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Is your dentist jumping the gun with your toddler?

Michelle Maffei is a freelance copywriter covering a variety of topics both online and in print, from parenting to beauty and more. Combining her two favorite loves, writing and motherhood, she has found joy in even the most challenging ...

Tips on toddler cavities and more

You are all for establishing good oral health habits with your toddler, but what are you to do when your pediatric dentist recommends expensive dental work on your little one's pearly whites?

From toddler cavities to the average age of some of the most common pediatric dental procedures, understand how to cut through the bull and figure out: Is your dentist jumping the gun with your toddler?

First trip to the pediatric dentist

"According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should have a dental home established on or before the age of 1," explains Dr. Kevin Boyd, pediatric dentist in Chicago, Illinois. "I like to see kids at 2 to 3 months old because looking at the baby's mouth, gums, tongue and shape of the palate can tell a lot about possible dental and sleep hygiene challenges." However, most parents admit waiting until their child hits at least their second birthday, when they're able to sit still and be more cooperative.

Toddler cavities

When it comes to your child's first teeth, you may wonder: Do cavities in baby teeth need to be filled? Although they will eventually fall out and be replaced by adult teeth as your child ages, it's important to remedy tooth decay before the infection spreads. "Endodontic therapy, such as root canals or child pulpotomy, is performed based on medical need, not the age of the child," says Dr. Boyd. However, you may be able to put off filling toddler cavities by a few months to let your child mature, so get a second opinion before agreeing to this most common pediatric dental procedure.

Cosmetic procedures

Regardless of whether your toddler is a child star or you're just simply embarrassed by his less-than-pearly-whites, you should skip on any pediatric dentists' suggestion to perform teeth whitening, bonded veneers and the like in the absence of oral injury. Veneers will prevent your child from obtaining braces and bleaching will shed your child's teeth of vital enamel, so your best bet is to embrace your child's smile and let nature take its course.

X-rays

A few dental X-rays may not be harmful to your toddler, but are they necessary? According to Dr. Boyd, "When baby molars aren't yet touching each other, usually before age 3, dentists can usually detect decay between the teeth without the aid of X-rays. However, a history of poor oral hygiene or injury to the mouth might warrant X-rays regardless of age, and may need to be updated every year to year-and-a-half based on specific risks."

Before you give your baby a smootch, is your spit giving your baby cavities? >>

Orthodontics

According to Dr. Jacquie Fulop-Goodling, a New York City pediatric orthodontist, all children should receive an orthodontic screening by age 7, especially if they exhibit signs or habits such as grinding their teeth at night, difficulty chewing or biting, jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face, and more. However, if your child exhibits a sleep disorder, your dentist may suggest expanding your youngster's palate with an orthodontic device by age 3.

Dental sealants

When both baby teeth and permanent teeth first make an appearance in your child's mouth, the premolars and permanent molars are more susceptible to tooth decay. "Our policy is to recommend sealants on virtually every child's first permanent molars just as soon as they erupt into the mouth as the enamel takes about one year to fully harden by calcium in the saliva," advises Dr. Boyd. Inquire about BPA-free sealants for all of your kids' back teeth — both baby molars and permanent molars.

Uncover the facts: When will my child lose baby teeth? >>

Even when you dutifully take your toddler to the dentist and brush your youngster's teeth daily, you still may face the emotional decision whether or not to put your child through dental work at such a young age. However, when you're still left wondering if your dentist is jumping the gun with your toddler, go with your gut and get a second opinion. Nonetheless, the best defense against unnecessary oral shots, drilling on toddler cavities and other dental work on your toddler's baby teeth is to visit the pediatric dentist early and often.

Learn more about your child's dental health

Teaching kids about dental health
Dental health: 5 Ways to prevent childhood tooth decay
Starting dental care for your toddler

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