Children’s Oral Health
Your Child’s First Visit
The Canadian Dental Association encourages that your child visit the dentist before there is a problem with his or her teeth. Your child should see the dentist by age 3, when all of the baby teeth have come in. In most cases, a dental exam every six months will let your child’s dentist catch small problems early.
Here are 3 reasons to take your child for dental exams:
Your dentist may want to take X-rays. X-rays show decay between the teeth. They will also show if teeth are coming in the way they should. Your child’s dentist may also talk to you about fluoride.
Once your child has permanent molars, your dentist may suggest sealing them to protect them from cavities. A sealant is a kind of plastic that is put on the chewing surface of the molars. The plastic seals the tooth and makes it less likely to trap food and germs.
When your child goes for a dental exam, your dentist can tell you if crooked or crowded teeth may cause problems. In many cases, crooked teeth straighten out as the child’s jaw grows and the rest of the teeth come in.
If they do not straighten out, your child may have a bite problem (also known as malocclusion). This can cause problems with eating and with teeth cleaning. It can also affect your child’s looks and make him or her feel out of place.
Your dentist can suggest ways to treat this, or refer your child to an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dental specialist with 2 to 3 years of extra university training in this area.
Q: The dentist says my child needs a filling in a baby tooth. Since the tooth is going to fall out, why bother?
A: Some primary (or baby) teeth will be in your child’s mouth until age 12. The tooth that needs to be fixed may be one of those.
Broken teeth or teeth that are infected can hurt your child’s health and the way your child feels about him or herself.
To do a filling, the dentist removes the decay and “fills” the hole with metal, plastic or other material. A filling can be a cheap and easy way to fix a problem that could be painful and cost more later because it stops decay from spreading deeper into the tooth.
If a filling is not done and decay spreads, the tooth may need to be pulled out. If this happens, your child may need a space maintainer to hold space for the permanent tooth.
When a baby (or primary) tooth is missing, the teeth on each side may move into the space. They can block the permanent tooth from coming in. To hold the space, your dentist may put a plastic or metal space maintainer on the teeth on each side of the space, to keep the teeth from moving in.
Canadian Dental Association. “Your Child’s First Visit.” http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/cfyt/dental_care_children/first_visit.asp Oct 2010.
Additional information regarding Children’s Oral Health Care can be found on the Canadian Dental Association Web Site: www.cda-adc.ca
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