First Tooth, First Dentist Visit
Dr. Charmaine Ng often sees parents at the Rolling Hills Clinic (Corning & Red Bluff, CA) holding a baby while bringing an older sibling to a dental appointment. She never misses a chance to help schedule the baby's first very basic dental exam. First tooth, first dentist visit is advice dentists are commonly sharing with today's parents. February is National Children's Dental Health Month, a great reminder to take that advice and set up your child's first, anxiety-free visit to the dentist.
"It's important to establish a ‘dental home' early in your child's life," says Dr. Ng, "so that they can get used to coming into the dental office and having their mouth and teeth examined. If you wait until they have a toothache, your child will possibly associate pain with going to the dentist and can develop dental fear and anxiety.
By bringing children in early for their first dental exam, we can focus on preventative care to avoid the pain of early childhood caries."
The American Dental Association (ADA) urges parents to consult with a dentist as soon as their child's first tooth erupts and visit the dentist no later than the first birthday. That's because "as soon as your baby has teeth, he or she can get cavities."
Early oral health starts with gently wiping your baby's gums and tongue with a soft, warm wash cloth after feeding. However, a mother's personal oral hygiene is also important to her baby. It may sound surprising when Dr. Ng says, "Moms also want to be aware and in control of their own oral health. You don't want to transfer the bacteria that causes dental decay by sharing food and drinks with your baby."
Once those baby teeth pop into place, Dr. Ng recommends using a soft baby toothbrush with a rice grain size of toothpaste to brush your child's teeth. Brush at least twice a day, especially before bed when bacteria in the mouth can eat into the tooth enamel and cause cavities.
Flossing is also part of the early oral health equation. According to the ADA, cleaning between teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities or gum disease from the areas where a toothbrush can't reach.
Oral health matters – even for babies! Clean gums and teeth help babies and young child avoid the pain of tooth decay. That helps them keep their focus on important baby business like playing and building physical and cognitive skills. By the time they start kindergarten, a cavity-free smile contributes to children enjoying all the new things they are learning.
Dr. Ng offers one last bit of wisdom about bedtime oral health. "It's really important that you don't put your baby to sleep with a bottle of milk. Milk has natural sugars in it that can lead to tooth decay. If you are putting your baby to bed with a bottle, water is the only thing that should be in the bottle. In addition, babies should transition out of a bottle to a sippy cup at age 1."
Shasta Community Health Dental Center
Anderson: 530-365-3147 ext. 3
Shasta Lake City: 530-276-9129
Mobile Dental Clinic - 530-520-6913
Free for children up to age 7 and pregnant women
Visits Red Bluff, Chico, Orland, Hamilton City
McCloud Dental Center - 530-964-2040
Rolling Hills Clinic
Red Bluff: 530-690-2788
North State Parent Magazine: North State Parent Dental Resources
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