Special care and attention needs to be given to the health of your child’s teeth and gums. Promoting proper dental health during those vital development years will make all the difference down the road. You’ll set your child up to develop healthy dental habits and lower the risk of major dental issues later in life.
Many parents have questions about the best way to care for their child’s teeth and gums. Some of the most common questions include:
- What age should I start brushing my child’s teeth?
- When should I take my child to the dentist?
- Why do I need to take care of baby teeth if they’re just going to fall out?
In today’s post, we’ll provide our top tips for taking care of your child’s teeth, answering all these questions and more!
Understand Why It’s Important to Care for Your Child’s Teeth
Whether your child still has baby teeth, permanent teeth, or a mix of both, taking care of his or her teeth is important for many reasons. Most important is the risk of tooth decay.
Your child’s teeth are at risk of decay from the moment they first appear. A decaying baby tooth may not seem like a huge deal– especially since it will eventually fall out. However, a decaying baby tooth can cause a lot of problems for the future of your child’s dental health.
When your child loses a tooth because of poor oral hygiene, it impedes the ability of the permanent tooth to grow correctly. It also increases the chances of that permanent tooth coming in with an infection or decay.
Tooth decay can also affect your child’s ability to chew and eat, resulting in poor nutritional health. Plus, losing teeth prematurely can make it harder for a child to learn to say certain words, leading to a speech impediment.
Be Careful with Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking
Both pacifiers and thumb sucking are common habits in children. However, if you’re not careful, they can do some damage to the shape of your child’s developing mouth and teeth.
To avoid issues, make sure you eliminate both of these habits by the age of 3. If you can, encourage a pacifier over the thumb, since this habit can be more challenging to stop.
For those children who use a pacifier, make sure to follow these rules:
- Don’t coat the pacifier in sugar, honey, or any sugary drink
- Don’t clean the pacifier with your mouth
- Don’t use pacifiers with liquid interiors or moving parts– one-piece pacifiers are best
Take Care of Gums from Day One
Your child’s dental care should begin before he or she even has teeth. Get in the habit of wiping your baby’s gums off after each feeding. There are a few ways you can do this:
- A clean and warm wet washcloth
- A damp piece of gauze wrapped around your finger
- An infant thimble for brushing gums
Take Your Child to the Dentist Starting at 6 Months Old
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should start going to the dentist 6 months after teething starts. However, your child’s individual needs may vary. Give us a call to determine the best time to bring your child in for his/her first visit.
Starting early is a great way to catch any potential cavities or dental issues. It also helps your child feel comfortable going to the dentist and gives you the necessary knowledge to provide the best care.
Make sure to schedule your child for a dentist appointment every 6 months. Twice-a-year dental checkups and cleanings are the best way to ensure the dental health of your child.
Brush Your Child’s Teeth Twice a Day
As teeth begin to appear, continue to wipe your child’s gums and teeth after every feeding. Once the baby’s teeth have grown in, use an infant toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (around the size of a grain of rice) to brush twice a day.
As time goes on, encourage your child to experiment with brushing. Teach your child how to hold the toothbrush and brush the teeth correctly. You should also demonstrate and help your child learn how to spit out toothpaste.
Start Flossing When Teeth Touch
Once your child’s teeth start to fit closely together, you can begin flossing. This is typically between the ages of 2 and 6. Help your child learn how to floss, but be there to make sure the job is done properly.
Keep Sugary Drinks and Food to a Minimum
Cavities are an unfortunate reality for many children– over 40% will develop one at some point. Parents need to take special care to help prevent cavities. One of the best ways to do this is to limit sugary food and drinks in your child’s diet.
Avoid giving your child acidic and sugar-filled drinks and sticky snacks, including:
- Fruit juice
- Some milk products
- Gummy bears
These foods encourage bacteria growth and plaque buildup and are difficult to fully wash out of your child’s mouth.
Additionally, avoid sharing a spoon with your child or cleaning pacifiers in your mouth. Cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from you to your baby through saliva.
Be On The Lookout For Dental Issues
Taking your child to the dentist every 6 months will ensure you catch any dental issues before they become a larger problem. Even so, there are a few things you can keep an eye out for between visits.
Watch your child for signs of:
- Grinding teeth at night
- Speech lisp
- Excessive mouth breathing
If you notice these or any other worrisome dental signs, give us a call.
Help Your Child Enjoy Going to the Dentist
Many children feel nervous about going to the dentist. The best way to help your child overcome this fear is to visit the dentist often. However, there are a few other things you can do to calm your child’s nerves.
- Stay calm – If you seem flustered or get angry at your child when they don’t want to go to the dentist, you’ll only make matters worse. Stay calm and positive throughout the entire visit.
- Choose the right dentist – Make sure you go to a dentist who is good with children and understands how to be patient and gentle.
- Don’t use scary words – Ensure the entire dental experience is viewed positively by avoiding words like hurt, pain, needles or shot.
- Avoid incentivizing – Telling your child that they will get a treat after the dentist implies that the dental experience is something negative.
Timberhill Dental Is Here to Help
Dr. Black and the team at Timberhill dental provide a unique personal style and soothing spa-like atmosphere to help your child feel at ease and comfortable. We’ll help your family keep their teeth healthy for a lifetime. Contact us online to schedule an appointment for your child today.
If you have more questions about how to best take care of your child’s teeth, give us a call at (541) 754-0144. We would love to discuss your concerns and answer your questions.