My son is 16 months old and last month at his doctor’s visit his pediatrician told me that he could now go see a dentist. She handed me a dentist’s business card and I smirked and quickly misplaced the card. I thought, how silly, my son only has six teeth. What could a dentist possibly do or need to do? A few days after my sons doctor visit I got a reminder card in the mail telling me that it had been an obscenely long time since my last visit to the dentist. I began to reconsider the pediatrician’s advice. I didn’t want to set a bad example for my son and I sure didn’t want to set a pattern that kept him away from the dentist either.
The American Dental Association (ADA) raises awareness for children’s oral health every February. It definitely raised my awareness and had me make an appointment with the dentist for my son and myself. The ADA recommends that you start early with good oral care in order to have a lifetime of good dental health.
How To Care For Your Child’s Teeth
According to the Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
1. Start cleaning teeth early. As soon as the first tooth appears, begin cleaning by wiping with a clean, damp cloth every day. When more teeth come in, switch to a small, soft toothbrush. You can begin to use fluoride free infant toothpaste until your child can learn to spit. Begin using toothpaste with fluoride when the child is 2 years old.
2. Use the right amount of fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is important for fighting cavities. But if children younger than 6 years old swallow too much fluoride, their permanent teeth may have white spots. To keep this from happening, use only a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a pea). Teach your child to spit out the toothpaste and to rinse well after brushing.
3. Supervise brushing. Brush your child’s teeth twice a day until your child has the skill to handle the toothbrush alone. Then continue to closely watch brushing to make sure the child is doing a thorough job and using only a small amount of toothpaste.
4. Talk to your child’s doctor or dentist. Check with the doctor or dentist about your child’s specific fluoride needs. After age 2, most children get the right amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities if they drink water that contains fluoride and brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Do not let a child younger than 6 years old use a fluoride mouth rinse unless the child’s doctor or dentist recommends it.
Show your children the importance of brushing their teeth with A Fun Eggsperiment from Crest. It will get them to visually see the damage that could be done when you don’t take care of your teeth.
Preventative tips for the whole family
• Curb thumb sucking by age 5 to limit developmental malformation.
• Put only water in your child’s sippy cup if they are carrying it around with them all day.
• Limit sticky foods that stick to teeth such as raisins and fruit roll-ups. Rinse mouth with water after eating sticky snacks.
• Cut back on sugary snacks between meals. This can help limit cavities.
• Limit the sharing of spoons and cups. The bacteria that cause decay can be passed from caregivers to infants and young children.
• If you are pregnant, get prenatal care and eat a healthy diet. The diet should include folic acid.
• Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
• Clean between teeth daily with floss. Tooth decay–causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach.
• Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
• Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
My son enjoys brushing his teeth; mostly he just loves the taste of the fruity “toothpaste.” Hopefully, the steps I’m taking now will encourage good habits for the future. Caring for your children’s teeth will sure make you love staring at their smile’s even more. Happy Children’s Dental Health Month!