Question: “My son is three years old, and I was wondering when I should bring him to the dentist. What should I do at home to make sure that he doesn’t get cavities?”
Answer: Some pedodontists (children’s dental specialists) like to begin seeing children by age one. My partners and I generally begin seeing children at the age of three, unless there is some obvious problem before then. It’s a good idea to schedule their first appointment by three in order to ensure that any early problems are attended to quickly and to get them acclimated to visiting the dentist.
We recommend that parents begin brushing their child’s teeth two times each day as soon as they appear. Initially, you should use an infant brush without toothpaste. When your son is able to brush his own teeth, allow him to do so while you watch. It is generally a good idea to follow up by helping him to complete the job. Many children will also respond more positively if they see you brushing your own teeth every morning and/or evening.
Have your son use a toothbrush and toothpaste designed specifically for children. There are even child “flossers” that you can begin to use while your son is small. This will make him much more likely to continue this healthy habit when he begins taking care of his own teeth.
Make sure that he is eating a balanced diet with items from all of the basic food groups. Limit his junk food and pop intake as much as possible. If you are able to minimize the number of sweets he eats at an early age, he will be less likely to eat too much of this type of food when he gets older.
Additionally, many brands of bottled water do not contain fluoride, so encourage your son to drink “tap” water because its fluoridation will help strengthen his developing teeth. If you have “well” water, he may even need to take fluoride tablets.
Many kids eat too much “sugary” cereal and drink too much juice, as well. Many types of juice are extremely high in sugar and can increase the likelihood of cavities. It would be wise to check on the packages to determine how much sugar these foods and beverages contain.
If these basic guidelines are followed, and you bring him to the dentist consistently while he’s a child, your son is likely to grow up with healthy teeth and gums. Roughly fifty percent of the children in my practice has never had a cavity by the age of eighteen. That is great news to consider during Children’s Dental Health Month!
Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304, or email them to drarnold@SmilesByArnold.com. More information on this or any other dental topics can be found at www.SmilesByArnold.com.