Why should you take your new baby to the dentist – and when?
Standfirst: You can be forgiven for thinking that, because baby teeth will fall out eventually anyway, you don’t need to worry about them. Not true! Roksolana Mykhalus, owner of family dental surgery Happy Kids Dental, tells us why your baby’s oral health is so important.
Baby teeth may give your little one a cute, cheeky smile, but they also play a key role in your child’s early development. When baby teeth fall out too early because they are decayed, it can impact on several areas of your child’s well-being, including:
• Speaking. You may need to consult a speech therapist at a later stage if your child’s missing baby teeth are causing a problem.
• Eating. If your child is unable to chew properly due to missing teeth, they may not get their fair share of nutrients or a healthy diet.
• Alignment of adult teeth. Milk teeth support the jaw and are guides for the adult teeth to come through in the right place. Gaps due to missing baby teeth can lead to the need for orthodontic treatment in the future, and can even affect the development of your child’s facial features.
• Self-esteem. Your child’s permanent adult teeth won’t appear until they’re well into their school years – so if baby teeth are missing, it could affect their confidence, from the way they look to the way they sound. And school years are tough enough as it is!
How to get your baby’s dental health off to a great start
Just like your little one’s first smile and first steps, their first dental visit should be at the top of your list of memorable milestones. We encourage parents to bring their children to the dentist as soon as the first tooth appears – or by the age of 1 at the latest, even if no teeth are showing yet.
Early dental visits have multiple benefits, starting with making sure that parents understand their baby’s dental development and know how to take care of their baby’s mouth. We go over issues such as bottle feeding and breastfeeding, when to take the dummy away and how to prevent thumb sucking. We also make sure new parents are aware of the fact that cavities are contagious and you and other caregivers can unwittingly spread cary-causing bacteria to children, for example by cleaning a dummy in your mouth instead of with running water, sharing eating utensils and even with kisses!
Another reason to bring them in from an early age is to familiarise them with the idea of the dentist, so if they experience a dental trauma later on – for example from a tumble while learning to walk – they won’t be alarmed by the sight of the surgery or instruments. Since your child will already have developed trust in the dental team, you’ll reduce the opportunity for dental phobia to take hold.
If you’re worried your little one won’t let the dentist look in their mouth when they first come in, that’s absolutely fine! It’s important to just start getting them used to the sights, sounds and smells of being in a dental surgery from before they can remember, making the experience something to feel confident about, not something to fear. And that positive attitude towards their oral health will set them up with a healthy, happy smile for life. What could be better than that?
This article is sponsored by Happy Kids Dental. If you’re interested in finding out more, call 020 7078 0822 or visit www.happykidsdental.co.uk. Roksolana Mykhalus is the founder of Happy Kids Dental, a paediatric and family dental practice in central London.