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A Good Pediatric Dentist Educates Parents About Proper Oral Hygiene
The job of a pediatric dentist involves evaluating and working to correct dental problems in children. However, it also involves preventing dental issues from happening in the first place. That often means educating parents as well as children on how to practice proper oral hygiene. A dentist can initially show a child the correct way to brush, floss, etc., but it is up to the parents to reinforce these lessons at home. Dentists and parents can work together to encourage healthy dental habits for life, but only if the parents understand the techniques and start early.
Why do children need dental care?
Some parents mistakenly believe that, since baby teeth are temporary, it does not matter whether they become decayed. However, this is not true. Decay and/or premature loss of baby teeth can cause problems that affect the permanent teeth that eventually come in. Not only that, but tooth decay can also lead to infections that could be life threatening.
Most children are at least 2 years old at the initial dentist visit, but for many, it is already too late to prevent decay. According to HealthyChildren.org, 10% of 2-year-olds already have at least one cavity, and by the age of 5, that percentage increases to nearly half. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that every child have the first dental visit before the first birthday. Since most baby teeth start erupting around the age of 6 months, observing this guideline ensures that it will be no more than half a year between the time that the first tooth emerges and the time that the first dentist visit occurs.
What can a pediatric dentist teach parents?
Many parents have mistaken ideas about pediatric dental health. New parents may not have any prior experience caring for babies and so may not be aware how to clean a new baby's teeth or why it is important to do so. Parents who already have children may have formed poor habits in regard to children's dental care. For this reason, medical students studying prenatal care at the University of Illinois are now learning how to have discussions with expectant parents about dental care as part of a baby's overall health.
Even parents who understand the importance of dental care for a new baby or older child may not know how to implement it. Brushing a child's teeth is a very different process than brushing one's own teeth, so learning the proper technique is essential. For example, even a soft brush may be too much for an infant of approximately 6 months to cope with, and parents may need to start with something simpler, such as a soft piece of wet gauze for the gums.
While it is important for parents to start early with a child's dental care, it is also important not to do too much too soon. The ultimate goal is for children to brush with fluoridized toothpaste for two minutes twice a day. However, that is a lot to ask of very young children, and it is often necessary to work up to it gradually.
As a conscientious parent, you want what is best for your children but may not be sure what that is. A pediatric dentist can be a valuable resource.
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