How to Properly Care for Your Child's Teeth: Tips for Parents
Establishing good dental care habits for your child should start well before their first tooth emerges. Although you can't see their teeth, they actually start forming during the later stages of pregnancy. By the time your baby is born, they already have several primary teeth, including some that may be well-developed within the jaw.
Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist
According to experts, it is recommended that children have their first dental visit by their first birthday. During this initial visit, the dentist will explain the correct techniques for brushing and flossing techniques and conduct a modified oral exam for the baby.
These early dental visits serve multiple purposes. They can help identify any potential problems at an early stage, familiarize children with the dental environment, and reduce fear and anxiety associated with dental visits as they become older.
Consider taking your child to a dentist with experience in treating children. They would be equipped to address a wide range of pediatric dental issues. They can also refer you to other specialists, such as orthodontists or oral surgeons, if necessary.
In cases where a child is at risk for cavities or other dental issues, the dentist may begin with a topical fluoride application even before all the teeth have come in. This preventive measure helps strengthen the enamel, providing protection against dental cavities, which are common in childhood.
Tips from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)
To help ensure excellent oral health for your child, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry offers some proven and useful tips for parents:
Schedule the First Dental Visit by Your Child's First Birthday
This visit should take place about six months after the first tooth has erupted or by your baby’s first birthday. Preventative care and early dental examination will safeguard your child's oral health and smile for the long term.
Oral health problems in children are better prevented when you visit the dentist early. A child with strong teeth will be able to chew food properly, have clearer speech, and smile confidently.
Avoid Excessive Use of Baby Bottles
One of the common issues in oral health for babies is the early development of dental caries, which is sometimes called nursing tooth decay. This condition occurs when children experience dental decay from using a baby bottle at night or during naps, or when the baby continuously nurses from the mother’s breast.
Wean them away from the habit of sleeping with a bottle in their mouth. It's important to avoid falling asleep with a bottle and to discontinue nighttime breastfeeding once the baby's teeth start to emerge. If offering juice, serve in a cup, rather than a bottle. Aim to wean your child off the bottle around their first birthday.
Discourage Thumb Sucking
Thumb sucking is normal for babies, but you should discourage it beyond four years of age. Extended thumb-sucking behavior can lead to dental issues, such as crooked or crowded teeth and bite problems. If your child does not give up the thumb-sucking habit, your dentist can offer suggestions to resolve it.
Reduce Sugar Consumption
Avoid dipping a pacifier into sugary syrup or honey before you give it to your baby.
Limit your little one’s frequency of snacking, as it can increase the risk of cavities in children.
Enforce Proper Brushing
Make sure young children use a toothbrush of an appropriate size and shape. They should only use a tiny amount of toothpaste each time they brush. It's important to supervise young children while they brush and teach them to spit the toothpaste out instead of swallowing it. Unless advised by your dentist or health professional, fluoride toothpaste should not be used for children under the age of two.
Promote Drinking Water with Fluoride
Children who primarily consume bottled water might not be receiving enough fluoride. Consider other sources of fluoride, such as tap water (fluoridated) or fluoride supplements. In any case, consult your dentist first.
Remedies for Sore Gums
Between the ages of six months and three years, children may experience gum soreness when their teeth start erupting. Offering a cool spoon, teething ring, or a wet cloth can provide relief. Some parents find that a chilled teething ring is helpful, while others prefer gently rubbing the baby's gums with fingers.
Maintain Your Own Oral Hygiene
Parents should maintain their own oral hygiene and dental health to avoid transmitting cavity-causing bacteria to children. Avoid cleaning pacifiers with your mouth as this can transfer harmful bacteria to the child.
Preventing Cavities in Childhood
Cavities are a prevalent issue in childhood, and they can have a significant impact on a child's health. When cavities are left untreated, it gives rise to infections and toothache and creates problems with speaking, eating, learning, and playing.
The CDC data shows:
- Over 50% of children between the ages of six and eight have experienced a cavity in one or more of their primary teeth.
- Over 50% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 have developed a cavity in one or more of their permanent teeth.
Parents should know that cavities in children can be prevented. The use of fluoride can help reduce the risk of primary teeth cavities. Maintaining good dental hygiene practices for children and regularly using fluoride toothpaste is the simplest way to minimize cavities. Parents should consult with their child’s dentist about the application of dental sealants as a long-term preventative measure to fight cavities.
Oral Hygiene During Pregnancy
Maintaining good oral health is vital for pregnant women as well, as they may be susceptible to gum disease and tooth decay, which can have an impact on their baby's health. Pregnant women should follow these three steps to protect their oral health:
- Schedule a dental visit during pregnancy
- Brush your teeth twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
If you experience nausea, rinsing your mouth with a baking soda solution after vomiting can help remove stomach acid and preserve the tooth enamel.
By following these tips and establishing good dental care habits early on, you can help ensure your child's long-term oral health and well-being.
Let Our Dedicated Dental Team Care for Your Child's Oral Health
At R+R Dental, we understand the importance of caring for your child's oral health. Doctors Nadia Rivera and Michael Richer are dedicated to providing safe and proven dental treatments for children. Our compassionate and friendly dental team is specially trained to work with children, ensuring a comfortable and positive experience. We are here to answer any questions or concerns you may have and to provide the best possible dental care for you and your child. Call us today to schedule your appointment or write to us online.