Caring for Your Child’s Teeth
Were you aware that early childhood cavities are the number one chronic disease affecting young children today? What’s more disappointing is the fact that tooth decay is 100% preventable with a proper oral hygiene routine. You can keep your child from getting tooth decay by starting his or her dental care early in life. Giving your child the proper tools and teaching them proper oral care at a young age will pay lifelong dividends.
The foundation of your child’s permanent teeth is laid during the first couple years of life. That's why it is essential to establish a proper oral hygiene routine early to ensure the development of strong and healthy teeth. In the beginning, it’s important to remember that just because you don’t see the teeth, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In fact, at birth your baby has 20 primary teeth! During this time, parents should simply run a damp washcloth over the baby’s gums daily to clear away any harmful bacteria.
One of the reasons children are more susceptible to tooth decay is because primary teeth's enamel is less densely mineralized than the enamel on permanent teeth. There are a number of other factors that contribute to the development of tooth decay in children during the first two years of life, including:
- Poor diet – parents should avoid high-sugar treats/refreshments (juice, sports drinks, soda, etc.) during the development phase of their child’s teeth
- Poor habits of food intake – while it may seem logical to put a baby to sleep with a bottle, the sugars from the juice or milk will remain on the teeth for hours, causing baby-bottle tooth decay
- Inadequate brushing habits – primary teeth play a vital role in the proper alignment and spacing of permanent teeth, neglecting their health can have negative consequences in the future
Primary teeth start to develop in children from the age of six months until approximately two and a half years old. During this time, permanent teeth are developing too, but they do not typically erupt until later in life (usually six years or older).
What to Do:
Parents have a key role in helping their children develop a proper oral hygiene routine during the first years of their life. As soon as the first primary teeth emerge, parents should begin brushing with an infant toothbrush, using water and just a small amount of toothpaste. Here are some other tips to help get your child on the path to perfect oral health:
- Brush twice daily – keeping your child’s routine consistent (once in the morning and before bed) will help create a lifelong habit. Children should brush for at least two minutes, concentrating a good amount of time on the back molars as this is where cavities often first form.
- Start flossing – flossing should begin when there are at least two teeth. We recommend using floss sticks or picks instead of string floss to make things easier.
- Get to the dentist – visiting a dentist from an early age is a great way to stay on top of your child’s oral health needs. Some children require preventative measures such as pediatric sealants, which can be introduced during adolescence.
- Supervise – monitoring your child’s oral hygiene routine is important because it give you the ability to help or intervene when necessary
- Make it fun – your child isn’t going to like brushing and flossing if it’s not fun, try to create a fun routine that they will look forward to each night!