Babies and young children should be exposed to dental care from an early age. However, not all dentists are comfortable working in the tiniest of mouths. Children are very different from their adult counterparts and typically approach oral care lackadaisically, at best. Parents should be diligent in their search to find a dentist who is experienced with children and their specific needs.
Most dental professionals and parents report young children are naturally afraid of going to the dentist. For many, the experience of having bright lights in their faces or scary-looking metal tools in their mouths is completely new. Understandably, children often react with resistance and fear. Dentists serving pediatric patients should be compassionate and willing to carve out a slightly larger chunk of time until the child has established a sense of trust and comfort with the experience. A child may find a dentist who is not comfortable with his or her pediatric patients intimidating, and that can lead to dental-phobia down the road.
Young children resort to thumbsucking for a variety of reasons. It may help them feel more secure in their surrounding and, for young babies, can mimic the maternal suckling they need to fall asleep. However, it’s a serious concern once teeth begin to emerge. Though not as damaging to baby teeth, thumbsucking in older children may cause misalignment of the permanent teeth. It may additionally alter the structure of the mouth which, unlike crooked teeth, can’t be fixed without major corrective surgery.
If thumbsucking becomes a major concern, parents may need to find a dentist with extra experience in this particular area. This dentist may recommend a number of ways to reduce the act. These may include praise, anxiety correction and comfort, and explaining the damage being caused. Older children may be responsive to choosing their own corrective method. While most thumbsucking stops between the ages of two and four years old, it might become necessary to take preemptive measures at night, when thumbsucking is most common. These actions include bandaging the thumbs and fingers or coating the hands in a dentist-prescribed bitter fluid.