FirstHealth of the Carolinas

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time? 
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should see a dentist when the first tooth appears and no later than his/her first birthday.

Why do I need to take my child to the dentist so early?
Dental problems often start early, so the sooner the child visits the dentist, the better.

Taking a look before the child’s first birthday is the perfect chance for the dentist to see how the mouth and teeth are developing.  The dental team can give advice on how to prevent early childhood tooth decay, how to handle teething, and what to do about thumb sucking and pacifier use.

What will happen at the first dental visit?
The first dental visit will help to educate the parent about how to adopt good dental habits for the child. It is best to make the appointment early in the day when the child is alert and refreshed.  The parent may need to sit in the dental chair and hold the child during the first exam.  This is called a ‘lap exam” and is used until the child is old enough to sit in the dental chair alone. 

The dentist will examine the teeth and gums and will do a gentle cleaning.  X-rays may be taken depending on the needs seen by the dentist.  You will be shown how to brush and clean your child’s mouth, and the dental team will discuss diet and nutrition.  Fluoride needs will also be evaluated. 

The dentist will be able to answer questions you may have and will make you and your child comfortable during the first visit.

Are baby teeth really that important to my child?
Primary, or “baby,” teeth are important for many reasons. They help your child speak clearly and chew better, and they hold space for the adult “permanent” teeth. Cavities that are ignored in the baby teeth can lead to problems in the development of adult teeth.

How often should my child see a dentist?
Children should visit their dentist every six months to prevent cavities and other dental problems.

Are thumb sucking and pacifiers bad for my child’s teeth?
Thumb- and pacifier-sucking habits usually become a problem only if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers past the age of 3, this habit can affect the permanent teeth. If you have concerns, consult with your dentist.

Should my child go to bed with a bottle at night?
No.  It is recommended that a child have only water in the night-time bottle.  Putting milk or other sugary drinks in a bottle overnight can cause a child to develop “nursing bottle decay.”  This is a condition in which the front teeth become severely decayed down to the gumline and often have to be removed.  Sugary liquids react with plaque on the teeth to form acids that lead to this severe tooth decay.

When should I begin cleaning my child’s teeth and gums?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily.  A “smear” of fluoride toothpaste can be used after the child is old enough not to swallow it.  Young children love to brush their teeth!  However, since children do not have the ability to brush their teeth well until age 7 to 8, it is best for the parent to brush the child’s teeth after the child has brushed. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing so that they do not swallow too much fluoride. Your dentist can help you decide whether your child has the skill level to brush properly without help.

 
 
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