A family dentist provides dental health and oral hygiene services to people of all age groups. There is usually some confusion among patients about the difference between a family dentist and a general dentist. You would think that a family dentist only serves families with children, but a patient doesn't actually need to have children to see a family dentist. Common responsibilities of a family dentist include checking gum health, minimising plaque build-up around the teeth, filling cavities, and stopping tooth decay.
Family Dentistry is a Preventative Field
As a preventative field, family dentistry provides services mostly related to oral hygiene, preventing dental problems from occurring, and catching oral problems in the beginning stages before they transform into a more serious issue. Many professionals, such as the Australian Dental Association (ADA), advise that you schedule a dental check-up with your family dentist twice per year.
One of the benefits of seeing a family dentist regularly (the recommended twice per year) is dental problems are often caught before the patient experiences symptoms. This can save you pain and prevent more costly treatments. You will also stay up-to-date with the best tips for taking care of your teeth and gums.
Types of Procedures to Expect at a Family Dentist
Family dentists sometimes conduct a radiograph to check for cavities, jaw problems, and other tooth health issues. If a cavity is found, your family dentist may give you a dental filling to prevent it from escalating into a more serious problem. When a cavity gets worse, you could end up needing more complicated procedures like root canals, dental implants, and crowns. If a dental X-ray is needed, dentists minimise radiation exposure for children through lead aprons and high-speed film.
When Should You Take Your Child to the Family Dentist for the First Time?
You should take your child to the family dentist within the first six months of your child's first tooth or by their first birthday. Children have different needs than adults, so ensure you find a dentist who works well with children. It is important to schedule check-ups for your children early on because it will determine whether or not their teeth are developing correctly in the mouth. Teeth that aren't erupting correctly can cause problems with speech, eating, and aesthetics.
When you take a young child to the family dentist, the dentist will evaluate tooth eruption and growth patterns, let you know how to care for the child's teeth and gums, and provide dietary advice for healthy teeth. Family dentists will also explain what you should do in the event of a dental emergency, such as a tooth being knocked out or chronic pain from an infection.
What's the Difference Between a Family Dentist and a Paediatric Dentist?
In contrast to family dentists, paediatric dentists only serve infants and children. Children who are going through adolescence can still receive treatment from a paediatric dentist, but once they're adults, they will have to see another type of dentist such as a family dentist or general dentist. Paediatric dentists go through 2-3 years of specialty training after dental school in order to learn what the needs of children are and how to effectively work with them. They are also taught how to provide dental health care to children with special needs.
Why Is It Important to Take Care of a Child's Baby Teeth?
Some parents mistakenly don't take their children to the dentist until they lose their baby teeth because they don't view the baby teeth as important. They think that the primary teeth will fall out anyways, so it's not a serious issue until the first adult tooth grows. Unfortunately, if the baby teeth don't grow in correctly, the adult teeth likely won't either. It's important to take care of a child's primary teeth because they help children chew correctly, speak clearly, and form a good pathway for the adult teeth to grow in.
What to Do When Your Child Has a Toothache
If your child has a toothache, you can ease their pain by having them swish warm salt water in their mouth. You can also place a cold compress on their face for 10 minutes if it's swollen to reduce swelling and ease the pain. An appointment with a dentist should be scheduled as well, even if the pain goes away. Never apply aspirin or other painkillers to your child's tooth. Doing so is sometimes recommended by others as a home remedy, but it's not good for your teeth. Either use a tooth pain relief gel that was intended for oral use or have your child swallow a painkiller.
What to Do When a Tooth is Knocked Out?
If a tooth is knocked out, find the tooth and carefully pick it up by the crown. You don't want to touch the root because if the root is damaged, it cannot be re-inserted in the mouth. Place the tooth in a tooth preservation kit for safely travelling to the dentist with. If you don't have a tooth preservation kit, then a glass of milk will suffice.
How to Protect Your Kids Teeth When They Play Sports
If your child plays sports, we recommend that you have a custom-fitted mouthguard created for them by a paediatric dentist. Not only does a mouthguard prevent injuries to the teeth but it can protect the body from head, cheek, gums, and lip injuries too. A mouthguard that is custom-fitted for the child is more comfortable to wear, so they are more likely to keep it in their mouths.
Helpful Tips for Keeping Your Kids Teeth Healthy and Strong
There are a lot of important things parents need to know for helping their children grow and maintain healthy teeth. You may be surprised and learn something new with the following tips.
- Wean your little one off bottles at 12-14 months. They should be drinking from a cup after age 1 to encourage healthy teeth.
- Clean an infants gums as their teeth start growing.
- Use a toothbrush that's made for infants to brush a baby's teeth.
- Don't let children fall asleep after drinking milk, juice, or any other liquid that's either acidic or contains sugar. To prevent tooth decay, only give your child water before a nap or bedtime.
- Prevent your child from sucking their thumb after the age of 2. Children that suck their thumbs after the age of 2 are at risk of bite problems, crowded teeth, and crooked teeth. Family dentists know how to break the thumb sucking habit if you're at a loss of what to do.
Early visits to the family dentist will help your child develop good dental health and oral hygiene habits. Typically, you should take your child to the dentist every six months, unless their dentist recommends more frequent visits due to the child's oral health. Follow the tips listed above and remember to schedule two visits to the dentist each year for both you and your child to keep your teeth healthy and strong.