Cavity prevention is not the only concern parents should have when considering their children’s oral health. Recent studies show that periodontal disease continues to plague millions of people, including children.
The best way to ensure that your child does not get cavities or gingivitis is to instill proper oral habits early. Good oral hygiene routines should be established as early as infancy and continued throughout life.
Registered dental hygienists may recommend these tips:
Ask your dental hygienist about sealant applications to protect the chewing surfaces of your child's teeth; and about baby bottle tooth decay, which occurs when teeth are frequently exposed to sugar-containing liquids for long periods of time.
- Even before teeth begin to erupt, thoroughly clean your infant's gums after each feeding with a water-soaked infant washcloth or gauze pad to stimulate the gum tissue and remove food.
- When the baby's teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- A small amount of fluoridated toothpaste will help to inhibit decay. Fluoride is also found in mouth rinses, community water supplies, and in some foods.
- At age two or three, you can begin to teach your child proper brushing techniques. But remember, you will need to follow up with brushing and gentle flossing until age seven or eight, when the child has the dexterity to do it alone.
- Schedule regular oral health appointments starting around your child's first birthday. Your oral health professional will check for cavities in the primary teeth and watch for developmental problems, as well as help to create a positive experience that may alleviate fear at future visits.
- Allow and encourage your child to discuss any fears he or she might have about oral health visits, but do not mention the words 'hurt' or 'pain'. Saying "it won't hurt" instills the possibility of pain in the child's thought process.
- Determine if the water supply that serves your home is fluoridated. If there is not fluoride in your water, discuss supplement options with your dental hygienist.
Some Common Questions Concerning Children's Oral Health
Should I clean my baby's teeth?
Definitely. Even before the first tooth appears, use a soft, clean cloth to wipe your baby's gums and cheeks after feeding. As soon as the first tooth appears, begin using a small, soft bristled tooth brush to clean the tooth after eating. Don't cover the brush with toothpaste. Young children tend to swallow most of the toothpaste, and swallowing too much fluoridated toothpaste can cause permanent spots on their teeth called dental fluorosis.
I find brushing my child's teeth awkward. Any suggestions?
Try having your child lie down. Put your child on your lap or on the floor, keeping his/her head steady with your legs. If your child is standing, have his/her back to you with their head tilted slightly and resting against your body. Have your child hold a mirror while you brush and floss their teeth so your child can see what is being done.
Is it important to brush before bed?
Yes. If you have to miss a brushing, the bedtime one is probably the worst one to miss. If you don't get rid of the bacteria and sugar that cause cavities, they have all night to do harm. While you are awake, saliva helps keep the mouth clean. When you are asleep, there is less saliva produced to clean the mouth. For this reason it is important to brush before bedtime.
How to brush your child's teeth:
Every day plaque forms on the inner, outer, and chewing surface of teeth and the gums. Tooth brushing is one of the most effective ways to remove the plaque.
The best kind of toothbrush to use is one with soft, round-tipped bristles.
A child will need a smaller brush than an adult.
Young children do not have the manual dexterity to brush properly. Your child will need your supervision and help brushing until he or she is 8-10 years old to ensure a thorough brushing has been done.
When the bristles become bent or frayed, a new brush is needed.
Start flossing your child's teeth when the teeth touch each other and you can no longer brush in between them.