Ask Dr. Lawson: Kids’ Oral Health

Q: At what age should my child first see the dentist?

A: Children should see a dentist after the first tooth erupts and no later than his or her first birthday.

Q: My child’s baby teeth are going to fall out anyway. Why should I take care of them?

A: Maintaining healthy baby teeth is vital to the development of permanent teeth. If decayed baby teeth are left untreated, the underlying permanent teeth can become damaged. In addition, baby teeth act as placeholders for adult teeth. If your child loses a baby tooth ahead of schedule because of trauma or decay, then the permanent teeth can erupt in a crooked or crowded fashion.

Q: Why are regular checkups so important for children?

A: Regular dental checkups and cleanings are important for patients of all ages to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, but they are critical for children because their teeth and jaws are still developing. Examinations every six months allow Dr. Lawson to detect problems in the earliest stages while they are easily treatable. It may surprise you to know that early intervention can prevent or reverse some developmental problems, including crowded teeth and abnormal jaw growth.

Q: My child isn’t losing his teeth according to schedule. Should I be worried?

A: Tooth loss schedules are a general guideline, so keep in mind that every child develops at different rates. If your child’s teeth erupted late, chances are tooth loss will occur late as well. If you are concerned about your child’s teeth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Lawson to determine if there is a problem.

Q: What foods should my child avoid to prevent cavities?

A: Sugars are the worst offenders when it comes to tooth decay. You probably already know to limit the amount of sugary treats and fruit drinks your child consumes, but you may not be aware of hidden sugars in other foods. Starches such as potatoes, bread, and crackers are converted to sugars in the mouth and can wreak as much havoc on oral health as a cupcake. To limit their effects, have your child consume starches with a meal rather than alone as a snack, as more saliva (which protects the teeth), is produced during a large meal.

Q: What’s the big deal about bottles, pacifiers, and thumb sucking?

A: While your child may derive great comfort from these habits, sucking on a pacifier or thumb beyond the age of two can cause misalignment of teeth and jaws. Children who drink from bottles past age one are at risk of widespread decay, especially if they fall asleep while drinking from a bottle. Sippy cups and bottles should be off limits at bedtime unless they are only filled with water.

Q: What if my child loses a permanent tooth to trauma?

A: Knocked-out teeth can often be saved if you act quickly. If your child’s tooth is knocked out, recover the tooth, gently holding it by the crown. Rinse the tooth with cool water if there is dirt and debris on it, but do not touch the root or any tissues attached to it. Place the tooth in a container of milk or saline solution (never plain water) and call our office for further instruction. If your child’s mouth is bleeding, apply pressure with gauze or a soft cloth. Bring the tooth to your child’s appointment, and we will gently reinsert it and stabilize it with a splint. If reinsertion is done within an hour of the injury, the tooth has the best chance of reattaching.

For answers to more questions about your child’s dental health, schedule a visit for you and your child today! Call our dental office in Urbandale, IA, today at 515-278-4366.