First time parents often have a lot of questions about how to properly care for their children’s teeth. That’s a good thing, too, as it’s been determined that establishing good oral health habits in childhood is linked to better oral health in adulthood. Additionally, oral health and overall health are closely related; in fact, studies have shown that poor oral health is a risk factor for heart disease. It’s important, however, that first time parents have accurate information about how best to ensure that their children have healthy smiles. Let’s consider some of the most common dental questions parents have:
1. When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time? Many parents assume that first dental visits can be delayed until their children are toddlers. After all, babies are known for their gummy smiles. If they only have a few teeth, how important can a dental visit really be? But primary teeth are extremely important for several reasons, including the fact that they act as space savers for permanent teeth. They also play a role in the development of speech. Thus, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children visit the dentist by the age of one, or within six months after the first tooth erupts. At this visit, the dentist will check for cavities and can also give new parents tips for cleaning their children’s teeth.
2. Is my child getting enough fluoride? Fluoride plays a critical role in promoting good oral health. That’s because it strengthens the enamel, which is the protective outer layer of the teeth. Many parents worry that their children aren’t getting enough fluoride. Besides being an ingredient in most toothpastes, fluoride is also added to many public water supplies. But for children whose water supplies aren’t fluoridated– or for those who tend to drink bottled water– lack of fluoride can put them at risk for tooth decay. If you’re unsure about whether or not your child is getting adequate fluoride, talk to your dentist about your concerns. He or she might recommend fluoride supplements.
3. When should I start brushing my child’s teeth? The short answer: right away! You can brush an infant’s teeth with a soft-bristled infant brush or even just a wash cloth and some water. When the first teeth appear, you can begin brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste; just a small smear of toothpaste is enough to do the job. For children over the age of 2, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste should be used. Remember: young children aren’t capable of adequately brushing their teeth without assistance. Parents should help with brushing until children are coordinated enough to tie their own shoes– usually around age 6 or 7.
4. How can I help my child prevent tooth decay? First and foremost, start stressing the importance of good oral health habits from day one. Besides encouraging children to brush twice a day and floss daily, parents should ensure that their children are visiting the dentist every six months for cleanings and check-ups. Additionally, good nutrition is key to good oral health. Parents should make sure to limit the amount of sugar their children consume; serving water instead of fruit juices is one important way parents can reduce sugar consumption. Babies should never be put to bed with bottles; this can lead to a condition called baby bottle tooth decay.
The importance of establishing positive oral health habits early on can’t be underestimated. Preventative oral health care– including professional cleanings and check-ups twice a year– helps set the stage for a lifetime of healthy teeth. If you have questions about your child’s oral health, contact us today.