Hearing your child needs dental work is never a happy prospect. If you're facing a kid who needs a filling or something more extensive, you probably have some questions, and may not know what to expect. Here are a few things your child's dentist probably wishes you knew about how children's dental treatment and how treating kids is different from treating adults.
Your child should see the dentist early and often.
Some parents are unaware of the importance of their child seeing a dentist early, or are unaware of when they should take them for their first visit. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your child for their first checkup when their first tooth erupts, or no later than their first birthday. This helps you get the jump on any problems that may be developing. It can also help your child adjust to seeing the dentist, which can help prevent crippling fear of the dentist later on in life.
Yes, it is worth it to treat baby teeth.
The first question many parents ask when faced with extensive treatment of dental problems is "Is it really necessary? They're just baby teeth." The answer is unequivocally yes. Baby teeth do more than help your child chew. Leaving baby teeth untreated can affect how they learn to speak, and it can even spread disease and decay to their adult teeth. Not to mention the root of baby teeth is closer to the surface and cavities will cause toothaches faster in children than adults.
Pulling baby teeth is sometimes a secondary option for some families, but this can leave a child without teeth for a lengthy period, which also affects how they learn to speak, and can create problems when the permanent teeth begin to erupt. Baby teeth act as guides for adult teeth and without them there is a higher likelihood of crowding, malalignment and other dental problems. It is best to save the baby teeth if they can be saved.
Children need sedation more than adults.
Once the decision to proceed with treatment has been made, your child's dentist will discuss with you the options he or she recommends for sedation. Many parents are unaware of the necessity of this step in treating children. For adults, visiting the dentist for treatment can be unnerving and upsetting, but for children it can be downright traumatizing.
The level of sedation used will depend on the child, the child's age, and how much work needs done. For older kids all that may be needed is nitrous oxide gas. This gas helps your child relax and feel less anxiety. The second level of sedation is called conscious sedation, and involves the administration of a narcotic. It is given as a liquid medicine, and makes children sleepy and much less anxious.
The third level of sedation is reserved for kids who need a lot of dental work done, and for very young babies and children who will not be able to sit still through a long procedure. General anesthesia is administered by an anesthesiologist, and involves a combination of narcotic drugs and "knock out gasses" that will put your child to sleep. Though adults sometimes need help coping with anxiety, few require general anesthesia, but this level of sedation is commonly used by pediatric dentists.
Making sound decisions for your child's health is an important part of being a parent and that includes making smart decisions about your child's dental health. By starting your child's dental health journey off on the right foot you can prevent the need for extensive dental work, and keep your child developing normally.
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