If you have a little one, you know that there is lot to keep track of in order to keep them healthy and happy. Taking care of your child’s mouth and teeth is important and you won’t want delay establishing a routine early on. You should begin taking your child to the dentist when they begin getting teeth, but no later than their first birthday.
Even before you see your child’s first teeth appear, it’s a good idea to start off with gauze or a damp wash cloth to rub your baby’s gums to help them get used to it. Babies typically start getting their first teeth as early as 3-4 months of age, but they can come in earlier or later. Because the teeth are so small you might not even notice when a new tooth has emerged. This is another good reason to start a consistent gum cleaning early on. It’s best to clean your child’s mouth at least once before bedtime up until they start getting teeth.
Even though the baby teeth will fall out and be replaced by permanent adult teeth, it is important to care for them as you would the adult permanent teeth. Baby teeth aid children in speaking and eating, and furthermore, pave the way for normal development of the adult teeth.
You should switch to using a brush by the time your child has enough teeth that you can no longer wipe each one with the cloth or gauze. You’ll need the brush bristles to get between the teeth as they become crowded. When you start using a toothbrush, make sure to get a brush with a small head with soft bristles. It helps if the handle is large and easy to grip so you can easily use it to clean your child’s teeth. There are infant toothbrushes available just for this purpose. Another option is a rubber bristled finger brush which may be easier to use initially. Be sure that you are changing out their toothbrush at least as often as you change your own (about every three months) but keep an eyes on the bristles and replace the brush if they show signs of wear. You’ll want to help them brush their teeth once in the morning and once before bed.
As a preventative measure, limit sugary drinks and avoid the habit of putting your child to sleep with milk or juice. The sugar from these beverages lingers while they sleep and increases the acid in their mouths which then eats away at their tooth enamel. As with adults, limiting sugar intake and eating a healthy balanced diet also contributes to a healthy mouth for children.
New guidelines from the American Dental Association suggest that to best protect your child teeth, use fluoride toothpaste in the amount the size of a grain of rice from the eruption of the first tooth. After about the age of three, increase the amount to the size of a pea. Fluoride, in the correct quantity, is good for your little one’s teeth by preventing tooth decay. Too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, which is characterized by discoloration of the teeth.
As soon as your child’s teeth are touching, you should begin flossing for them. You should floss their teeth for them at least once a day. You should continue brushing and flossing for your child until they can do it on their own around the age of six or seven.
A child’s smile is a precious thing. Taking time to care for it and instill good habits will be an investment in your child’s health and happiness.