Preserving Your Baby’s Dental Health

When it comes to caring for an infant, most parents are well aware of the need for routine pediatrician visits as part of their baby’s healthcare regimen. What’s less well-recognized is the importance that early and regular dental care can play in the child’s dental health as well as their attitude toward dental care. For optimal oral health, the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that dental visits begin with the appearance of a child’s first tooth as an effective way to kick-start a lifelong program of preventing dental disease. Pediatric dentists are dental specialists in the care of infants, children, young adults, and special needs children.

One Baby Tooth + One Pediatric Dental Visit = Zero Cavities

Baby TeethThe ‘first-tooth visit’ is primarily an exam only visit that allows the pediatric dentist to check for proper oral and facial development, examine if the teeth are growing in properly, and to detect early tooth decay. Perhaps, more importantly, it gives the dentist and dental hygienist a chance to walk parents through a complete program of home dental care for the child. Parents particularly appreciate discussions on what to anticipate with future facial growth and development and tooth eruption.

Tooth decay, even in the earliest stages of life, can have serious implications for a child’s long-term health and well-being – and it’s becoming more of a problem every day. Past reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comparing the dental health of Americans in 1988-1994 and 1999-2002 found a 15.2 percent increase in cavities among two- to five-year olds. In addition, the U.S. Surgeon General has identified tooth decay as the most common childhood disease.

A possible contributor to this trend is the fact that only three out of five children visit a dentist at least once a year. While parents may avoid taking a child to the dentist to save money, studies show that children who have their first dental visit by age one have 40 percent lower dental costs in their first five years than children who don’t, making preventive care a sound health and economic decision.

Without preventive care, the impact of tooth decay on child development can be striking. A study in Pediatric Dentistry showed that children with cavities were significantly more likely to weigh less than 80 percent of their ideal body weight. Even more disturbing is evidence that the effects of poor oral health may be felt for a lifetime. Emerging research suggests that improper oral hygiene may increase a child’s risk of having low-birth-weight babies, developing heart disease, or suffering a stroke as an adult.

Nutrition is a very important part of good oral health. Parents should encourage their children to enjoy a balanced variety of foods. Optimize kids’ health with snacks that are high in whole grains, such as pita bread or baked tortilla chips, and which include some protein like bean dip, peanut butter or yogurt. Space snacks far enough between meals so children’s appetites aren’t spoiled. With snacks as with meals, limit your children’s intake of added sugars.

Use the celebration of February as National Dental Health Month to increase your and your child’s awareness of optimal dental health!  Boone, Blowing Rock, and other towns in the surrounding counties have many excellent dentists that can discuss your dental health care needs. Specialists in Pediatric Dentistry in Boone are Dr. Stacy Conn, Dr. Martha Hardaway, and Dr. Michael Mayhew located at 373 Boone Heights Drive. Visit their website at www.opsmiles.com for more information on optimal dental health!

Stay Tuned for more Children’s Dental Health articles in our 3 part series!