We’ve all heard the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’. When it comes to all our general dentistry needs, this rings true, especially from a young age. Good oral care begins even before a baby’s first tooth appears. As an infant grows into toddlerhood and into the various development stages of childhood, their oral care needs change. Caring for your children’s teeth simply requires understanding as they go through growth spurts and changes.
Here are some general things to keep in mind:
- It is a good idea to start practicing good oral care before your baby’s first tooth comes in. If the gums are healthy, so too will be their teeth when they make an appearance.
- First dental appointments should be scheduled before your baby’s first birthday, thereafter every six months until they are three years of age. At the age of three, all their baby teeth (primary teeth) should have come through.
- Children should brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. As soon as any of their teeth begin to touch, flossing can be introduced. Gaps between teeth are normal at this age.
- Children are highly susceptible to tooth decay. Limiting sugary and sticky foods or drinks will help to protect against this.
- Primary teeth begin to fall out by about the age of six when the permanent or adult teeth begin to come through. Permanent teeth will begin filling in those gaps and by the age of 13, your child should have a near perfect set of pearly whites.
Caring for your baby’s teeth and gums
Babies are born with all of their teeth. Hidden beneath the gums, baby teeth begin to break through at around six months. Before your baby’s primary teeth begin to surface, you will need to take special care of their gums.
Bottle tooth decay can happen if your baby drinks milk, formula or juice out of bottles over a long period of time. You can discourage bottle tooth decay by taking the bottle away when your baby is clearly finished drinking and ensuring your baby is never put to bed with a bottle in hand.
At 0 – 2 years of age:
- Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth after feeding (breast or bottle). This helps to clear away the sticky coating which results in plaque.
- Brush teeth twice a day with water and a soft-bristle toothbrush. Two minutes at a time is sufficient.
- You can even make it a habit by brushing your teeth with your child as you teach them good habits. Some toddlers enjoy a little song or nursery rhyme playing in the background to get them in the mood to brush their teeth.
Caring for your toddler’s teeth
At 3 – 5 years of age:
- Once your little one is three you can begin using a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush with a cushioned head.
- Ensure your child does not swallow during brushing. Encourage him/her to spit out once finished brushing.
- Discourage thumb-sucking and pacifier habits by the age of four.
- Encourage healthy nutritional habits in your child’s diet as this will have a great impact on your child’s overall health, as well as oral health. Ease your child away from bottles and sippy cups as soon as possible to avoid potential decay.
Caring for your child’s teeth from school-going age
At 6 – 9 years of age:
- Once teeth begin touching – the gaps closing- flossing can be encouraged.
- Some children may feel distress at losing their baby teeth. Soothe them by helping them to understand that that’s how their “grown-up teeth” come in.
- You should be present to help your child brush his or her teeth until they are able to practice healthy habits on their own. Take special care to help them sufficiently brush their back teeth (molars) which generally have more plague. Gums will likely be sensitive in areas where baby teeth have been lost and will require a tender touch.
- Children should also use a fluoridated toothpaste and toothbrush that is designed for a complex mixture of different sized permanent and baby teeth.
At 10 – 12 years of age:
- If your child plays sports, encourage them to wear a mouth-guard for added protection.
- A toothbrush which features a combination of criss-cross bristles for cleaning, massage bristles for sensitive gaps and a power tip for effective reach of the back teeth is recommended.
At 13+ years of age:
- Teenage years are a challenging and sensitive time for all children growing into adulthood. Encourage healthy smiles and a fresh breath at all time so that they look and feet at their very best.
- If your teenage child requires braces, encourage them to brush and floss thoroughly so that the end result is the most desired one once they come off.
Our team at Avenue Dental Care offers comprehensive dental care for kids of all ages. During all stages of sensitivity during your child’s development, we can help you provide the very best oral healthcare for your child. To schedule an appointment or discuss any areas of concern, contact us today.