Take good care of your child’s baby teeth. They do eventually fall out but until they do, baby teeth play an important role in helping your child bite and chew food, and speak clearly. Baby teeth also save space for the permanent teeth, and help guide them into place.
Even before your child gets his or her first tooth, you should wipe your child’s gums with an infant gum massager, clean damp gauze or a washcloth. Once your child’s teeth come in, brush them twice a day using a soft bristled toothbrush with water.
Underneath your child’s baby teeth, the roots and position of the adult teeth are growing into place.
Research shows that children who develop cavities in their baby teeth are more likely to develop cavities as an adult, so be sure to get your child to a dental practitioner for a check-up. It is important to keep your child’s baby teeth clean, but once the permanent teeth start to come in you really need to make cleaning them a priority. These teeth will last your child a lifetime.
Of course, even though they’re kids, their teeth are still susceptible to the same conditions and damage that adult teeth face. If your child is at high risk for decay, it is time to cut down on the starchy snacks, such as crackers and chips, and limit sugary beverages. Remember that giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid many times a day, or allowing your child to fall asleep with a bottle during naps, or at night, can be harmful to the child’s teeth.
Many of the same treatment and evaluation options that adults have are also available to kids. These include x-rays, dental sealants, orthodontic treatment and more.
Brushing & Flossing
Begin using toothpaste to brush your child’s teeth when he (or she) is 18 months of age. Be careful to use only a smear of low fluoride toothpaste initially, increasing to a small pea sized amount as they approach 4 years of age. Young children tend to swallow toothpaste when brushing, rather than spitting it out. For this reason it is important to choose a toothpaste specially formulated for young children as it will contain a lower amount of fluoride and is safe if the child ingests it. As soon as two teeth touch each other, floss between them once a day. You can use regular floss, flosettes or special plastic floss holders.
At some point, your child will want to brush his or her own teeth. It is fine to give your child a turn. But afterwards, you should always brush your child’s teeth a second time. Most children won’t be able to brush their teeth well on their own until they are about 8 years old.
While what your child eats is important for healthy teeth, how often a child eats is just as important. Frequent snacking can increase a child’s risk for tooth decay.
Cavities can develop when sugar-containing foods are allowed to stay in the mouth for a long time. Bacteria that live on the teeth feast on these bits of food. They create acid, which eats away at tooth enamel. Between meals or snacks, saliva washes away the acid. If your child is always eating, there may not be time for this acid to get washed away.
When most people think of sugar, they think of the white sugar that is found in candy and baked goods. But all foods that contain carbohydrates will ultimately break down into sugars.
New parents often ask, “When should my child first see a dentist?” Your child should see a dental practitioner by his or her first birthday.
The idea of such early dental visits is still surprising to many new parents. However, it is a good way to get your child familiar with the dental clinic and the routine of seeing a dental practitioner.
Losing Baby Teeth
On average children begin to lose their baby teeth when they are about 6 or 7 years old. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you child if they lose their teeth before or after this time. Most children lose their teeth in the same order they came in. For example, they lose their bottom centre teeth first.
Children today tend to get braces at a much earlier age than in years past. Some patients with special problems begin orthodontic treatment as early as 6 years old. Permanent teeth begin to come in around this time, and it is when orthodontic problems become apparent.
Permanent teeth need regular cleaning and flossing, and dental practitioners recommend following this routine after every meal. When you start to take care of your child’s permanent teeth, you will need to brush and floss his teeth for him until he gets a little older. Use toothpaste and a toothbrush designed for children. A child’s toothbrush has softer bristles that will not hurt your child’s teeth and gums. Try using flosettes with handles so that you can teach your child how to floss his own teeth.
When a child is about 6 years old their teeth will begin to come loose. Let your child wiggle the tooth until it falls out on its own. This will minimise the pain and bleeding associate with a lost tooth.
Another thing to be on the lookout for is cavities. What and how frequently your kids snack can have a big impact on their oral health. Here are a few tips for snacking and mealtime:
- Give your child healthy snack foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and cheeses.
- Buy foods that are sugar-free or unsweetened.
- Serve sugary or starchy foods as part of a meal, rather than as a snack. Most children drink liquids during a meal. This will wash many bits of food off the teeth. Encourage kids to drink water during and at the end of their meals to wash out any remnant sugar.
- Offer fewer snacks during the day.
- After your child snacks, make sure his or her teeth are brushed. If this isn’t possible, have your child rinse with water several times.
- Use chewing gum, choosing a xylitol-sweetened or sugar-free gum.