Because the variety of advice offered on pregnancy and parenting websites and blogs, it’s sometimes difficult to determine best practices when it comes to children’s dental health. Fortunately, the American Dental Association has an entire month devoted to the topic, so now’s a perfect time to get the facts.
Start Early with Gentle Dental for Infants
Most pediatricians and pediatric dentists agree that although bacteria in the mouth usually doesn’t harm the gums before teeth appear, it’s still a good idea to start gentle dental care with infants. Not only does it help get your child accustomed to dental care before you even transition to a toothbrush, it also helps you stay on top of little mouths that seem to sprout teeth overnight.
As with all things baby, gentle is the rule of thumb with dental care. Simply wrap a soft washcloth or gauze around your finger, moisten it with water (no toothpaste needed) and softly rub over gums.
As soon as teeth begin to emerge, you can transition to a soft baby toothbrush. Using a tiny bit of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice), brush the front and back of each tooth twice a day. If it can be easily done, you can also gently brush the tongue.
Baby teeth can benefit from the right amount of fluoride (the recommended daily amount for children under the age of three is .25 milligrams). Because fluoride levels in municipal water supplies vary and babies’ intake of water may be limited, it’s best to discuss your baby’s fluoride needs with your dentist.
As long as teeth aren’t touching, flossing isn’t vital with babies. Since flossing can be a challenge for even adults, discuss with your dentist techniques and tips to floss your child’s teeth.
When Should You Start Taking Your Child to the Dentist?
Many pediatricians conduct an exam of teeth (or lack thereof) during well baby visits, so we recommend that you discuss with her or him when it’s the best time for your child to begin visiting the dentist. The general recommendation for a first dental visit is six months after your child’s teeth begin to emerge, or at 12 months of age (whichever comes first).
If you started your child’s dental care early, many toddlers are eager to literally take teeth brushing into their own hands. Always monitor the amount of toothpaste that’s being used as well as whether every little tooth is getting adequately brushed. As your child develops manual dexterity, you can begin teaching him or her how to floss.
Keeping Kids’ Teeth Healthy
Cavities form when the pH level in your mouth is perfect for the bacteria that are present to multiply and develop an infection. Sugary foods and tiny particles of food fuel the bacteria, which is why many dentists recommend limiting sweets and between-meal snacks.
In addition to the twice-daily flossing and brushing habit that you developed early with your child, teach them to swish and rinse with water after eating anything as a way to dislodge and wash away food particles and residue.
Good dental habits started young, along with regular professional cleanings and check-ups offer your child the best possibility of a healthy mouth and strong teeth.
Until next time… Keep on Smiling!