For new parents, it’s not always clear when to introduce dental care to your infant. Here are a few suggestions from pediatric dentist Dr. Angela Lee Masterson of Amazing Kids Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics in Carmel Valley.
What is pediatric dentistry?
Pediatric dentistry is a specialty branch of dentistry for patients ages 0 to18 years old. Pediatric dentists provide primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral healthcare for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special needs. Pediatric dentistry entails 2 years of training in childhood development and behavior management to provide the most optimal care to young patients. The office environment is geared toward children and families to provide a welcoming and comfortable experience at the dentist.
What is a dental home?
The concept of a dental home came from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) model as a primary care source for children to receive comprehensive and high quality care. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends a child establish a dental home when their first tooth erupts or by age 1. The AAPD states “the establishment of a dental home follows the medical home model as a cost-effective measure to reduce the financial burden and decrease the number of dental treatment procedures experienced by young children.” It also serves as a source for when dental emergencies happen, families have a place to turn to before going to the emergency room. We believe that establishing a dental home early on can lead to a higher quality of care and prevent certain dental diseases. The idea of having a dental home is to make the child familiar and comfortable with going to the dentist from an early age.
Tips from Birth to age 5
Typically the first tooth erupts by 6 months of age. Some kids get their first tooth earlier or later. It is recommended around this time, before even the first tooth erupts, to use a soft cloth to wipe the gums after feeding to get the child used to having their gums cleaned. When the first tooth erupts, you can switch to an extra soft bristle toothbrush and gently brush the tooth, including the gums where milk or plaque can rest. At this time, you can introduce a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste. The AAPD recommends using the size of a grain of rice. You can use a soft towel to absorb the toothpaste as well and reduce the amount ingested. By age 3, all 20 primary teeth are in you can increase the amount of toothpaste to a smear (see photo for reference). When children can rinse and spit, you can increase the amount of toothpaste to a pea size amount. It is recommended to brush twice a day and floss teeth that are contacting once a day. Last tip (for adults as well), it is helpful to drink water after every meal or snack to rinse food debris off teeth and to promote neutralizing the mouth with water.