A Parent's Guide to Childrens' Dental Care
There are plenty of sources of well intentioned advice for new parents. Everything from sleep routines to screen time has at least a dozen well-researched articles and have a dozen great books on the topic. But an aspect of children’s health and well-being that often gets overlooked is dental care.
Unfortunately more than 40% of children have tooth decay by the time they start kindergarten. So clearly, better communication about early childhood dental care is necessary.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), tooth decay is the most common chronic children’s disease in the United States. Children with tooth decay in their baby teeth are at much greater risk for cavities in their adult teeth. This is extremely unfortuante and absolutely preventable.
Food and Drink
Perhaps the most important thing a parent can do to safeguard their child’s teeth is to make healthy food and beverage choices. Read labels carefully for hidden sugars and choose whole, natural foods over processed ones whenever possible. Drinks other than water often contain sugars, sometimes more than a typical dessert. Avoid fruit juices and smoothies, which often contain high levels of sugar, and never let young children consume soft drinks, which are loaded with sugar.
Early Dental Care
A child’s dental care needs vary according to his stage of development. What parents need to know is that it is never too early to begin good oral care for their child. Even a nursing infant needs to have his mouth and gums carefully wiped with a warm washcloth after feeding. This will prevent the buildup of the sticky plaque that causes tooth decay.
The first baby tooth will generally appear between 4-6 months of age. You may want to consider scheduling your child’s first visit to the dentist within six months of the appearance of this first tooth, or just before his first birthday. Even if you’re not ready for your child to see a dentist during the first year, you’ll want to be sure that they have had their first dental appointment by the time your child is two.
Getting ready for the first visit to the dentist might include:
- Talking about what your child can expect; remember to keep it in terms that a toddler can understand; use simple, positive language to describe what will happen.
- Pretend to be the dentist or the patient so your child can imagine the first visit through role play.
- Read books and watch cartoons designed to alleviate fear about visiting the dentist.
Ways to Promote Good Dental Health
- Check and clean your child’s teeth often.
- Choose foods for your baby that are healthy and low in sugar.
- Clean your child’s teeth with a warm, wet cloth as soon as they are visible.
- Visit your child’s dentist twice a year beginning after the first birthday.
- Help to prevent tooth decay by not putting your baby to bed with a bottle. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a common problem caused by allowing the baby to suck on a bottle while sleeping. This practice exposes the baby’s teeth to sugary liquids such as milk (as well as breast milk), fruit juices and formula.
A Child’s Dental Care Timeline:
- During infancy use a warm washcloth after feeding.
- Toddlerhood bring is a good time to start cleaning baby teeth with water and a soft brush.
- Visit a dentist by child’s second birthday.
- Begin using toothpaste around the time that your child turns 2.
- Children start losing primary teeth at around 6 or 7 years.
- Older children should be taught to brush their teeth twice a day. Promote good nutrition and limit the amount of sugary treats. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child should see a pediatric dentist every six months.
Whenever you and your child are ready to see the dentist for the first time, you’ll be in good hands with Dr. Philip Younts, DDS. Call our office to schedule an appointment and we’ll make sure your child’s smile is as gorgeous as can be.