Dental Health for Kids

Parents can have a tough time trying to determine how much dental care is necessary for their children. While it is obvious that they should avoid letting their children get cavities, not all parents know the best ways to do that. Outside of our office we’ve assembled this helpful guide for your reference. Continue reading to learn more!

When Kids Should Start Brushing

At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw. Good dental care should begin before the first tooth emerges. Although you may not see it, those teeth are there. Here’s some best practices for baby teeth:.

  • Run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to get rid of harmful bacteria
  • Brush teeth that have emerged with an infant toothbrush. All you need is water and a tiny amount of toothpaste. Look for toothpaste that has the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of approval.
  • When two of your baby’s teeth touch, you can start flossing between them.
  • Around age 2, your child should learn to spit after brushing. Avoid giving your child water to swish because it can increase the likelihood of them swallowing toothpaste.
  • Kids aged 3 and older should only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
  • Always supervise kids under age 8 while brushing, as they are still likely to swallow toothpaste.

Please note that babies can get tooth decay. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle can harm a baby's teeth. Sugars from juice, formula, or milk that stay on a baby's teeth for hours can eat away at the enamel (the layer of the tooth that protects against tooth decay). This can lead to "bottle mouth" or "baby bottle tooth decay." When this happens, the front teeth can get discolored, pocked, and pitted. Cavities might form and, in severe cases, the decayed teeth might need to be pulled.

When kids are 6 months old, they can switch from a bottle to a sippy cup (with a straw or hard spout). This helps prevent liquid from pooling around a child's teeth. By their first birthday, they'll have the motor skills and coordination to use the cup on their own.

Your child’s first dentist appointment

The ADA recommends that children see a dentist by their first birthday. At this first visit, the dentist will explain proper brushing and flossing techniques and do a modified exam while your baby sits on your lap.

These visits can help find problems early and help kids get used to visiting the dentist, so they'll have less fear about going as they get older. Consider taking your child to a dentist who specializes in treating kids. Pediatric dentists are trained to handle the wide range of issues associated with kids' dental health. They also know when to refer you to a different type of specialist, such as an orthodontist to correct an overbite or an oral surgeon for jaw realignment.

If a child seems to be at risk for cavities or other problems, the dentist may start applying topical fluoride even before all teeth come in (this also can be done in the pediatrician's office). Fluoride hardens the tooth enamel, helping to ward off the most common childhood oral disease — dental cavities (also called dental caries).

Cavity Prevention is #1

Here are a few ways parents can help prevent cavities:

  • Start good oral habits early. Teach kids to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and to floss regularly.
  • Get enough fluoride. Regular use of fluoride toughens the enamel, making it harder for acid to penetrate. Although many towns require tap water to be fluoridated, others don't. If your water supply is not fluoridated or if your family uses purified water, ask your dentist for fluoride supplements. Most toothpastes contain fluoride but toothpaste alone will not fully protect a child's teeth. Be careful, however, since too much fluoride can cause tooth discoloration. Check with your dentist before supplementing.
  • Limit or avoid some foods. Sugary foods, juices, candy (especially sticky gummy candy, gummy vitamins, or fruit leather or "roll-ups") can erode enamel and cause cavities. If your kids eat these foods, have them rinse their mouth or brush their teeth after eating to wash away the sugar. The same goes for taking sweetened liquid medicines: always have kids rinse or brush afterward.

Request an Appointment With Us

Your little ones deserve the best and most comprehensive dental care. We are always accepting new patients and ready to give each child a reason to smile! To schedule an appointment at our office, give us a call at (520) 316-6111, or fill out the appointment request form here.

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