As a parent, you may have questions about how to best care for your child’s teeth and gums. You want to give your child a strong dental health foundation and prevent cavities but you may not know how to start.
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing some of the most common questions I hear from parents about caring for their children’s teeth. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how to:
- Care for your child’s teeth and avoid cavities
- Help your child develop good dental habits
- Show that going to the dentist isn’t scary
Let’s get started!
What Age Should My Child Start Going to the Dentist?
Most parents don’t take their child to see the dentist until they are around 2 years old. This is far later than is recommended. In fact, you don’t even need to wait for every baby tooth to come in before taking your child to the dentist.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should begin their dental appointments 6 months after they start teething. Starting dental appointments around 6 months of age will help:
- Ensure you know how to best care for your child’s teeth
- Help your child feel comfortable with the dentist office from an early age
- Identify any potential issues before they become a problem
If you’ve never scheduled a dentist appointment for your child, now is the time!
Why Do I Need to Take Care of My Child’s Baby Teeth?
Many parents question why they need to take care of baby teeth when they’re just going to fall out. This is a poor mindset to have. Taking care of your child’s teeth–whether they’re permanent or primary teeth–is important for many reasons.
Baby teeth are at risk for decay from the moment they first appear. There are many causes of tooth decay in babies and children. The most common are prolonged exposure to drinks that contain sugar. For instance, if you use a bottle filled with a sugary drink to put your baby to bed or soothe your baby.
Cavity-causing bacteria can also be passed from the parents to the baby through saliva. You should avoid sharing a spoon with your baby or cleaning pacifiers in your mouth.
Permanent Tooth Development
If your child loses baby teeth due to poor oral hygiene, it hurts the ability for permanent teeth to come in correctly. Decaying baby teeth can also result in adult teeth coming in with decay or an infection.
Nutrition & Speech
Taking care of your child’s baby teeth helps promote good nutritional health and encourages speech development. Your child may have a difficult time chewing properly due to decaying or infected teeth, making eating a challenge. Furthermore, children who lose their teeth prematurely are at greater risk of developing a speech impediment.
Are Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking Bad for My Child’s Dental Health?
If used improperly, pacifiers can negatively influence the shape of your child’s mouth, jaw, and tooth alignment. The same is true of long-term thumb-sucking. Both of these habits can eventually lead to abnormal tooth development, changes to the roof of the mouth, and crooked teeth.
Even so, you don’t have to cut out pacifiers or thumb-sucking completely. A good rule is to start cutting out the pacifier by 6 months old, and 2 years old at the very latest. There are a few other important things to know:
- Never dip your child’s pacifier or thumb in sugar, honey, juice, or sweetened drinks
- Do not clean a pacifier or your child’s thumb with your mouth
- Use one-piece pacifiers without liquid interiors, gadgets, or moving parts
- Do your best to encourage a pacifier over thumb-sucking, as thumb sucking is more difficult to control
When Should I Start Brushing My Child’s Teeth?
You should begin brushing your child’s teeth from when your child’s first tooth appears. Start by using a clean and damp washcloth to gently wipe the tooth and front of the tongue after meals and before bed.
As more teeth begin to appear, use an infant toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (around the size of a grain of rice). As soon as your child’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing in between them.
You should assist with brushing and flossing until you are certain your child understands how to do it properly on his or her own.
Is My Child At Risk for Cavities?
Yes. Every child is at risk of developing a cavity and over 40% of children will get one at one point or another.
We all have bacteria living in our mouths. This bacteria combined with the food your child eats can create a sticky substance known as plaque. This plaque is acidic. If it isn’t removed by brushing and flossing the acid will eat away at the tooth enamel and create cavities.
Allowing your child to drink acidic drinks, such as soda, fruit juice, or sugar foods, will only encourage bacteria growth. You can lower your child’s the risk of cavities by doing the following:
- Keep sugary, unhealthy foods to a minimum
- Take your child to the dentist every 6 months
- Make sure your child brushes and flosses every day
How Do I Tell If My Child Has a Cavity?
Regular dental checkups and cleanings are the only way to know for sure that your child has a cavity. Unless they’re very large, cavities are usually painless. Your child probably won’t notice anything until the issue has progressed much further.
The earlier a cavity is found, the easier it will be to repair. Ensure you catch any cavities by scheduling dental cleanings every 6 months.
What Other Dental Issues Should I Watch For?
Taking your child to the dentist every 6 months will ensure your dentist catches any other potential dental issues beyond cavities. However, there are a few additional problems to keep an eye out for, including:
- A speech lisp
- Teeth grinding
- Mouth breathing
- Excessive gum bleeding
If you notice any of these things between dental visits, give your dentist a call.
How Can I Help My Child Enjoy Visiting the Dentist?
It’s normal for your child to feel somewhat apprehensive about going to the dentist. Lying on a chair in an unfamiliar room, surrounded by unfamiliar noises, objects, and people.
The more often you go to the dentist, the less scary the experience will seem. There are a few other ways you can help your child relax and feel comfortable going to the dentist.
Use Positive Language
Your child will be looking to you for reassurance, so use positive language to help minimize any anxiety. Your child shouldn’t have any negative expectations about going to see the dentist.
For instance, saying things like, “don’t worry, it won’t hurt” may seem reassuring, but your child is going to focus on the word “hurt.” You should also avoid words like “shot” or “pain.”
If your child starts fussing, crying, or acting out while at the dentist, the worst thing you can do is get angry. Stay calm throughout the visit to help soothe any anxiety your child may be experiencing.
Choose A Dentist Who Specializes in Family Dentistry
A dentist who brings extra expertise working with children will make all the difference. Choose a family dentist who provides a relaxing environment, a gentle touch, and lots of praise.
Have More Questions About Caring for Your Child’s Teeth?
At Radiance Dental, we specialize in a friendly, comfortable environment and are committed to providing your child with a positive dentist experience.
If you have more questions about how to take care of your child’s teeth, give us a call at (360) 209-8847. We would love to answer your questions.