One of the very first celebrations in your child’s life is their first teeth. Around 6 months old, you’ll start to see their teeth come in — the first sign of the wonderful toddler they will become. A common misconception about baby teeth is they don’t require care. While they do fall out eventually, they’re still very important to keep your kid’s teeth healthy. If they rot or decay, you risk complications in their teen years.
Learn how to properly care for your child’s teeth and what modifications you can make to your daily routine to ensure that they practice good dental care with these tips.
Why Are Primary Teeth Important
Teaching your child correct dental care practices does more than set them up for healthy habits when they get their adult teeth. Taking care of their primary teeth is also very important. Despite falling out eventually, primary teeth assist in everything from speech to development.
The most obvious benefit to healthy primary teeth is ease of eating. As your child grows and starts to eat solid food, they’ll rely more on their primary teeth to help digest food. Without a full set of teeth, they’ll struggle to eat certain foods they need to grow healthy and strong. Teeth also help your child develop the right speaking patterns and give them that big, bright smile you love.
Most importantly, though, primary teeth reserve space for the permanent set of teeth that are growing under the gums. If primary teeth are lost too early, the adult set can grow in crowded, crooked or on top of each other. The best way to save yourself the extra cost of braces and other dental care is to make sure to prioritize your children’s dental health.
How to Take Care of Your Child’s Teeth
There are a few standard rules that will help you take care of your child’s dental health, but how you do that will be up to your child. Some love the responsibility of dental hygiene and others will be slow to warm up to it. Here are the goals that you should try to achieve to ensure that your children’s teeth are healthy.
1. Get Into a Routine with Brushing Twice a Day
The best habit you can instill in your child is to brush their teeth twice a day. No matter how old they are, it’s important to brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste once in the morning and once at night. This is key to prevent cavities. Even if your children are not yet eating solid food, they are still vulnerable to what’s called baby bottle tooth decay. It happens in children as young as 6 months, but you can prevent it with the right dental health techniques.
For newborn babies, wipe their gums with a wet cloth or pad after feeding to keep their mouth clean. Often, the sugar that creates tooth decay in infants is passed through sharing spoons during feeding or licking a pacifier. Make sure to wipe your baby’s gums if you happen to share saliva in any way in order to prevent tooth decay over time.
For children younger than 3 years old, encourage them to brush their teeth twice a day using a small smear of toothpaste. Most of the time, if you put toothpaste on their brush that is approximately the size of a grain of rice that will be enough. To be most effective, aim for 2 minutes of brushing each time. Parents often find that giving a child a song to sing while they brush their teeth will help ensure that they hit that 2-minute mark.
Children older than 3 years old will follow the same routine, but they can use more toothpaste than their younger siblings. Give any child older than 3 a pea-sized amount of toothpaste because they will likely have more teeth and more exposure to the kinds of foods that might cause tooth decay or cavities.
2. Clean Between Your Child’s Teeth
We know that flossing is difficult for most adults to master, so asking a child to floss might seem unrealistic. But it is very important to the health of their gums, teeth and future set of adult teeth.
As soon as you notice your children’s teeth begin to touch, it’s time to introduce them to flossing. Help them understand the importance of removing food between their teeth and under their gums. If they don’t want to floss after every meal, try to get them to floss at least once a day. This will help prevent cavities and other dental health issues.
3. Visit Your Dentist Regularly
We recommend that parents schedule their child’s first dentist appointment 6 months after their first tooth comes in. We don’t recommend waiting longer than their first birthday to ensure that any concerns are identified and monitored correctly.
In the first visit, a pediatric dentist can identify issues like plaque, cavities and poor gum health and make a plan for treatment if needed. The earlier you can get your child to see a pediatric dentist, the more comfortable they will be with the whole process as they grow older, which will help with overall dental health.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is crucial to your child’s overall development and growth, but it is particularly important for their dental health. Eating the right kinds of food, and staying away from the wrong foods, will certainly help keep your kids’ teeth healthy as much as brushing and flossing.
Many popular children’s snacks contain peanut butter, which is relatively healthy and delicious to most kids. Unfortunately, the sticky texture of peanut butter combined with its high sugar concentration makes it a poor choice for your child’s teeth. Bacteria that cause tooth decay love to cling to sugars and carbs, so try to avoid eating excessive amounts of crackers, breads and cookies in a single sitting.
Children’s drinks are also a major factor in early tooth decay. Most are filled with sugar or acid that decays the enamel of your children’s teeth, causing cavities and other issues. Encourage your kids to drink water whenever possible. Not only does it help keep their body hydrated and growing, but it also reduces their exposure to the sugary drinks that will attack their teeth.
Instead, give your kids fruits, vegetables and other snacks like yogurt and hummus. You don’t have to restrict your child from these kinds of sugary snacks all the time, but just be extra careful to brush and floss after you indulge in them.
5. Consider Sealants and Fluoride Treatment
Sealants coat the grooves and pits of your child’s molars to protect against cavities. The Molars are particularly vulnerable to cavities as they have a wide surface that bites into most food your child is eating. Sealants help protect the teeth, especially from those sugary treats.
Fluoride is another helpful agent for protecting your child’s teeth. While it’s found in most public water sources and popular toothpastes, your dentist can also give your child a fluoride treatment. The process is simple and painless but provides an extra layer of protection from cavities. Most children won’t need the treatment as they’ll get enough fluoride from the water they drink and the toothpaste they use, but it is an option available to you. Ask your pediatric dentist if your child needs it at your next dentist visit.