Q: When should my child first visit the dentist?
A: The first dental visit should be between one year and 18 months of age.
Q: Should I be giving my child fluoride drops or tablets?
A: No, if the water supply in your area is fluoridated. If you are not sure if your water is fluoridated, contact your local health department.
Q: My child is over 1 and has no teeth. Should I worry?
A: Even though most children that age have a number of teeth, some children may have delayed tooth eruption. There is usually no concern about this.
Q: My child's permanent lower-front tooth is coming in behind his baby tooth. What should be done?
A: If the baby teeth are moderately to very loose, there is no immediate treatment. Patience is recommended. This is a normal process. The tongue will push the permanent lower front teeth forward. If the teeth are not very loose, your child should be seen to take an X-ray and evaluate the situation.
Q: My child sucks his/her thumb or finger. What effect can it have on the bite, and when should I work on stopping the habit?
A: Most children stop sucking their fingers between the ages of three to five. Sucking of a finger can have a significant effect on the bite. Flaring of the upper front teeth producing a protrusion, and backward positioning of the lower front teeth are common. Also a crossbite or narrowing of the upper jaw can occur producing an openbite, where the front teeth don't touch. The amount of these bite effects depend on the frequency, how long the child does it each time, and intensity of the finger habit. If your child continues this habit past the time of the eruption of the first permanent tooth, then it can have a permanent effect on the adult bite. The habit should be stopped before these teeth come in. From a preventive point of view, infants should be given pacifiers, as they will do much less harm than finger habits, and most children will discontinue their use earlier.
Q: I have heard that a nursing bottle can cause cavities on toddlers. At what age should I take my child off the bottle?
A: Your child should stop using a bottle when they are old enough to hold a cup. This usually occurs around one year of age. After this age a child should not be placed to sleep with a bottle because this may cause tooth decay, increase the incidence of ear infections, and prolong the use of the bottle. If you put your child to sleep with a bottle, the best way to stop this habit is by placing only water in the bottle, or progressively diluting it until it is all water. Then be firm with the child. Juice or milk in a cup will not cause the severe decay that a bottle will. This may cost the parents a bit of sleep, but it is important for future dental health.
Q: What are the signs of teething, and what can I do to make my child more comfortable?
A: The signs of teething are drooling, irritability, restlessness and loss of appetite. Fever, illness and diarrhea are not symptoms. If your child presents with the latter signs, they need to be evaluated by his or her pediatrician. The best solution to comfort the child is to have the child chew on a cold or frozen rubber teething ring. Topical anesthetics are not recommended.
Q: Why are baby teeth important? Don't they fall out?
A: Baby teeth serve the important function of eating, speech, and aesthetics (self image). These teeth not only help form the developing jaws, but they hold space for the permanent teeth so that a normal bite occurs. The last baby tooth falls out at about 12 years of age. A decayed baby tooth can become so badly decayed that it can do damage to the permanent tooth. At times severe infections of the face, head and neck can be caused by infected baby teeth.
Q: When can my child brush and floss his or her own teeth?
A: We recommend that parents brush their children's teeth for the first five to seven years of life, since young children lack the manual dexterity of proper tooth brushing. The toothbrush should be a child's size, with soft nylon rounded bristles. Toothpaste should not be used until the child is able to spit (three to four years of age) to avoid swallowing it. A pea-sized drop should be dispensed by the parent for young children. Flossing should be performed by the parent prior to brushing. Most children lack the proper manual dexterity to floss on their own until the age of 10 and will need a parent's help and supervision.
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