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Does your child hate going to the dentist? What if you could find a specialist who makes it fun and easy? While many general and family dentists treat young kids, a pediatric dentist has specialized skills and training that will provide a positive oral health care experience and help set your child up for a lifetime of healthy teeth.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists states children should see a pediatric dentist when their first tooth erupts or by age 1, whichever comes first. Starting dental visits this young can greatly improve a child’s chances of remaining cavity-free. It also helps establish a dental home between caregivers and dentists to help guide a child’s nutritional choices and oral care habits. However, a pediatric dentist also has the ability to evaluate and assess for tongue and lip ties as early as newborn to assist in feeding, growth and development.

Kids need routine dental cleanings and check-ups, just like adults. A pediatric dentist can assess if the teeth are developing correctly, and check the patient’s occlusion (contact between upper and lower teeth) and jaw development. Although no dental procedure beyond cleaning is considered “common,” baby teeth sometimes need care. Even though they eventually fall out, baby teeth help guide permanent teeth into the correct spot, and maintain space and bone for adult teeth to erupt.

Pediatric dentists are focused on preventative care and oral care instruction to help children and families develop good habits. Keep in mind these simple tips to help your child have a lifetime of healthy smiles.

• Choose your child’s snacks wisely: It’s not just about sugar. It’s about how sticky a snack is and how long it will stay on the teeth. For instance, when a child snacks on pretzels and fish-shaped crackers, that food becomes pasty and sticks to teeth until brushed and flossed away. This feeds the bacteria that can cause cavities. For a treat, choose melty snacks instead (e.g. chocolate, ice cream, yogurt).

• Have your child drink plenty of water: Water and milk should be their go-to drinks; everything else should be in limited quantities.

• Help your child brush and floss: They will need assistance until they can easily tie their shoes by themselves and write cursive. With these tasks mastered, your child should have the fine motor skills to effectively brush and floss.

• Keep floss sticks handy: Store them in the car and in your travel tote so everyone can floss on the go after eating or snacking out.

It’s important to start your child’s dental experience on a good note because baby teeth are more vulnerable to decay. And baby teeth with more decay often lead to adult teeth with more decay.

Dr. Laura Adelman and Dr. Rachel Rosen are pediatric dentists with Great Beginnings Pediatric Dentistry in Twinsburg.

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