Pediatric Dentist Michael Hanna is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. He has been in practice for over 16 years and "enjoys working with children and educating new parents about how to care for their child's teeth."
The following Q & A post about dental care for infants and toddlers is a combination of my e-conversation with Dr. Hanna and the information provided on the AAPD Healthy Smiles Healthy Children website.
Q. When should I take my child to the dentist for the first check-up?
A. Hanna said, "Don't wait until 3 years of age." In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday.
Q. How often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?
A. A check-up every six months is recommended in order prevent cavities and other dental problems.
Q. What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?
A. Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only.
Q. Is pediatric dentistry typically covered on most dental insurances?
A. Most plans cover pediatric dentists. Some plans only allow coverage up to age 6 or 7 yrs.
Q. Are thumbsucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child's teeth?
A. Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.
Q. Toothpaste: when should we begin using it and how much should we use?
A. Fluoridated toothpaste should be introduced when a child is 2-3 years of age. Prior to that, parents should clean the child's teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. When toothpaste is used after age 2-3, parents should supervise brushing and make sure the child uses no more than a pea-sized amount on the brush. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
Q. What is your "take" on dental "wipes?" Are they as effective as good old-fashioned toothbrushes?
A. A wipe is effective but may not extend into the grooves of the molars, this is an area prone to decay. Flossing is important at an early age if you see teeth touching.
I started taking my children with me to observe cleanings starting at age two. Bridget has yet to have a professional cleaning, but I am certain she would let a dentist nowhere near her mouth - she's still fearful with people she knows! Fortunately for my kids, I have always been obsessive with brushing teeth - no cavities here!! Believe it or not, we are already talking about orthodontics for Hannah!!