents assume that baby teeth aren’t important because they eventually fall out, and adult teeth replace them. However, this isn’t true.
Baby teeth are essential because they:
Dental plaque is a collection of bacteria that develops as a sticky, clear, or white film on the surface of teeth. It’s a problem for people of all ages, including children.
Dental plaque increases the risk of many dental health issues, including:
Since it’s often hard to notice, never assume your child's teeth are plaque-free. Visit your pediatric dentist for dental cleanings to prevent their buildup.
Pediatric dentistry is the practice, teaching, and research of preventive oral care in children from birth through adolescence. Pediatric dentists encompass all aspects of oral health care for developing children.
They also offer specialized dental treatment for sick and disabled children. After a teenager turns 18 years old, they’ll no longer receive treatment from a pediatric dentist. Instead, they’ll visit a general or family dentist.
Children should visit their pediatric dentist twice a year. The first visit should be within six months of an infant’s first tooth eruption or by 12 months of age.
Benefits of early dental visits include:
These visits acclimate children to the dentist, making it a routine experience. Some parents even bring their children to their appointments to familiarize them with the setting.
The most common pediatric dental conditions are:
Using fluoride daily is essential for every child, especially in the early stages of life. Fluoride helps reduce plaque buildup and prevents tooth decay and tooth loss.
However, more invasive preventive treatments are necessary if a child already shows advanced signs of tooth decay or other oral diseases.
Restorative pediatric dental treatments include:
Tooth fillings treat cavities and dental erosion. These conditions are the most common dental conditions affecting children of all ages.
Enamel erosion is the irreversible loss of tooth enamel due to excessive exposure to acidic liquids and food. The condition is more prevalent in primary (baby or milk) teeth due to thinner enamel.
The prevalence of dental erosion in children ranges from 10 to 80 percent. In most cases, treatment isn’t necessary. Your pediatric dentist may only recommend changes in lifestyle, behavior, and diet.
Pulp treatment is a baby root canal or pediatric pulp therapy. This treatment manages, saves, and restores a child’s decayed primary teeth.
Stainless steel crowns protect a child’s molars (back primary teeth) that haven’t formed properly or are heavily decayed. Sometimes, pediatric dentists have to place SSCs on the front teeth.
Tooth extractions are usually necessary due to trauma, disease, crowding, or decay. Following the tooth extraction, a pediatric dentist places space maintainers to ensure the child’s permanent tooth grows correctly.
Preventive dental treatments for children include sealants and fluoride. They both help prevent cavity formation.
Your child can get the right amount of fluoride through fluoride supplements or topical fluoride therapy. Drinking water in U.S. states is also typically treated with fluoride to help people maintain healthy teeth.
Fluoride supplements can come in tablet and liquid form. They’re best for children who drink water low in fluoride or those with a high risk of developing cavities.
Topical fluoride therapy is best for children between 3 and 6 years old but can be done at any age. These treatments can come from over-the-counter toothpaste or professional treatments (e.g., gels, pastes, and varnishes).
Here’s how to promote good dental health for your child, depending on their age:
Dental sealants help prevent cavities. A dentist places them in the grooves and fissures of teeth to prevent plaque buildup, ultimately reducing the risk of tooth decay.
There are three phases of child tooth development. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect during each stage:
During the first phase, the primary teeth grow. Babies usually get their first tooth around six months old, but it can happen as late as age 1.
One to two teeth grow each month after the first tooth appears. Most children have all 20 primary or baby teeth by age 3.
Phase two, or the transitional dentition stage, is when a child’s baby teeth start to fall out. This stage begins around age six and continues until about age 12.
The final stage is when permanent teeth grow and replace the primary teeth. Stage three overlaps with stage two, meaning adult or permanent teeth begin growing before a child loses all their baby teeth.
Most people have 28 adult teeth by age 13. Their wisdom teeth appear around ages 17 to 21. At this age, some adults will have 32 teeth, including wisdom teeth (third molars).
There are several risks associated with poor dental hygiene in children. In many cases, these problems worsen with age.
Some of the most common risks of poor dental hygiene during childhood include:
Pediatric dentistry focuses on children's oral health from infancy through adolescence. It involves preventive and restorative treatments to help them maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Parents play an important role in promoting good dental hygiene for their children from birth to their teenage years. They can help children develop strong, healthy teeth that will last a lifetime by following good oral hygiene practices and regularly visiting a pediatric dentist.
It's also important to know the risks of poor dental hygiene and take steps to prevent them. Every child can have a bright and healthy smile with dentists and parents working together to care for their oral health.
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