Team up with dentist to ensure your child's dental health

  • Published
  • By Capt. (Dr.) Daniel Lapidus
  • 71st Medical Operations Squadron
Wouldn't it be nice if dental care for kids had a schedule like immunizations does? Often times parents, both new and experienced, ask me when their child should have their first dental visit, when should they start braces, when will their baby teeth fall out, when should their wisdom teeth get removed? 

All of these are great questions, and here are some general guidelines to help make these decisions. Remember though, there are no hard set rules for a dental care calendar. The best thing to do is ask your dentist. 

When should I take my child for their first dental visit? It is recommended that children start getting regular dental check-ups when their first tooth erupts or at 6 months, whichever comes first. 

These visits are important because of the information on nutrition, hygiene and other valuable areas they provide for the parents. Also, these visits help get your child used to seeing the dentist making future visits more comfortable. 

While it is not likely that this five-minute appointment will result in many significant findings it is possible to identify some developmental issues early on with regular dental appointments. Normally, no X-rays will be taken unless something funny is going on. After this first visit you can expect a recall every 6-12 months depending on the dentist and the child. 

When should my child start braces? This is the trickiest question because of all the variables that go into it. There are many approaches to straightening teeth. Some involve early intervention, some involve removing teeth and some involve two or more phases. 

If your child is getting regular check-ups their dentist will be the best advisor for when to start braces. If not, here are a few indicators that braces may be necessary: your child is young and their teeth seem very crowded, or some permanent teeth not coming in after baby teeth are lost. If your child's profile seems significantly off or their lower teeth are wider than the uppers when biting together, it is generally a good idea to see an orthodontist.

If you don't see any of these problems then somewhere between 7-9 years of age is a good time to check into braces. After puberty has started it is much more involved to fix some dental problems so keep up with those regular check-ups. 

When will my child's baby teeth fall out? Baby teeth are very important. Take care of them, brush them, floss them and get them enough fluoride. Healthy baby teeth are vital to proper development of speech, jaws, social status and esthetics. 

Some of these teeth will only be around for four to five years. Some will be around for eight years or longer. If a permanent tooth doesn't come in behind it, you can have some of these teeth for your entire life. 

That being said, baby teeth start to fall out around 6 years old and the process continues until 12 to 13 years of age. Front teeth go first followed by molars and canines. The permanent teeth generally take several weeks to fully grow in. The process of losing teeth can be variable but if your child hasn't lost their front teeth by age 8 -- go see a dentist. 

When should I get my wisdom teeth taken out? If they hurt, right now. If they aren't causing you any problems, get them checked out around 17-18 years old. By then you are at a very happy balance of wisdom tooth development and maximum healing ability making it a great time to get this procedure done. 

Some people have wisdom teeth that are all the way in, have plenty of room and can keep them clean. Most of the time however, these teeth do not come into the mouth properly or at all and this can lead to a lot of potential problems. 

What is the best way to determine if your wisdom teeth need to come out? Make a smart decision and see your dentist. 

There are many questions about caring for your children as they grow. The take home message is that regular dental check-ups are the best way to obtain appropriate treatment at any age. 

Teach your kids to take care of their teeth and gums and you've given them a great head start for a healthy life with a nice smile. Have a great children's dental health month.
For information about local dentists or United Concordia dental insurance, contact the Vance Dental Clinic, 213-7307.