This is a tough one. Most experts agree that the best way to deal with a stubborn thumb or finger habit is with positive reinforcement. For young children (ages 1-2) this is a difficult task, as their minds haven’t developed enough for positive reinforcement to have a predictable effect on habit formation. It is recommended that when a young toddler is seen with their fingers in their mouth, parents might gently pull the fingers out, and give them a task or toy to distract them. The less time the fingers spend in the mouth, the easier the habit is to break. Older children benefit from rewards and incentives. Colorful stickers on a calendar work well. If all else fails, ask your child’s dentist about a habit-curbing appliance to break the pesky habit!
Many parents wonder, when should my child see the dentist for the first time?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child’s first visit to the dentist should occur by his or her first birthday.
Tooth decay, or dental caries, is the most common chronic infectious disease of children in the country. The Center for Disease Control indicates it is most common among individuals between 6 and 19 years of age, is four times more common than asthma, and that more than 25% of 4 year olds have endured at least one cavity.
Despite the fact that 1 year olds typically have only about 8 to 10 out of 20 baby teeth, it is important for parents to schedule the “first well baby visit” as a preventive measure. At this first visit, we can gently introduce the child and parent to the pediatric dental environment, discuss proper home-care and diet, and evaluate the child’s growth and development.
Parents are oftentimes unaware of the early signs and potential problems that can lead to cavities. For instance, juice and milk are common causes of cavities in young children, and if a child frequently falls asleep with a cup of either in his or her mouth, this can result in severe consequences for baby teeth. This information can assist parents in improving their child’s dental health in the future.
So, what can you and your children expect at a first well baby visit? A friendly and explorative experience, rather than a painful and dreadful one.
Experts agree that it is also important for parents to find a “dental home” for their children, and doing this at a very young age decreases the probability that the first visit will be occasioned by an oral emergency. Parents should seek out an office that is: (1) child- and parent-friendly; (2)knowledgeable about young children’s oral health, growth and development; (3) responsive to you; (4) gentle and kind toward your child – even if your child fusses when his or her mouth is examined; (5) focused on your child’s specific needs; and (6) provides specific advice as to how to care for your child’s mouth.
Pediatric dental offices have child-friendly waiting rooms, age-appropriate toys and games, and child-sized chairs that can help patients fell more comfortable.
Don’t worry, it’s not too late, some parents may not want to bring their child because they are afraid that their child might not sit still or have a bad experience. We try to make the first visit a friendly and positive one. It’s important for the patient and parent to build trust in us.
Suggestions for your child’s dental care
1. Use a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water as soon as the first teeth appear. Use a “smear” of toothpaste to brush a child less than 2 years of age, and a “pea-sized” amount from 2-5 years. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
2. Brush after breakfast and before bedtime, and do not give your child additional liquids after they brush at night. Help your child brush in the morning and in the evening.
3. Floss every night, because that is the best way to clean in between your teeth.
4. Don’t let your child sip on juice between meals, and avoid chewy and sticky foods such as candy, gum, fruit chews, fruit snacks, gushers and gummies.
5. The bacteria that cause cavities are contagious, so don’t share utensils or drinks with your child.
Note: Excerpts from Hinsdale Magazine