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a dental care roadmap for children

Dentistry for Children: A Roadmap for Good Care at Every Stage of Growth

Good Dentistry for Children Begins Early

Here’s an amazing fact most parents are unaware of: Your baby’s teeth, both primary and permanent, already start developing under the gum line during the early months of pregnancy. The first teeth usually break through by the time babies are 6 months old, making a visit to a dentist is something you should start considering before their first birthday. In order to keep your child’s teeth healthy, it’s important to be aware of these milestones for care and to seek out good dentistry for your children’s smiles. As a dental practice offering pediatric dentistry, here are a few of our recommendations for keeping your child both healthy and happy at the dentist:

Stage 1: 1-2 Years – Your Child’s First “Happy Visit”

Fear of the dentist often stems from a bad first dental experience, making it crucial that your child’s first visit to the dentist is a positive one. At Moore & Pascarella, we’ve found that children are much more comfortable at the dentist if they’re comfortable with the office, staff and regular course of care. We’ve had a lot of success offering a complimentary “Happy Visit” to our office during a child’s first visit, where the child is introduced to the office and given a ride in the dentist chair to establish trust and ease apprehension. There’s no charge for the visit, and we find it does wonders in earning their confidence and setting them up for good care in the future.

After a child’s initial happy visit, parents should demonstrate proper brushing to the child and continue to reinforce principles of good oral care at home.

Stage 2: 2-4 Years – Your Child’s First Full Dental Exam

While each child’s development is different, most children have all of their primary teeth by the time they are 2 ½ years old. To ensure healthy and strong teeth, we recommend taking your child to the dentist for a first full exam by this age. During this visit, a dentist will typically take X-rays and do a full visual exam of your child’s smile.

Even at the second visit, establishing trust and confidence is still a top priority. If your child did not see a dentist before this visit, we typically recommend they begin their visit with the normal office tour and chair ride that make up a Happy Visit. We will then gauge how your child is doing and attempt a full exam with x-rays if the child is comfortable.

Stage 3: 4-6 Years – Preventative Dentistry, Exam & Fluoride/Sealants

Regular check-ups and exams are a must for children to maintain healthy primary teeth and to avoid that they will lose those teeth too early. Primary teeth are crucial since they act as placeholders that ensure the correct spacing of permanent teeth.

When a child is about 4-6 years old, we often recommend the application of dental sealants, a thin coat that is applied to the chewing surfaces of your child’s teeth. Dental sealants act as a protective shield, especially over depressions and grooves that are hard to reach with a toothbrush. The process only takes a few minutes and is completely painless. Sealants can protect teeth for up to 10 years.

Fluoride also plays an important role in protecting primary teeth from cavities. The mineral makes teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars. While fluoride is found naturally in foods and is often added to water, using small amounts of fluoridated toothpaste when brushing teeth can help strengthen your child’s teeth.

Stage 4: 6-12 Years – Interceptive Orthodontics

Your child’s permanent teeth will typically start coming in by the age of 7, making this stage in their growth an extremely important one. There are many ways that the alignment of permanent teeth can cause issues in the future. Common issues include overbites, underbites, crossbites and overcrowding.

When it comes to keeping a child’s teeth straight, pediatric dentistry has evolved to place an emphasis on avoiding or lessening future problems before they occur. Interceptive orthodontics is a phased type of orthodontics that diagnoses and treats issues as soon as they are detected, instead of waiting for all permanent teeth to erupt to correct any issues. This helps to reduce the amount, and often the cost, of orthodontic treatment a child will need later in life.

Examples of interceptive orthodontics include:

  • Removing specific primary teeth to ensure the proper growth of permanent teeth that will come in after.
  • Preserving space for permanent teeth after a primary tooth is lost prematurely.
  • Expanding the jaws to prevent crossbite and create more space.

With a little advanced planning, you can help ensure that your child’s smile stays straight and healthy through these formative years and reduce the length of treatment with braces later in life.

Stage 5: 12-15 Years – Growth Evaluation

A child’s early teen years are a crucial time in their growth. As they enter adolescence, proper home care is important to prevent cavities and regular examination and x-rays are important to monitor the growth of the wisdom teeth, which can begin forming in a child’s jaw as early as 10 years old! During this stage, a dentist will also evaluate the child’s needs for braces and make recommendations on whether or not the child should see an orthodontist.

During this time, it’s especially important to maintain a schedule of having regular dental visits each six months to keep up with your child’s development and evaluate their growth to aid in the preventative care of larger problems down the road.

Stage 6: 15-17 Years – Wisdom Teeth

After a child’s 2nd molars have come in, their wisdom teeth are the final set of molars that will erupt. Unfortunately, this third set of teeth are often misaligned. These molars might be positioned horizontally, they are often angled wrong or may even remain fully or partially impacted below the gum. In most cases, wisdom teeth need to be extracted to avoid issues in the future, like damage to other teeth, the jawbone or nerves.

At a young age, the roots of wisdom teeth are not fully developed yet, and the bone is not as dense. That’s why we typically recommend regular X-rays to assess the development, positioning and alignment of your child’s wisdom teeth.

Stage 7: 15-18 Years- Invisalign

Metal braces can be painful and are usually disturbing to teenagers, who may be very conscious of their appearance at that age. Luckily, there’s a great alternative to traditional braces you may have heard of.

Invisalign is a new and easy alternative to metal braces. These custom-made, clear aligners are worn over the teeth to gradually and gently straighten teeth. It is an option that is virtually invisible and without pain.

After a child sees a dentist for an initial consultation to determine if they’re a good candidate for Invisalign, the dentist takes X-rays, pictures and impressions of the teeth to create digital 3-D images of them and to estimate the length of treatment. Typically, Invisalign treatments last about a year.

Trust Your Child’s Smile to Moore & Pascarella:

Naturally, every child’s development is different. At Moore & Pascarella, we want to accompany you and your child from their baby teeth to their wisdom teeth. We’re dentists in Redding and Red Bluff, CA, specializing in dentistry for the whole family, including pediatric dentistry, Invisalign, sedation dentistry and implant dentistry. It is our goal to create a comfortable and positive environment, so we can ensure the health and proper development of your child’s teeth.

If you live in Northern California, we’d love to talk about your dental treatment needs. We’re looking forward to meeting you!

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Moore & Pascarella, A Dental Group