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Care for Your Child’s Teeth

Pediatric oral care has two main components: preventative care at our office and preventative care at home.  Though infant and toddler caries (cavities) and tooth decay have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, a good dental strategy will eradicate the risk of both.

The goal of preventative oral care is to evaluate and preserve the health of the child’s teeth.  Beginning at the age of twelve months, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that children begin to visit the dentist for “well baby” checkups.  In general, most children should continue to visit the dentist every six months, unless instructed otherwise.

How can a dentist care for my child’s teeth?

The dentist examines the teeth for signs of early decay, monitors orthodontic concerns, tracks jaw and tooth development, and provides a good resource for parents.  In addition, we have several tools at hand to further reduce the child’s risk for dental problems, such as topical fluoride and dental sealants.

During a routine visit to the dentist: the child’s mouth will be fully examined; the teeth will be professionally cleaned; topical fluoride might be coated onto the teeth to protect tooth enamel, and any parental concerns can be addressed.  The dentist can demonstrate good brushing and flossing techniques, advise parents on dietary issues, provide strategies for thumb sucking and pacifier cessation, and communicate with the child on his or her level.

When molars emerge (usually between the ages of two and three), the dentist may coat them with dental sealant.  This sealant covers the hard-to-reach fissures on the molars, sealing out bacteria, food particles, and acid.  Dental sealant may last for many months or many years, depending on the oral habits of the child.  Dental sealant is an important tool in the fight against tooth decay.

How can I help at home?

Though most parents primarily think of brushing and flossing when they hear the words “oral care,” good preventative care includes many more factors, such as:

Diet – Parents should provide children with a nourishing, well-balanced diet.  Very sugary diets should be modified and continuous snacking should be discouraged.  Oral bacteria ingest leftover sugar particles in the child’s mouth after each helping of food, emitting harmful acids that erode tooth enamel, gum tissue, and bone.  Space out snacks when possible, and provide the child with non-sugary alternatives like celery sticks, carrot sticks, and low-fat yogurt.

Oral habits – Pacifier use and thumb sucking may cease over time, but both can cause the teeth to misalign.  Stopping these harmful habits as early as possible can prevent severe consequences to the proper development of your child's face and bite. The dentist can suggest a strategy (or provide a dental appliance) for thumb sucking cessation.

General oral hygiene – Sometimes, parents clean pacifiers and teething toys by sucking on them.  Parents may also share eating utensils with the child.  By performing these acts, parents transfer harmful oral bacteria to their child, increasing the risk of early cavities and tooth decay.  Instead, rinse toys and pacifiers with warm water, and avoid spoon-sharing whenever possible.

Sippy cup use – Sippy cups are an excellent transitional aid when transferring from a baby bottle to an adult drinking glass.  However, sippy cups filled with milk, breast milk, soda, juice, and sweetened water cause small amounts of sugary fluid to continually swill around young teeth – meaning acid continually attacks tooth enamel.  Sippy cup use should be terminated between the ages of twelve and fourteen months or as soon as the child has the motor skills to hold a drinking glass.

Brushing – Children’s teeth should be brushed a minimum of two times per day using a soft bristled brush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.  Parents should help with the brushing process until the child reaches the age of seven and is capable of reaching all areas of the mouth.  Parents should always opt for ADA approved toothpaste (non-fluoridated before the age of two, and fluoridated thereafter).  For babies, parents should rub the gum area with a clean cloth after each feeding.

Flossing – Cavities and tooth decay form more easily between teeth.  Therefore, the child is at risk for between-teeth cavities wherever two teeth grow adjacent to each other.  The dentist can help demonstrate correct head positioning during the flossing process and suggest tips for making flossing more fun!

Fluoride – Fluoride helps prevent mineral loss and simultaneously promotes the remineralization of tooth enamel.  Too much fluoride can result in fluorosis, a condition where white specks appear on the permanent teeth, and too little can result in tooth decay.  It is important to get the fluoride balance correct.  The dentist can evaluate how much the child is currently receiving and prescribe supplements if necessary.

If you have questions or concerns about how to care for your child’s teeth, please contact our office.


Read what people are saying about us.

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After many years of being self-conscious about my smile due to an overbite and overlapping teeth, I decided to have a consult about having braces (preferably Invisalign). Due to all the correction needed, wire braces were my only option. After 5 years of various correction procedures I am now proud of my smile. Dr. Jeff and the staff were always prompt and very encouraging during each visit.

~Sandy V.S.

I had an appointment this morning for a crown prep. I was seated a few minutes before my actual appointment time. I was seen immediately by the assistant who prepped me for my local anesthetic. The anesthetic was given gently and painlessly. When I was thoroughly numb the procedure was started and finished in a shorter time than I had thought it might be. I was happy with all the services I received. Everyone from office staff to those assisting and performing the services were courteous and efficient. Dr. Dahm was his usual friendly professional self. I would recommend this dental practice to anyone needing dental care.

~Sue S. (October 2016)

I know, through my own work experience, that working with the public can be trying at times, and sometimes it is difficult not to fall into a "negative" mode, which really does none of us any good. I am not sure whether a "negative" atmosphere shows its face when dealing with people, as much as a "positive" atmosphere does, or not. I am inclined to think not, but anyway, I would like to say that I am proud of everyone in your office, for creating and keeping that "positive" atmosphere, for all of us patients, because it truly does make a difference in the way we feel while we are there, and when we leave the office. I don't ever remember giggling several times during a dentist appointment, but couldn't help myself yesterday morning, as Dr. Dahm moved through the office, greeting, reassuring, and caring for people. The girls who helped me through the x-rays, molds, and other necessary procedures were awesome, as well! "Good Job", "You're doing great", etc., while in a place where most people are a little uncomfortable, at best, is so nice to hear. And, when I was confused about just where in my mouth my filling would go, the girls were so kind in explaining that they really were going to work on the correct tooth. LOL! I am running on here, but I think too often in business, the main feedback that people get, is the negative stuff. I have always tried to counter that, by letting people know when I really do appreciate what they have done "for" me, instead of "to" me, and I will be the first to admit that trust does not always come easy for me - just the way I am. And, I feel that an establishment's "true colors" show in instances like I had yesterday, when I needed some reassurance that everything was okay. I am so appreciative of the way everyone handled that (sorry that I took up precious time), but now I know, that if/when I truly do need help, it will be there, and given in a kind and understanding manner. That means a LOT to me! So, in closing, in the middle of the night, during my usual "awake" time, I just kept thinking WOW! I just don't know of a better way to express my feelings! And, of course, THANK YOU to everyone in that office, because it takes every person in an environment like that to maintain a caring and positive atmosphere! I notice and I appreciate all of it, and I would recommend anyone I know to become a patient there!

Pam B.

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