What Should You Know About Your Child’s Oral Health?
When should you take your child to the dentist? How can you protect against kids' cavities? WebMD asked an expert.
When your baby is born, you quickly fall into a rhythm of regular visits with your pediatrician that continues throughout childhood. But many parents are more confused about taking their child to the dentist and caring for their teeth.
WebMD asked Natasha Mathias, DDS, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry in Montclair, N.J., to answer some of the most common questions she hears from parents -- and some questions she wishes parents would ask, but don’t!
Should my child see a pediatric dentist?
This is the most common question I get. “Why can’t I just take my child to my own dentist?” For the same reason you don’t take your child to your own internist -- you take her to a pediatrician. Children are not miniature adults. Their bodies are very different, and so are their teeth. A pediatric dentist has expertise in those differences.
Why should I take my toddler to the dentist when his baby teeth will just fall out anyway?
We may lose our primary teeth eventually, but their health is very important to our oral health over the long term. Once a baby tooth gets bacteria in there, it progresses pretty quickly, seeping through the tooth and going to the bone and potentially causing dental infections that can even be fatal. That’s the worst consequence. But even if that doesn’t happen, if bacteria lurk in the baby teeth, the enamel for the adult teeth may not be formed properly and they can be permanently damaged.
How much fluoride does my child need? How much is too much?
Optimum fluoride levels in the water, we know from research, are about one part per million. If it’s more than that, it’s a problem and can lead to fluorosis --discoloration of the teeth. If it’s much less than that, it’s not enough to protect the teeth. You can find out how much fluoride is in your water by calling your municipal water supplier, or buying a water testing kit online. If you live in an area where the water isn’t fluoridated, your pediatrician or pediatric dentist can give you a prescription for fluoride supplements.