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5 key questions for your child's dentist



New parents are often so focused on the daily care of their infants and keeping up with pediatricians for vaccinations and health exams that they often don't think about their child's teeth, except when it comes to the teething process. Yet there are things that parents should know about caring for their young ones' teeth and a pediatric dentist is the person most qualified to answer their questions. Here are five of the most commonly asked questions:

1. When should I first take my child to the dentist and what can we expect?

To prevent dental problems early on, your child should see a dentist when their first tooth appears, or not later than his or her first birthday. At this early age, it isn't as much about treatment as it is about orienting your child to the dentist and elevating their comfort level. A first visit should educate the child about how to prevent cavities and get a look inside the child's mouth. A good dentist should spend time getting to know the child and giving the child a sense of what to expect. A dentist should instill positive feelings about going to the dentist and that is the primary goal of this visit.

2. What dental issues can a baby or young child have?

Some dental problems can begin early. The biggest concern is severe tooth decay caused by using a bottle during naps or at night or when they nurse continuously from the breast. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it is a good idea to encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. Children should not fall sleep with a bottle, and at-will nighttime breastfeeding should be avoided after the first baby teeth begin to erupt. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. When juice is offered, it should be in a cup. In terms of nursing, if your child falls asleep during the nursing process rouse them enough to swallow a few times to prevent the milk from pooling on the teeth.

3. How can I prepare my child for his first dental visit?

There are many good books on the market that can help to orient your child to what will take place during their trip to the dentist."Going to the Dentist," by Mr. Rogers is a good one. The main thing is to treat going to the dentist with only positive information for your child.

4. What do I do about thumb sucking and pacifiers?

These common children's habits don't cause a significant problem unless the habit continues for a long period of time. Generally, most children will stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or pacifiers at the time when their permanent teeth come in, parents will need to more aggressively discourage the behavior. This can be done initially by putting a bad or strong tasting liquid on the child's thumb or pacifier as a deterrent. If that still doesn't work, your pediatric dentist may recommend a mouth appliance.

5. When should I start cleaning my baby's teeth?

The sooner, the better! Starting at birth, parents should try cleaning the teeth at bath time using a soft infant toothbrush or a washcloth. Use only water ? no toothpaste. Remember that most small children do not have the dexterity to brush their teeth effectively, so be prepared to help. Do not use fluoridated toothpaste until age 2 ? 3 unless your pediatric dentist advises otherwise.