[By Dr. Broc Brimhall]
Do you have concerns about your children’s dental health? Would you know what things to be watching for- all before their permanent teeth have even started to come in. “But they’re just baby teeth,” the parents point out. “They’re going to fall out in the next few years anyway – what difference does it make?”
The truth is, it makes a HUGE difference.
Baby teeth aren’t simply there to provide cute gap-toothed photos as your child’s teeth come in two by two – baby teeth serve as a placeholder for permanent teeth; lose them too soon, and the permanent teeth can grow in crooked or without enough room, increasing the need for braces down the road.
Helping your children properly care for their teeth is key to protecting both their smile and long-term oral health. But where to start? Here are some answers to some of the most common questions we get from parents.
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When should I schedule my child’s first dental visit?
Children should start seeing the dentist between 3-4 years of age, unless parents notice something outside of normal like pain or suspicious stains on teeth. Tooth decay can begin to set in once any food other than breast milk is introduced, so early screenings are an important preventive measure. Regular visits also help children get comfortable visiting the dentist, which makes exams and cleanings easier down the road.
When should I start brushing my child’s teeth?
You should start brushing before the first tooth even makes its appearance. Use a soft infant toothbrush or wet cloth to gently massage your baby’s gums at least once a day (this also helps with teething discomfort).
When the first tooth erupts – usually between 6 to 12 months – switch to an age-appropriate sized toothbrush with soft bristles and add a smear of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. Between the ages of 2 and 5, can use a pea-sized amount, and switch to one containing fluoride if your child can spit.
It’s always a good idea to introduce flossing with brushing, so your child gets in the habit.
What can I do to prevent tooth decay and cavities?
Besides regular dental exams and good tooth brushing habits, there are a few other things you can do to help prevent tooth decay and cavities, starting in infancy.
Never put your baby to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. Milk or juice can pool in the child’s mouth or continue to drip out after your baby has fallen asleep; prolonged contact with the sugar in these liquids can lead to tooth decay.
Switch to drinking from a cup no later than 14 months. Sugars from milk and juice pass over the teeth faster when drinking from a cup versus a bottle, which means less sugar left behind to cling to your child’s teeth and cause decay.
Older children should avoid sugary sports drinks and carbonated beverages, even those that are diet – studies show that carbonation can erode tooth enamel just as much as sugar.
Make sure your child eats a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables, dairy, protein and whole grains, and low on sugar and starches.
Chewing sugarless gum like Xylitol between meals can also help. Chewing increases the production of saliva, which helps wash away the sugar and bacteria that can cause tooth decay.
What does my insurance cover?
Most insurance plans cover 100% of the cost of preventive care, which includes office visits, X-rays, cleanings and sealant, a barrier painted on the tops of the molars for added cavity protection.
Fillings and tooth extractions are usually subject to either a co-pay (you pay a set amount per procedure) or co-insurance payment (you pay a percentage of the procedure’s cost, usually 20% or 30%).
Our billing department can help you determine what your insurance is estimated to cover and will be happy to discuss payment options.
We’re in-network with the following providers:
- Premera // BlueCross/BlueShield
- Denali Kid Care // Medicaid
- Delta Dental
- Washington Dental
Your child’s teeth should last a lifetime. Get them started on the road to good oral health today. Fill out the form below or call us today to schedule your child’s exam and cleaning.
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