Why is a pediatrician writing about dental health? 

dntlhlthmonthNational Children’s Dental Health Month, a campaign of the American Dental Association (ada.org), is meant to raise awareness about the importance of oral health and nutrition.  We pediatricians look into the mouths of our patients a lot – and long before the pediatric dentist takes a peek.  We answer parents’ questions about their child’s developing mouth and teeth.

My baby/toddler is a thumb sucker.  What does this mean?

Thumb-sucking is normal in babies and toddlers.  Some even use pacifiers.  Babies suck their thumbs because they have a natural urge to suck. This urge usually decreases after the age of 6 months, but many babies continue to suck their thumbs to soothe themselves.  Thumb-sucking can become a habit in babies and young children who use it to comfort themselves when they feel hungry, afraid, restless, quiet, sleepy, or bored.

Little by little, most stop between the ages of 3 to 4 years.  Thumb-sucking in children under age 4 is usually not a problem.  Continuing to thumb-suck after age 5 or 6 puts kids at risk for dental or speech problems.

My advice:  Don’t worry about thumb-sucking unless your child is approaching kindergarten age.  At this age, involve your pediatric dentist.

My baby has cut a tooth:  What do we do?

Teething can be a tough time for parents to navigate on their own. Your baby is fussy, drooling, and then…wow!  You spot that first little tooth popping out just below the gum.  You’ll watch your baby’s gummy smile be replaced with baby teeth over the next couple of years.

The teeth may be small, but it’s important to care for them.  They are placeholders for adult teeth that will eventually grow in.  Healthy teeth are essential for learning how to chew food properly and speaking clearly.

My advice: It’s important to take care of the gums and teeth, so here is what you do: 

  • With a soft, moistened facecloth of piece of gauze, gently wipe down your baby’s gums twice daily.  Do this after baby’s feedings and especially before bedtime.
  • Once the first tooth appears, it’s time for a toothbrush.  It should be a soft brush with a small head and large handle.
  • At first, just wet the toothbrush and gently brush the teeth and gums.  As more teeth erupt, use a fluoridated toothpaste.  The amount should be about the size of a grain of rice.  Eventually, you’ll use an amount about the size of a pea.


Source: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/healthy-habits

For more information on how to care for your child’s teeth, go tohttp://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/

When should my child begin visiting the pediatric dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (aapd.com) recommends that a child goes to the dentist after 1 year of age, or 6 months after the first tooth erupts.  The dentist will briefly inspect your child’s mouth, noting the size and number of teeth present.

For school-age children, dental check-ups should be part of your regular health care routine. Just like parents, kids should have a professional teeth cleaning and dental exam every 6 months. Dental x-rays should be taken once a year.

Many dentists do not see babies and toddlers, so it may be hard to find a pediatric dentist.  We recommend seeing a pediatric dentist as they are most knowledgeable about oral health in children.   You can always ask your pediatrician for a recommendation.

My advice: It’s never too young to start being vigilant about your child’s oral health. Your child’s teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and a healthy smile is important to his or her self-esteem. With proper care, a balanced diet and regular dental visits, your child’s teeth can remain healthy and strong.

Reports show that American students miss 51 million hours of school every year because of oral health problems.

Students who are absent miss critical instruction time—especially in early grades where reading skills are an important focus and the building blocks of future learning.  Students who have experienced recent oral health pain are four times more likely to have lower grade point averages than their counterparts who have not.

Join the conversation online using hashtags #NCDHM and #SugarWars

Sugar Wars

Questions?  Please email me at drlightman@totalfamilycaremd.com.

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