Your child's first visit to the dental office should be around his or her first birthday, but could be as early as you'd like (as soon as the first tooth erupts or even sooner).
Many children get scared or express apprehension when they know they are going to the dentist for the first time. All the more reason to start your baby on a lifetime of good oral hygiene at an early age. It is up to you (with help from us) to prepare your child for the visit by emphasizing the positive reasons for good dental care. Avoid using words such as "needle," pull," "hurt," or "drill," as these sometimes trigger fears in a child. The earlier the child is accustomed to visiting the dentist, the less those fears will be pronounced in later years.
Technology today has produced sealants, which work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years. Sealants are particularly effective in children, and may help them from developing cavities later on. Sealants are best suited for permanent first molars, which erupt around the age of 6, and second molars, which erupt around the age of 12.
Can sealants protect your child's teeth?
Research has shown that almost everybody has a 95 percent chance of eventually experiencing cavities in the pits and grooves of their teeth.
Sealants were developed in the 1950s and first became available commercially in the early 1970s. The first sealant was accepted by the American Dental Association Council on Dental Therapeutics in 1972. In fact, research has shown that sealants actually stop cavities when placed on top of a slightly decayed tooth by sealing off the supply of nutrients to the bacteria that causes a cavity.
Sealants act as a barrier to prevent bacteria and food from collecting and sitting on the grooves and pits of teeth.
Sealants are most effective when applied as soon as the tooth has fully come in. Children derive the greatest benefit from sealants because of the newness of their teeth. Research has shown that more than 65 percent of all cavities occur in the narrow pits and grooves of a child's newly erupted teeth because of trapped food particles and bacteria.
Application of Sealants
Sealant application involves cleaning the surface of the tooth and rinsing the surface to remove all traces of the cleaning agent. An etching solution or gel is applied to the enamel surface of the tooth, including the pits and grooves. After 15 seconds, the solution is thoroughly rinsed away with water. After the site is dried, the sealant material is applied and allowed to harden by using a special curing light.
Sealants normally last about five years. Sealants should always be examined at the child's regular checkup. Sealants are extremely effective in preventing decay in the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.
Anyone who participates in a sport that carries a significant risk of injury should wear a mouth protector. Sports like basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and volleyball all pose risks to your gum tissues, as well as your teeth. We usually think of football and hockey as the most dangerous to the teeth, but nearly half of sports-related mouth injuries occur in basketball and baseball.
A mouth guard can prevent serious injuries such as concussions, cerebral hemorrhages, incidents of unconsciousness, jaw fractures and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouth guards are effective in moving soft issue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances.
Mouth protectors, which typically cover the upper teeth, can cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth. If you wear braces or another fixed dental appliance on your lower jaw, a mouth protector is available for these teeth as well.
A properly fitted mouth protector may be especially important for people who wear braces or have fixed bridge work. A blow to the face could damage the brackets or other fixed orthodontic appliances. A mouth protector also provides a barrier between the braces and your cheek or lips, limiting the risk of soft tissue injuries. Although mouth protectors typically only cover the upper teeth, your dentist or orthodontist may suggest that you use a mouth protector on the lower teeth if you have braces on these teeth too. If you have a retainer or other removable appliance, do not wear it during any contact sports.