Every parent knows it’s a great feeling to see your child smile—but those precious smiles need to be cared for! Children’s dental health is an important part of their developmental process, and forming good oral care habits starts much earlier than many parents might realize. Proper kids’ dental care is crucial to forming strong, healthy teeth, as well as preventing potentially serious issues like infection, decay, and disease.
When Should You Start Taking Care of Your Kid’s Teeth
You should start to clean and protect your child’s teeth as soon they arrive! Most babies start teething between 6 and 8 months, and should usually have all of their baby teeth by the time they’re 2 years old. Once you start to notice that the first tooth beginning to emerge, you should begin to implement a daily oral care routine and be mindful of the kind of foods your child is consuming. Many new parents also wonder, “When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?” Children should see a dentist before their first birthday for a few reasons:
- Pediatric dentists can diagnose and treat any potential problem areas even if your child hasn’t developed all of their teeth yet.
- Your child’s dentist can prescribe a treatment plan and answer any questions you might have about the best ways to care for your child’s teeth at home.
- Children’s dental health benefits in the long run from early exposure to a dentist’s office in order to familiarize them with dental treatment, prevent dental anxiety as they grow older, and learn how to care for their own teeth from a professional.
What Can Parents Do
Taking your child to the dentist is only part of the equation when it comes to kids’ dental health. As a parent, you also need to take a proactive approach to keeping your child’s teeth clean at home by performing the kind of dental maintenance that you do for your own teeth for your young children and teaching older ones good how to perform good oral hygiene on their own. Some of the most important things you can do include:
For young children who cannot brush on their own, you should use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush to clean their teeth twice a day using a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Make sure your children spit out the toothpaste and do not swallow it. For older children who can brush on their own, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is suitable. You may want to brush with your child to model good cleaning techniques and ensure that they’re brushing when they’re supposed to.
For babies whose teeth haven’t emerged yet, it’s still important to clean their gums after meals. Juice, certain types of formula, and even milk can all contain a surprising amount of sugar, and when this sugar settles on the gums, it can lead to oral problems like decay later on. Take a clean, soft cloth that’s been soaked in warm water and gently wipe your baby’s gums after every meal and before bed.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that acts to harden the enamel layer of teeth. Your child should have adequate amounts of fluoride in their toothpaste and should drink tap water with fluoride added if possible. Talk to your pediatric dentist about applying a fluoride varnish to your children’s teeth as soon as they first appear.
Common Dental Problems Among Children
Childhood is full of developmental milestones for children’s teeth, but there are a few potential problems that are far more common for younger children. Candy and soda, for example, can more easily lead to cavities in the form of a condition called Early Childhood Tooth Decay (ECTD), wherein children experience instances of decay before the age of six.
Children are also more prone to accidental dental trauma as a result of rough play, accidental falls, youth sports, or even fighting. While diagnosing oral conditions is part of children’s family dentistry, there are a few early warning signs that you can look out for that mean you should seek kids’ dental care for your child.
Yellow Teeth in Kids
Yellowing of the teeth is usually caused by tartar, which is a sticky substance that is secreted by bacteria eating the leftover sugars in your child’s mouth. Without proper cleaning and over time, this tartar builds up into a hard, corrosive material called plaque—which can look yellow.
Baby Teeth Discolored Gray
Grey and discolored baby teeth can happen for several different reasons including inadequate brushing, excessive fluoride, tooth injury, soft enamel, and even certain illnesses. However, tooth discoloration in baby teeth can also be temporary, and a normal part of the many changes your child’s mouth and teeth go through during early development. Continue to monitor the tooth and schedule a dental checkup for your child if there are any further changes or new symptoms.
Brown Stains on Baby Teeth
Brown stains on your child’s teeth can be a result of certain foods that they may be consuming, such as chocolate, or other dark foods or drinks. However, brown stains that cannot be brushed away might be a sign of continued decay and should be brought to the attention of your pediatric dentist.
Kids’ Dental Care And Food Habits
Food plays a major role in children’s dental health. Part of managing your child’s dental care includes keeping an eye on the type and amount of potentially harmful foods they might be consuming. Because children’s teeth (especially non-permanent ones) usually have a softer layer of enamel than adult teeth, they are far more prone to decay and even displacement of their teeth as a result of the foods they consume.
Sugar can show up in surprising amounts in your child’s diet. Even milk and formula can have more sugar than one might think, meaning it’s important to stay on top of brushing and limit the amount of sugary snacks and drinks your child has access to.
Carbonated drinks can wear down the enamel of your child’s tooth, leading to decay. This, coupled with how much sugar is usually found in many carbonated drinks, means that water and the occasional juice are the best choices of drinks to maintain your child’s oral health.
Sticky or Crunchy Food
Everyone knows that a child’s baby teeth will eventually fall out to make room for their adult teeth, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be kept in their place for as long as possible. Certain sticky, hard, or crunchy foods can actually dislodge your child’s baby teeth before they are ready to come out. Because baby teeth act as spacers for permanent teeth, this can lead to crowded or crooked teeth later in life.
How Often Should Kids See a Dentist
As mentioned above, babies should see a dentist before their first birthday. After that, however, children should begin to see their dentist regularly every six months in what should become a lifelong habit! Children’s pediatric dentists are specially trained to not only diagnose and treat dental conditions that are unique to kids’ dental care but to recognize the emotional needs and psychological components involved with treating children.
By providing care in a comfortable, friendly setting, and communicating with children in terms they can understand, pediatric dentists help children form a positive mindset about going to the dentist—and oral care in general. If your child needs dental care, or if you have questions about how to maintain your child’s oral hygiene at home, contact Champagne Pediatric Dentistry and schedule an appointment today.