Kids’ dental care: More than simply filling cavities

For new parents and grandparents, the appearance of a baby’s first tooth is a big milestone. It’s also the time to start thinking about the child’s future oral care. The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that children first see a dentist around 12 months of age or within six months of the eruption of their first tooth, whichever comes first.

The question is, where do you take a year-old child?

The answer is a pediatric dental practice such as Dental Buddies of Vero Beach, owned and operated by Dr. Jenna Schwibner.

“Children need to be treated differently than adults, so a pediatric dentist is the way to go,” said Dr. Schwibner, who has a 5-star rating on Healthgrades.com and other online sites, adding that “it’s never too early to start a dental hygiene routine.”

Dental Buddies of Vero Beach specializes in early oral healthcare with the goal of helping children maintain their primary teeth from the time they come in until they shed and to maintain their permanent teeth once those come in. The pediatric team is concerned not only about the dental health of the child, but with their overall health as well.

The focus of Dental Buddies is to make children comfortable with the dentist at an early age, educate the parents, and to monitor the growth and development of their airways. If kids are underdeveloped in their jaw and airways, they are not getting enough oxygen and it can affect them both mentally and physically. Crowded teeth is a sign of underdevelopment of the jaws, indicating their airway and nasal passages are compromised and they aren’t getting enough oxygen.

This condition often manifests itself in Sleep Disordered Breathing issues such as snoring, grinding teeth, mouth breathing, apnea and a variety of health ailments. In the U.S., nine out of 10 children have breathing issues, so it is an uphill battle that needs to be addressed early.

“By identifying these breathing and crowding issues early on, we can take measures to overcome the disadvantage,” said Dr. Schwibner. “For children with a restricted airway, crooked teeth or sleep disorders we have various treatment options. We can teach children jaw exercises to strengthen the oral muscle or fit them with a device that promotes natural jaw and airway development.

“If teeth can come into a well-developed jaw from the start, they will have a better chance than if they are crooked and trying to force teeth into an undeveloped jaw, thereby minimizing breathing issues and even eliminating the need for braces during adolescence.”

So how can the team of dentists get a toddler to sit still for an exam and treatment?

“The first visit is just to familiarize them with the office and make them comfortable with dental visits in the future,” Dr. Schwibner explained. “They play with toys, watch cartoons on TV, and sit in the dentist chair. We’re just creating a positive experience so when they come in for their first cleaning six months later they are not scared. For the most part they are in and out in 15 to 30 minutes. We offer a complimentary New Patient exam for any child under the age of 2 to get them started on the path to dental health.”

Every parent knows the challenges of teething, which lasts from about 6 months until the age of 3. During this stage, your child’s gums will be sore and they’ll let you know it by being fussy. You can sooth them by gently rubbing the gums with a cold, wet cloth, the back of a cold spoon or a clean finger.

The lower and upper central incisors are first teeth to erupt, making their appearance between the ages of 6 to 12 months. Next come the lateral incisors between 9 to 16 months followed by the first molars between 13 to 19 months. Canines come in from 16 to 23 months and the second molars are the last to arrive, between 23 to 33 months. All of the child’s 20 primary teeth will be in place by the time the child is 3 years old.

Then comes the shedding of the baby teeth, in the same sequence as they erupted, starting around the age of 6. Most children look forward losing a tooth and getting a visit from the tooth fairy. Folklore says if a child places their extracted baby tooth underneath their pillow, the tooth fairy will visit while they are sleeping and replace the lost tooth with a coin or paper money and most parents keep the game going as long as they can.

“Kids are high cavity risks even in their baby teeth because the processed food they eat has a lot of sugar in it,” Dr. Schwibner continued. “If they are small, we can treat the cavities conservatively without having to do injections or numbing. If the child is anxious, we use either nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or conscious oral sedation in a pill form to help them relax and feel no pain. If extensive work needs to be done, we call in an anesthesiologist who will administer and monitor unconscious sedation.”

You might think that it’s only a baby tooth so why not pull it. But the roots of baby teeth act as a guide for the permanent tooth to come into the proper position. If a baby tooth is removed, then the adult tooth doesn’t know where to go and it may come in wrong, creating orthodontic issues in the future.

“Parents are entrusted with teaching their children good hygiene,” Dr. Schwibner said.

“Brushing and flossing should be part of their daily routine as well as dental checkups twice a year. Prevention is easier than fixing, so making dentistry a positive experience that will carry on for the rest of their lives will promote a healthy set of teeth.”

A native of Vero Beach, Dr. Schwibner completed her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University before graduating at the top of her class from Nova Southeastern University’s College of Dental Medicine with a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. Dental Buddies of Vero Beach is located at 3755 7th Terrace, Suite 303, Vero Beach. Call 772-226-6888 to schedule an appointment for your child.

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