Infants & Kids Dentist in Jacksonville

Toddler laying on Doctors lap being held by mother

When your little one finally arrives, it is a joyful celebration! Your baby will grow quickly and it is best to be prepared for all of their firsts, especially their first tooth. Here at Weaver & Stratton Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, we have infant dentists who know the importance of your infant’s oral health. With proper dental care, your infant or toddler can have healthy teeth. Since we are a kids dentist in Jacksonville, we want the best for children’s teeth, so we offer a complimentary dental exam for children 18 months and younger.

If you are ever in need of an emergency children’s dentist in Jacksonville, you can count on us to have a pediatric dentist and orthodontist at the office. All of us at Weaver & Stratton Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, want your baby to have a healthy smile, so we have provided some guidelines for you to follow when caring for your child’s teeth below. Give us a call at (904) 264-KIDS if you have any questions about our guidelines.

Caring for Your Child’s Gums

Did you know that excellent infant oral care starts before your baby’s first tooth erupts? Your child’s gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottlefeeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby's gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process of building a good habit of daily infant dental care.

Baby's First Tooth

When that first tooth makes an entrance, it's time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time or a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few. At this stage of infant oral health, toothpaste isn't necessary. Simply dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn't react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don't give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months, then try the toothbrush again. During the teething process your child will want to chew on just about anything—a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.

Brushing with Toothpaste

The second stage of infant and toddler oral care is when a few more teeth appear and you can start using toothpaste with your child's brush However, for the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, unless advised to do so by your dentist, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters. At this infant oral health stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste for baby teeth cleaning. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing, to prepare them for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.

Avoiding Cavities

Don't give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (including breast milk) can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle — sugary liquids in prolonged contact with their teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.

First Visit to the Dentist

It is recommended that you bring your baby in for a pediatric dentist visit within six months of the first tooth's eruption — usually around their first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she avoids problems. We will look for any signs of early problems with your baby's oral health, and check in with you about the best way to care for their teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.

Infant Oral Health & Setting a Good Example

As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and they will intuit at an early age the importance of your good teeth cleaning habits. As soon as your child shows interest, provide a toothbrush and encourage him or her to "brush" with you. You will find that toothbrushes with chunky, short handles are easier for them to grip.

Most children do not have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they are between six and eight, so you will have to do that part of the job for them. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, and songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth.

What Is Normal Thumb-Sucking Behavior?

Most children begin sucking their thumbs or fingers from a very young age; many even start in the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.

According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them. However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower his chances of continuing to suck his thumb). If your child is still sucking when his permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.

If at any time you suspect your child's thumb-sucking may be affecting their oral health, please give us a call or bring them in for a visit. We can help you assess the situation.

How Can I Help My Child Quit Thumb-Sucking?

Should you need to help your child end a thumb-sucking habit, follow these guidelines:

  • Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb-sucking, give praise when they don't suck.
  • Put a Band-Aid on their thumb or a sock over their hand at night. Let them know this is not a punishment, just a way to help them remember to avoid sucking.
  • Start a progress chart and let them put a sticker up every day that they don't suck their thumb. If they make it through a week without sucking, they get to choose a prize (e.g. trip to the zoo, new set of blocks, etc.) When they have filled up a whole month, reward them with something great (e.g. a ball glove or a new video game). By then, the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in their treatment will increase their willingness to break the habit.
  • If you notice your child sucking when he or she is anxious, work on alleviating their anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb-sucking.
  • Take note of the times your child tends to suck (e.g., long car rides or while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions.
  • Explain clearly what might happen to their teeth if they keep sucking their thumb.

Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the thumb-sucking habit.

Contact us to schedule an appointment with our infant and toddler dentist. We proudly serve Fruit Cove, Jacksonville, and Orange Park, as well as St. Johns County, Florida.