If you start taking your child to the dentist at a early age, they won’t have a fear of going to the dentist in the future. Fear comes from not knowing about something or not having done something before. Don’t let your child have that fear of going to the dentist; you can start teaching them at an early age about the dentist and the care they will give their teeth to keep them healthy. Start getting them used to a dentist and understanding that they will need to go the dentist for a routine dental check–ups for the rest of their lives. Your child and the dentist can get to know each other and develop a life long relationship.
Proper Dental Care for Infants:
Parents typically provide oral hygiene care until the child is old enough to take personal responsibility for the daily dental health routine of brushing and flossing. A proper regimen of preventive home care is important from the day your child is born.
- Clean your infant’s gums with a clean, damp cloth after each feeding.
- As soon as the first teeth come in, begin brushing them with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush andwater. If you are considering using toothpaste before your child’s second birthday, ask your dentist first.
- To avoid baby bottle tooth decay and teeth misalignment due to sucking, try to wean your child off of the breast and bottle by one year of age, and monitor excessive sucking of pacifiers, fingers and thumbs. Never give your child a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened liquid as a pacifier at naptime or bedtime.
- Help a young child brush at night, the most important time to brush, due to lower salivary flow and higher susceptibility to cavities. Perhaps let the child brush their teeth first to build self-confidence, then the parent can follow up to ensure that all plaque is removed. Usually by age 5 or so, the child can learn to brush his or her own teeth with proper parental instruction.
- The best way to teach a child how to brush is to lead by good example. Allowing your child to watch you brush your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene.
First Visit To The Dentist:
As Early As 6 Months Old
Your child’s first visit to the dentist should happen before his or her first birthday. The general rule is six months after eruption of the first tooth. Taking your child to the dentist at a young age is the best way to prevent problems such as tooth decay, and can help parents learn how to clean their child’s teeth and identify his or her fluoride needs. After all, decay can occur as soon as teeth appear. Bringing your child to the dentist early often leads to a lifetime of good oral care habits and acclimates your child to the dental office, thereby reducing anxiety and fear, which will make for plenty of stress-free visits in the future.
Caring for your child’s teeth
It’s best to start good oral health habits before permanent teeth come in.
- Parents and caregivers often share spoons, forks, and other utensils with babies. The saliva you may leave on the utensil contains bacteria that can cause tooth decay. Sometimes, kissing can also transfer bacteria. You can help prevent early childhood tooth decay in your child by making sure that your family practices good dental health habits. Keeping your own teeth and gums healthy reduces the risk of transferring tooth decay bacteria to your child.
- Do not put your infant or small child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or other product that contains sugar. The sugar and acids in these liquids can cause tooth decay (bottle mouth ). Do not prop the bottle up in your baby’s mouth. Remove the bottle as soon as your baby is done feeding or is asleep. Breast-feeding your infant to sleep is safe, however. Encourage your baby to begin drinking from a cup at about 4 to 6 months of age.
- Discuss your child’s fluoride needs with your dentist if your local water supply does not contain enough fluoride. To find out, call your local water company or health department. If you have your own well, have your water checked to determine whether your family needs fluoride from other sources. You may also need to provide fluoride to your children if you use bottled water for cooking or drinking. Normal amounts of fluoride added to public water supplies and bottled water are safe for children and adults. If your child needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend supplements. Use these supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child?s teeth.
- Give your child nutritious foods to maintain healthy gums, develop strong teeth, and avoid tooth decay. These include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as pastries, pasta, and white bread.
- Do not give your child mouthwashes that contain alcohol. If your child age 6 or older has cavities, ask the dentist if your child should try mouthwash that contains fluoride. But watch to make sure your child does not swallow it.
- Keep your child away from cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke). Tobacco smoke may contribute to the development of tooth decay, gum disease, and other health issues.1 As your child grows, teach him or her about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.
- Children play hard, sometimes hard enough to knock out or break a tooth. Learn how to prevent injuries to teeth and what to do in a dental emergency. For more information, see the topic Mouth and Dental Injuries.
- If your child sucks his or her fingers or thumb, help your child to stop. If the child can’t stop, see your dentist. For more information, see the topic Thumb-Sucking.
Brushing and flossing
- Start cleaning your child’s teeth with a soft cloth or gauze pad as soon as the teeth come in. As more teeth erupt, clean teeth with a soft toothbrush.
- Teach your child not to swallow the toothpaste.
- Your child can learn how to brush his or her own teeth at about age 3. Children should be brushing their own teeth morning and night by age 4, although you should supervise and check for proper cleaning.
- Give your child a small, soft toothbrush, and apply fluoridated toothpaste in an amount about the size of a small green pea. Encourage your child to watch you and older siblings brush teeth. A good teaching method is to have your child brush in the morning and you brush at night until your child masters the skill.
- Start flossing your child’s teeth as soon as they touch each other. You may find plastic flossing tools helpful. Talk with your dentist about the right timing and technique to floss your child’s teeth and how to teach your child to floss.
- Use disclosing tablets from time to time to see whether any plaque is left on the teeth after brushing. Disclosing tablets are chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after the child brushes. You can buy these at most drugstores.
For a child’s comfort, you might consider selecting a pediatric dentist. These doctors specialize in treating young patients, and are usually careful to be gentle and sensitive to a young child’s needs. Some dentists advertise a family practice, which may include caring for young children, too.
J. Anthony “Tony” Kososki, DDS, FAGD
304 S. Cottonwood Drive, Suite C – Location #1
Richardson, TX 75080
Phone (214) 446-1946