Do you have a little one (or two) who is approaching the age of his or her first dental visit? Your first instinct may be to seek out a pediatric specialty dentist, but great pediatric care can be found with a general dentist, too.
Just as with all care providers, some general practitioners are great with kids, and some do better with adults and older kids. At Creative Smiles, Dr. Carl Futenma loves treating families, and provides friendly, appropriate care for every age and need. Call our office at 360-574-3061 for great pediatric dentistry in Vancouver, WA.
When To Bring Your Child to the Dentist
Children should visit the dentist for their first exam and cleaning by the third birthday. However, we encourage parents to bring toddlers in earlier for informal visits. This can help them associate the dental office with positive experiences before their time comes. Bringing your two-year-old to watch your dental appointment, just once, can help normalize the things that happen in the dental chair and show a child that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
At your child’s first formal dental visit, we will take the time to make sure he or she feels comfortable before we ask to see the teeth. Adult attitudes toward dental visits are often shaped by early childhood encounters at the dentist. We aim to provide a relaxed and joyful experience, in the hopes that positive interactions will allay any potential stress or anxiety.
Children’s Unique Dental Needs
Oral hygiene should begin as soon as a child has teeth. Infants’ teeth can be cleaned with a wet washcloth, piece of gauze, or a specially designed infant toothbrush. In addition to cleaning the teeth, avoid any sugary or starchy foods near bedtime or nap time, which can create a decay-friendly acidic environment in the mouth.
Never put your child to bed with a bottle, as this can lead to early pediatric decay (sometimes called baby bottle decay). Make sure he or she finishes the bottle at least a half an hour before bedtime. Try to use a pacifier or give a bottle with water in it, if your child likes to fall asleep with a bottle.
Make sure you use age-appropriate toothpaste with your child, as fluoride should not be used until a child is old enough to reliably spit out more toothpaste than he or she swallows. Swallowing too much fluoride can cause staining on the adult teeth growing in your child’s jaw, and may even cause poisoning. Use an age-appropriate toothpaste until you are confident he or she is spitting is all out.
Flossing should commence as soon as your child has enough teeth that they are pressed close together. If loose floss proves difficult for you or your child to wield, try some of the fun, flavored pre-loaded flossing picks made especially for small children.
Watch for Signs of Decay
Children’s teeth have thinner enamel than adult teeth, which means decay can develop and advance faster than in adult teeth. This is why we encourage parents to always monitor their child’s brushing and flossing habits. It’s even a good idea to brush the teeth yourself every now and then (up to age six or so) to make sure they are getting thoroughly cleaned. This also gives you the opportunity to notice if there are any discolored spots forming, which may indicate a cavity.
When a Pediatric Specialty Dentist Might Be Needed
Most children do fine with a family dentist, but there are some cases in which a specialist should be sought for pediatric dentistry. If your child has a medical condition that causes oral health problems, a specialist may have more experience with these cases. Additionally, early problems with tooth eruption are sometimes best understood by a pediatric specialist. Dr. Futenma provides appropriate care for all children, but he will be the first one to recommend a pediatric specialist if your child may be better served that way.
Call Creative Smiles to learn more about pediatric dentistry in Vancouver WA. Dr. Futenma and our dental staff love to see children have great first experiences at the dentist, and will give your children the attention and patience they deserve! Call 360-574-3061 to make an appointment.