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Early care of children's teeth is important in setting the stage for a life of healthy teeth and gums. Visits to the dentist at an early age can acclimate children to the dental office, and fluoride treatments, cleanings and sealants are effective in preventing dental disease. We know, with proper care, teeth can last a lifetime.
They're Only Baby Teeth
Baby teeth are better called "primary teeth." These teeth are important for a number of reasons. A primary tooth can decay and abscess just like a permanent tooth. Proper care can eliminate the pain associated with these processes. Primary teeth also hold the space for and guide the eruption of the permanent teeth. Premature loss can lead to crowded, crooked, or impacted permanent teeth. Primary teeth provide the chewing surface for children until age 12 or 14, and when a permanent tooth is congenitally missing, can often be retained for a lifetime with proper care.
When should care begin?
Proper home care on primary teeth should begin with the eruption of the first tooth. Teeth can be cleaned at this age with a small, soft toothbrush or a wet cloth. Use of toothpaste should be kept to a minimum. Visits to the dental office, giving them a "ride in the chair," reviewing home care with child and parent, and other treatment as needed. We try to keep these appointments fun for the child to eliminate fear on the child's part. It's important for the parents to not place fear in the child's mind. Don't even mention things like "hurt," pain," etc. Today, most child visits to the dentist, even for fillings, and, yes, even root canals, can be performed painlessly and with minimal trauma to the child.
Prevention is the key!
Your dentist can provide a wide range of prevention oriented treatments for children and adults. The two greatest dental advancements in prevention are sealants and fluoride.
Sealants: A sealant is a thick plastic coating which can be placed in the grooves of the chewing surface of teeth. It keeps food and bacteria from packing into all the nooks and crannies in teeth where they can cause decay. When properly placed and maintained they are nearly 100% effective in preventing decay in back teeth.
Fluoride: Fluoride helps fight cavities by making teeth more resistant to the decay process. Fluoride can come from drinking water, toothpaste, topic rinses, and in prescription products recommended by your pediatrician or dentist.
Preventive Fillings: A more recent treatment of early decay is the placement of very small bonded fillings to treat decay in its very earliest stages before it has done much damage to a tooth. Preventative fillings are intermediate between a sealant and normal filling.