Infant’s New Teeth
Waiting until school age to see the dentist for the first time is a myth. As soon as your baby’s teeth appear, it is important to schedule his/her first dental visit. There are wonderful things we can show you to keep your baby’s teeth clean and tell you about proper feeding and diet to prevent tooth decay. Did you know that tooth decay is still the single most common chronic childhood disease today? The good news is that it is preventable! Let us show you how.
The primary teeth play a very important role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they replace the primary teeth around age six.
Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, children with missing primary teeth or children who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in the development of the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems – that is why we all need regular care and dental checkups.
Your Child’s First Dental Visit
A child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around his/her first birthday or when teeth first erupt. The most important part of the visit is getting to know and becoming comfortable with the doctor and her staff. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease for future dental visits. Words like “needle”, “pull”, “drill”, or “hurt” are not typically used by our team, as we make a practice of using words that convey the same message that is pleasant and non-frightening to your child.
We invite you to tour our office and remain with your child during their initial examination. During future appointments, however, we do suggest that you encourage your child to experience independence by receiving their treatment while you wait in the reception area. We strive to establish a rapport with each of our patients in order to gain their confidence and overcome apprehension. Children do feed from the anxieties of their parents and in most circumstances are much more cooperative without mom or dad. If you choose to accompany your child during future visits, you are more than welcome to come in the treatment areas. For the safety and privacy of all patients, other children who are not being treated should be left at home. We ask that only one parent accompany the child to the treatment room.
Why Primary Teeth Are Important
Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition and healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth gives a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth.
Good Diet and Healthy Teeth
The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimize (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Most snacks that children eat cause cavities, so children should only receive healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, which promote strong teeth.
Children's teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as four moths of age, the primary teeth push through the gums – the lower central incisors are first, followed by the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age three, but the place and order varies.
Permanent teeth begin eruption around age six, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. Adults have 28 secondary (permanent) teeth – 32 including the third molars (wisdom teeth).
Early Childhood Caries
Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier. Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.
Special Needs Dentistry
We are grateful to provide treatment to children who otherwise could not be treated in a traditional office setting due to: Medical conditions such as autism, ADD, ADHD, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, and other disorders or syndromes.
Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)
Nitrous Oxide or “Laughing Gas” may be recommended to facilitate your child’s treatment. Your child will breathe a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen during treatment — the goal being to reduce anxiety while increasing your child’s tolerance of uncomfortable portions of the dental treatment as well as the length of time in the dental chair. They will be introduced to an “elephant nose” and asked what they smell. “Do you smell cookies?” Most will agree that they do or will try to smell the cookies. It is effective only while breathing through the nose and does not put your child to sleep.
Oral/Minimal Sedation may be recommended for patients whose treatment needs and ability to cooperate warrant additional measures to manage their behavior during treatment. During sedation, your child will ideally be very relaxed, with delayed reaction times and lethargic movement. Although your child may be very drowsy during treatment, our dental team will continue to communicate with him or her in an age appropriate manner and he/she will be able to respond to verbal commands.
In either case above, there are pros and cons and neither prevents crying. Please feel free to discuss any concerns you may have so that we can help you make an informed decision.
Hospital Dentistry/General Anesthesia
General anesthesia for dental care in children is somtimes necessary to provide safe, efficient and effective care without multiple appointments. Very young children with extensive treatment needs and/or inability to communicate and cooperate may be treated in a hospital setting. Sometimes it may also be the best way to provide treatment for children with medical or developmental disorders. Dental treatment under general anesthesia will be done on a same day out-patient basis at Sparrow Hospital or McLaren Lansing Hospital (formerly Ingham Regional Medical Center) both in Lansing (nearly 4500 cases completed under general anesthesia to date). Your child will be monitored and sleeping comfortably while all their dental treatment needs are completed. Parents should talk openly with us about the benefits and risks of this treatment.