Dental Care for Infants and Toddlers

by Matt Davis DDS

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommend that a child’s first visit to the dentist occur no later than his or her first birthday.  The most important reason for this is to begin a thorough prevention program.  As pediatric dentists, our goal is to provide information on how to begin caring for your child’s teeth, with regular dental visits and home care.

At home, begin cleaning your child’s teeth and gums with a soft infant toothbrush and water or a non-fluoridated toothpaste.  Unless advised by a dentist, do not use fluoridated toothpaste until your child is able to spit the majority of their toothpaste out, generally not until at least 2-3 years of age.  Remember that most children do not have the dexterity to brush their teeth on their own effectively.  Even as children become more independent in other areas, continue to help with tooth brushing.

Regular dental visits help your child stay cavity free. Teeth cleanings remove debris that build up on the teeth, irritate the gums and cause decay. In-office fluoride treatments renew the fluoride content in the enamel, strengthening teeth and preventing cavities. Hygiene instructions improve your child’s brushing and flossing, leading to cleaner teeth and healthier gums.  Early preventive care will lead to less extensive and less expensive dental treatment for your child.

Almost all water districts in San Diego County now add fluoride to their water.  Over the years, research has shown that community water fluoridation decreases dental decay by up to 50%.  Fluoride inhibits the loss of minerals from tooth enamel and encourages remineralization (strengthening areas that are weakened and beginning to develop cavities).  The risk for decay is reduced even more when fluoride is combined with good oral hygiene and a healthy diet.

A healthy balanced diet that provides all the nutrients your child needs to grow is also very important for dental development and the prevention of tooth decay.  A diet high in certain types of carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches, may place your child at extra risk for tooth decay.  Avoid sticky foods, such as dried fruits, toffee and fruit snacks.  Also avoid sodas and fruit juice which are not only high in sugars but also very acidic which leads to the loss of minerals in tooth enamel.

Starting children on early prevention programs can hopefully lead to a lifetime of good oral health.  Dental decay is still the most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States.  It is 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever.  Statistics show that between 30-40% of 3-year-old children have at least one cavity. Once children have reached elementary school the percentage of children with at least one cavity is around 50%.  Remember that some baby teeth are not replaced until a child is 12 to 14 years of age.

MattDavisDr. Matt Davis is a pediatric dentist in private practice.  He received his DDS degree from University of the Pacific in 2005, and then spent 2 years at UCLA completing a pediatric residency program.   Upon completion of his training, he joined the Encinitas pediatric dental practice of his father, J. Patrick “Pat” Davis, and has been helping North County kids maintain their healthy smiles ever since.  He and his wife Alynda have two young daughters, Abby and Logan.  Drs. Matt, Pat and their partner Edna Pamaran are available to treat children of  Coast Families living in the North County area.  See their website www.davispediatricdds.com for more information.

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