Teeth by the Ages: Babies and Kids
When should I schedule my child’s first visit to the dentist? Does my 3-year-old need to floss? How can I make sure my kids have healthy teeth?
As parents, it’s hard to know just how much dental care your kids need. You know you want to prevent cavities, but what’s the best way to accomplish that?
Here are some guidelines and tips to help you help them!
How to Clean Your Child’s Teeth
- You should start cleaning your baby’s mouth a few days after they’re born. Wipe their gums with a soft, clean and damp washcloth or gauze pad.
- Your child’s baby teeth are vulnerable to tooth decay the minute the tooth arrives. It’s common for the first four teeth to push through the gums when babies are around 6 months old, but some teeth don’t arrive until 12 or 14 months. At this time, you need to start brushing their teeth twice a day (morning and night) with a child-size toothbrush and a rice-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. As soon as they have two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing between their teeth every day.
- Continue brushing their teeth until you’re sure they’re old enough to properly brush on their own.
- Between the ages of 3 to 6 years, children need to use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste and continue brushing their teeth each morning and night. Supervise your children to make sure they use the right amount of toothpaste, brush thoroughly and don’t swallow the toothpaste. Children should also continue to floss once a day.
Symptoms of teething often begin before the actual appearance of a tooth by two or three months. There’s a wide range of normal when it comes to the age babies start teething. Most baby teeth begin to appear around 6 months, but some children don’t get their first tooth until after their first birthday. When their teeth begin to break through the gums, some babies lose their appetites, drool more than usual, become fussy have trouble sleeping. Fever and diarrhea aren’t normal symptoms for a baby that’s teething. Call your physician if your baby has diarrhea or fever while teething or if they continue to be uncomfortable and irritable.
First Visit to the Dentist
It’s a good idea to schedule a dental visit as soon as the first tooth appears. The ADA recommends that the first dental visit take place no later than the child’s first birthday, but preferable within six months after the first tooth erupts. Establish the importance of good oral hygiene early…don’t wait for an emergency or when your child starts school.
During your first visit, your dentist will:
- Examine to look for cavities, oral injuries or other concerns.
- Clean your child’s teeth and offer tips for daily care.
- Let you know if your child may be at risk of getting tooth decay.
- Discuss teething, thumb-sucking habits or pacifier use.
- Schedule the next check-up.
How Important is Fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs in all of our water sources. It’s also added to some community tap water and toothpastes. Fluoride helps make tooth enamel resistant to decay and helps repair enamel that has been weakened. Babies and toddlers who don’t receive the necessary amount of fluoride have an increased risk of getting tooth decay. Bottled water may not contain fluoride, so children who drink bottled water or tap water that doesn’t have added fluoride are missing the benefits fluoride provides. Contact your water supplier or local health department if you’re not sure your tap water has fluoride. Your dentist or pediatrician may suggest a fluoride supplement if the area you live in doesn’t have fluoridated water.
7 Tips to Help Kids Have Healthy Teeth
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-fourth of American children between 2-5 years old have tooth decay and half of children aged 12-15 already have at least one cavity. Here are some tips to help prevent tooth decay and keep your child’s teeth healthy:
- Don’t put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup. Formula, milk and juice lead to tooth decay if the liquid sits on the teeth. Avoid giving snacks or drinks other than water to your kids after they’ve brushed their teeth.
- Make brushing fun! Choose one of the many cool toothbrushes available today. If you don’t find one that plays music, play a video on your phone or sing a fun song…anything to help your kids enjoy brushing their teeth.
- Brush your teeth in front of your kids. You can even brush at the same time. Teach them by example and let them mimic what you’re doing. Show them how to brush correctly and how to brush every part of the mouth, even the tongue.
- Brush for two minutes twice a day. Play a two-minute song or video or start a fun sand or liquid motion timer to make sure your kids brush long enough.
- Floss once a day. It’s time to start flossing as soon as two teeth touch each other. Most decay and cavities are in between two teeth where toothbrushes can’t reach.
- Reduce sugary treats. Candy, gummies, soda, junk food and sports drinks are loaded with sugar that between and stuck on teeth. Try to give them during the day when the mouth produces more saliva and can help wash away the bacteria that causes cavities.
- Get them motivated! Sesame Street has over a dozen songs, games and videos to teach children how to brush. Older children can check out the website 2min2x.org for some inspiration.
Anderson & Atkins Dentistry is committed to helping you and your family have healthy teeth and gums. Contact us today if you have questions about our practice or want to make sure you’re on the right track to helping your kids have a healthy mouth.