Children's Dentistry in Bloomfield
First Visit and Hygiene
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first dental visit before their first birthday. Children begin developing teeth within their first six months. It is essential that your child visit the dentist as soon after she begins developing teeth in order to establish a thorough hygiene plan and ensure that proper development is on track.
Your child’s first visits will be brief, and serve to help your child acclimate to the dental office. Regularly scheduled visits twice a year familiarize your child with our office and dental checkup procedures. As your child grows, he or she may wish to tour our office, see the fun tools and machines we use, and find out about what we do. We encourage you to allow your child to tour the office and ask questions.
Dental Care for Your Baby
Baby oral hygiene is not limited to cleaning teeth. Numerous factors contribute to an infant’s long-term oral health. Something to keep in mind: you influence your child’s development in all areas while he is still in the womb. Eating well and taking prenatal vitamins can help your child develop strong, healthy bones and teeth. Some other dental hygiene basics for infants:
- After each feeding wipe your child’s gums with a wet wash cloth or piece of sterile gauze. Doing so will remove plaque buildup and bacteria that contribute to tooth decay.
- Never allow an infant to fall asleep with a bottle. This puts them at risk for bottle mouth (decay of front teeth especially on the top). Milk, juice and formula all contain sugars and acids that are extremely damaging to teeth. Allowing your child to fall asleep while breastfeeding will not damage their teeth or gums.
- Maintain your own oral health. Bacteria from your mouth can transfer to your infant if you share a spoon or even by giving a kiss.
- As soon as your baby’s first tooth erupts, you should start brushing. Skip the toothpaste until he has a few teeth, and use only a minimal amount even then. Be sure to use a toothbrush specifically indicated for infant use. These should be very small with soft bristles, and can be found in most drug stores.
- Bring your baby to see us as soon as she gets her first tooth. Starting regular checkups and hygiene appointment every six months at this early age allows us to track your child’s development and correct any potential dental health concerns before they become serious.
Many infants and children suck their thumb or other fingers because the rhythm provides a soothing reminder of the womb. This is a perfectly natural childhood behavior, and your child should never be shamed or made to feel that thumb sucking is bad. However, thumb sucking can cause damage to your child’s teeth as they develop, and aggressive or constant sucking should be gently discouraged.
Before you decide to intervene, there are some important things to consider:
- Why does your child suck his thumb? Children suck their thumb as they develop because the rhythm helps them to calm down, control their breathing, and can even slow the movement of muscles in the stomach, helping your child’s digestion. This habit becomes related in your child’s mind to safety and comfort. If a child is sucking his thumb past an appropriate age, it may be an indication that your child is anxious, upset or is rebelling against your authority to tell him no. In rare cases, your child can become dependent on thumb sucking the same way adults develop dependencies (drugs, alcohol, food, etc). Knowing why your child sucks his thumb can help you determine what course of action is needed.
- How old is your child? While we set goals for our children to stop thumb sucking by age X, they don’t always go along with these plans. It is perfectly natural for a child to suck her thumb or fingers until she is 5 or 6 years old. Most children either stop on their own before this time, or stop when they enter school.
- Who does your child suck in front of, and where does he do it? If your child is only sucking his thumb in front of your family or in your home (especially before falling asleep), this can be a sign that the child is comfortable. To avoid shaming your child, it may be best to allow the sucking to continue, as long as it is not affecting his oral health.
Helping a child stop thumb sucking can be a difficult process, but if it becomes necessary due to oral health issues or other physical or mental health concerns, here are a few things you can do to help your child break the habit:
- Talk to your child frankly about thumb sucking. Ask her questions about why she does it, how it makes her feel, etc. Then, explain the possible health risks in a simple, non-threatening way. Your child should know you’re serious, but not feel scared.
- Let your child be part of the plan to stop sucking. Telling your child, “you are going to stop sucking your thumb” can lead to a power struggle. If this happens, the child will often keep sucking out of defiance. Letting your child set his own goals can make the process much easier.
- Create a fun system of accountability. Make a chart where your child can earn stickers, smiley faces, stamps, etc. each time she is able to spend a day (or shorter period of time depending on your child’s behaviors) without sucking her thumb. Let her have a prize, a special dessert, or extra TV/video game time as a reward for her hard work.
There are numerous positive reinforcement methods that have benefited parents breaking the thumb sucking habit with their children. Whatever technique you find helpful is just fine. Try to avoid negative reinforcement of any kind in order not to shame or embarrass your child. Finally, bring your child in for regular dental checkups, and let us know that he is still demonstrating this behavior. Not only can we monitor your child for any dental health concerns that may arise from thumb sucking, we can also talk to them about the possible problems thumb sucking can cause. Sometimes it helps children to hear the news from someone other than mom or dad.