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Your Guide to Hatcher & Frey’s Smile Squad Program

As parents, ensuring our children’s overall health and well-being is a top priority. While we often focus on their physical growth and development, oral health is a part of their overall wellness too. From the eruption of their first tooth to the arrival of permanent teeth, each stage brings new milestones and potential concerns. Hatcher & Frey’s Smile Squad program can help you along the journey, providing guidance on what to expect during your child’s oral health and orthodontic development.

Age 1: Finding Your Child’s Dental Home

Your child has officially moved into their toddler years, and their mouth has changed significantly. Around 12 months old, it’s time to find your child’s “dental home” – a relationship with a primary care or pediatric dentist who can provide comprehensive oral health care, including preventive services, assessments, guidance, and referrals to specialists like orthodontists when needed.

During this year, you’ll also learn about bacterial colonization – the introduction and growth of new bacteria in your child’s mouth, primarily from mom. Bacterial colonization is a natural process that occurs in everyone, and it can occur through various means, including close contact such as kissing, sharing utensils, or even through breastfeeding. To reduce the risk of cavities, it’s recommended that moms chew Xylitol gum or mints from 3-6 months after birth through 2.5 years, as this can help reduce the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria to their child.

Age 2: Establishing a Healthy Bacterial Ecosystem

As your child’s primary (baby) teeth continue erupting, it’s crucial to establish a healthy bacterial ecosystem in their mouth. Between 19 and 31 months, the bacterial environment starts to form, and proper oral hygiene practices become essential. Encourage the growth of “good” bacteria by:

  • Practicing excellent oral hygiene (brushing, flossing, fluoride use) as a parent
  • Chewing Xylitol gum or mints to reduce bacterial transmission to your child
  • Introducing Xylitol-based tools (mints, wipes) and flossing for your child
  • Using a “smear” of fluoride on your child’s teeth

Xylitol is a tooth-friendly sugar substitute that can help reduce the risk of cavities in children. Learn more about the benefits of Xylitol and how to incorporate it into your child’s oral care routine for maximum protection against tooth decay.

Age 3: Ditching the Pacifier and Introducing Fluoride

All of your child’s primary teeth should be in by age 3. It’s time to ditch the pacifier for good to avoid potential long-term dental issues like open bites, buck teeth, and overbites. If the pacifier habit is broken early enough, misaligned baby teeth can often self-correct.

During this year, you’ll also learn about fluoride – a crucial mineral for preventing tooth decay and strengthening teeth. Introduce a pea-sized amount of fluoride to your child at age 3 to ensure their newly erupted teeth get the protection they need.

Age 4: Nipping Habits and Understanding Crowding

As your child’s face and jawbones go through a growth spurt, it’s essential to address any lingering habits like thumb-sucking, finger-sucking, or blanket chewing. These habits can cause issues like an unattractive overbite or an open-bite space between the upper and lower teeth, affecting speech and chewing ability.

During this year, you’ll also learn about crowding – when there’s not enough room in the mouth for teeth to fill in properly, it can cause them to bunch up, overlap, or twist. Crowding of baby teeth can indicate potential alignment issues with adult teeth, making early orthodontic screenings crucial.

Age 5: Good Airflow, Sleep, and Bruxism

At age 5, tonsil size often peaks, and good airflow during sleep becomes increasingly important for overall health. Obstructive sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing can negatively impact a child’s immune system, hormone production, learning, and memory retrieval. Hatcher & Frey  partners with specialists to address obstructive tissues, narrow jaws, or other underlying issues.

You’ll also learn about bruxism – the unconscious clenching or grinding of teeth, which can be normal in children but may indicate misaligned teeth, anxiety, hyperactivity, or sleep apnea if left untreated. Hatcher & Frey offers a Pediatric Sleep Questionnaire to help identify potential issues.

Age 6: Adult Teeth on the Horizon

Between ages 6 and 8, the mighty six-year molars begin to erupt from the back of your child’s mouth, marking the start of the mixed dentition stage – a mixture of permanent and deciduous teeth. As teeth erupt, it’s crucial to maintain excellent oral hygiene and introduce Xylitol gum or mints to create a healthy oral environment and encourage the growth of “good” bacteria.

Age 7: Time for Your Child’s First Early Screening

By age 7, your child will have a mix of baby and permanent teeth, making it an ideal time for their first early orthodontic screening at Hatcher & Frey. These no-cost screenings, offered every 6-12 months, include an oral exam, orthodontic x-rays and radiographs, and a developmental progress conversation with your family.

Early screenings allow Hatcher & Frey’s orthodontists to recognize and effectively treat orthodontic issues in their early or progressed stages before they become bigger, more expensive problems.

By staying informed and proactive with Hatcher & Frey’s Smile Squad, you can ensure your child’s journey to a healthy, beautiful smile is a seamless one. As a Smile Squad member, you’ll get annual emails outlining what to expect for your child’s oral health at each age, along with tips, tricks, event invites, and more – exclusively for Smile Squad families. 

Trust Hatcher & Frey Orthodontics to be there for you and your child every step of the way. Sign up for the Smile Squad here!