Most people agree that it’s essential to start taking care of your child’s teeth early, but how soon should you start? A long-held standard would be around their first birthday, which is cited as the best time for assessment of their oral growth and development. More recent studies suggest a general timeframe of between 6 months to the eruption of their first tooth. Still, there are cases where a child’s first visit to the dentist is held off beyond the recommended period.
In a 2012 survey, Queensland Health found that 57% of children in north Queensland had tooth decay. A notable exception was Townsville with only 39%, owing to long-standing mandatory fluoridation. Still, fluoride isn’t everything; overall numbers for the state show that half of the children between five and ten have decay in their primary teeth, and 25% of older children exhibit decay in permanent teeth.
Prevention is always better than cure; regardless of age or location; here are the significant reasons why a regular visit to the dental clinic is essential for your child.
Evaluation of habits and oral health
The first visit to your dentist will establish a baseline of your child’s oral health. It allows you and the dentist to discuss your child’s eating and drinking preferences, as well as how to deal with habits like thumb sucking. From here, you will gain a better understanding of your child’s specific needs and risks of tooth decay, and other considerations such as fluoride supplements.
Succeeding visits allow your dentist to continue to evaluate your child’s growth, changing diet, and habits. These visits provide a progression of the child’s oral health. The dentist can run advanced diagnostics if necessary, to detect any problems in alignment or tooth defects.
Regular visits to the dentist, if handled positively, allow your child to develop the right mindset and become comfortable with the experience from an early age. Making sure your child’s teeth are cavity-free will help improve and reinforce good eating and cleaning habits.
Protect permanent teeth
As your child grows, permanent teeth replace their primaries. These will be your child’s teeth for a lifetime, and every visit is an opportunity to reinforce their awareness of the state of their oral hygiene as well as its importance.
If they haven’t started yet, now is a good time for your child to learn flossing and make it a part of their routine. Your dentist can also recommend early damage prevention methods, such as applying sealants to prevent decay.
As the alignment of the permanent teeth becomes set, the dentist may also recommend orthodontic procedures if necessary, to adjust the alignment or bite.
In older children, hopefully, you’ve already managed to establish a healthy diet and cleaning routine. Still, a consultation with your dentist can help with your child’s expanding array of activities and needs. If they are into contact sports or similar activities, the use of a properly fitted mouthguard is recommended.
Teenagers and adolescents can also face some lifestyle changes – from drinking soft drinks to smoking, for example. Counselling in a friendly, familiar environment with a trusted professional will help them be more receptive to advice against bad habits.
We only have one set of adult teeth, and we use them every day from eating to expressing ourselves with confidence. Let your child know early on how important good oral health is, and take care of it for them while they are still very young.