Parenting doesn’t come with a handy how-to guide, leaving many parents wondering what they need to do to keep their little ones healthy, happy, and comfortable. Dental care can be especially challenging for new parents, especially since babies aren’t born with teeth and toddlers aren’t always willing to endure the dental care regimen you might have in mind. Here are dental health care tips for the early stages of your child’s growth, so that you can do everything you can to protect those pearly whites.
The Infant Stage
Proper dental care starts on day one, long before your child cuts their first tooth. Because their little mouths can still collect oral bacteria that can cause infections, the American Dental Association recommends cleaning your baby’s mouth every day by wiping their gums down with a clean, wet gauze pad. To make sure that you don’t spread germs to your baby, use sterile gauze and moisten it with filtered water. In addition to keeping your baby’s mouth clean, wiping down their gums also helps your child to get used to someone touching the inside of their mouth—which will come in handy when you start teaching them to brush.
Although you might be tempted to give your child extra fluoride to bolster their soon-to-be smile, giving kids more fluoride than they need can actually cause a condition called fluorosis. To avoid fluorosis, never “double up” on your child’s fluoride drops, and monitor fluoride intake by talking to your dentist and researching your city’s water fluoridation levels.
Early Tooth Eruption
Most babies teethe when they are about 6 months old, but some babies can teethe much earlier or later. However, as soon as they have their first teeth, they can start to experience decay, which is why the ADA recommends taking your baby in for their first dental checkup by the time they are one or when they receive their first tooth—whichever comes first.
Children Younger than Three
As soon as children develop teeth, teach them good dental care habits by helping them to brush their teeth twice a day. Show them how to rinse and try to encourage your child to swish water in their mouths to rinse away food particles. Because toothpaste isn’t good for kids to ingest, try to limit the amount of toothpaste you use to the size of a grain of rice until your child is at least three years old. Talk with your child about the importance of not eating toothpaste, and keep dental care products out of reach.
In order to prevent orthodontic problems, professionals recommend limiting pacifier use by the time your child is two and completely stopping pacifier use by the time your child is four.
Believe it or not, kids are not born with the kinds of oral bacteria that cause dental decay. To prevent cavities, try to limit any activity that could spread saliva from parent to child, including spoon sharing, kissing on the lips, or letting your child drink from your straw.
Kids Over the Age of Three
Kids who are between three and six years of age are old enough to understand what tooth brushing is—and may be old enough to decide that they don’t like it. However, this crucial developmental stage is essential for training your child to brush and floss daily in order to prevent dental decay. From the time your child is between three and six years old, have them brush their teeth twice a day with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Make an appointment with your pediatric dentist at least twice a year to have their teeth cleaned and examined for decay.
When your child loses their first tooth, the area may bleed slightly but this is nothing to worry about. Encourage your child to swish their mouth with warm water to help the area to heal and to clean away any debris. Don’t encourage your child to pull teeth out before they are ready to come out on their own, since this can increase the chance of infection.
Getting New Teeth
When new teeth grow in, explain to your child that those larger teeth are their “permanent teeth” and that they need to be cared for carefully. Consider having a “brush up” course on basic oral hygiene routines to make sure that your kid is brushing, flossing, and rinsing properly.
One of the best ways to fend off oral decay and encourage proper dental care is to make an appointment with your pediatric dentist in Indianapolis for preventive care. During regular exams, your child’s teeth will be carefully cleaned, polished, and evaluated for damage—so that they stay healthy. Preventive treatments, such as dental sealants, can also help to protect teeth from decay.
For more information about helping your child to keep their smile clean and white, contact your pediatric dentist today. With a focus on children’s dental issues and offices designed to make kids happy, pediatric dentists have the skills and experience to help your child to live a better life through better dental health.