One of the most important, yet most overlooked, aspects of your child’s overall health begins with their teeth and gums. Children who exercise good at-home oral care and maintain their regular dental visits will have a much better chance at reaching adulthood without experiencing painful tooth decay or other dental health problems.
Good oral health is best learned early in life. As with many habits, children learn best from their parents and caregivers. You can give you child a head-start on a healthy mouth by being a model of the behavior you want them to embrace. This means sticking to an oral healthcare routine, taking them to the dentist regularly, eliminating excess sugar from their diets, and giving them plenty of fruits and vegetables.
This guide will provide you with simple steps for giving your child a beautiful and healthy smile to last them a lifetime!
- Proper Dental Care During Pregnancy
- Children’s Dental Health Basics
- Proper Dental Care For Each Stage of Childhood
- How to Handle Dental Emergencies
- Surprising Facts You May Not Know About Your Child’s Oral Health
Proper Dental Care During Pregnancy
One of the most overlooked pieces of advice for women who are planning to become pregnant is to visit their dentist for a checkup. Increasing research has proven that gingivitis is related to the premature birth of underweight children, and pregnant women with gum disease may be more likely to have a premature baby. If you don’t keep your gums and teeth healthy you run the risk of gestational gingivitis, a condition in which plaque builds up on the teeth and irritates the gums. Some symptoms to watch out for include red, swollen gums and bleeding.
Your lifestyle, including eating habits, exercise habits, and yes, your dental hygiene habits, will impact your health and the health of your baby.
Good oral hygiene habits before, during, and after your pregnancy include:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste
- Flossing between your teeth at least once a day
- Visiting your dentist regularly
- Maintaining a diet low in sugar
What About Morning Sickness?
Many women experience some form of morning sickness during their pregnancy. This may include nausea, vomiting, and heartburn.
The first instinct for many people is to brush their teeth immediately after vomiting. From a dental perspective, this may do more harm than good. The acid that remains in your mouth after vomiting can be very harmful to your tooth enamel.
Instead, rinse your mouth out with water and if necessary, follow with a fluoridated mouthwash. Wait about an hour and then brush your teeth.
Taking care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy will not only keep you healthy, it will also provide your child with the best chance at a lifetime of healthy teeth!
Children’s Dental Health Basics
Developing great dental habits at a young age is one of the easiest ways you can set your child up to have a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Good oral hygiene starts at home with proper brushing and flossing techniques.
Brushing and Flossing
Proper brushing and flossing is important to help prevent tooth decay. Dentists recommend that you begin cleaning your baby’s mouth as soon after birth as possible. After each feeding, wipe your baby’s gums and teeth with a warm damp washcloth. This will help remove plaque and bits of food that may harm small teeth.
When to Begin Brushing & Flossing
As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, begin brushing twice a day with a small soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste. It’s important to get your child comfortable with brushing earlier rather than later, so starting when their first tooth appears is crucial to developing a lifetime of healthy oral health habits.
Begin flossing as soon as your child has 2 teeth that touch one another.
When to Visit the Dentist for The First Time
If possible, begin taking your child with you to your routine dental appointments as early as possible. Invite them to sit in your lap while you talk to the dentist in order to show them that visiting the dentist is fun and easy!
The American Dental Association recommends that children first visit the dentist on their own at age 1. These early visits help get them comfortable in the dental chair and with the dentist. Its best not to wait until a dental emergency arises to take your child to the dentist for the first time so that their early association with the dentist remains positive.
At your child’s first dental appointment, you can expect the dentist and/or hygienist to do the following:
- Review your child’s health history
- Do a complete oral exam
- Show you how to properly clean your child’s teeth at home
- Discuss whether your child is receiving the right amount of fluoride
- Discuss teething and pacifier use/thumb sucking
- Make recommendations for future dental care
Transitioning From Baby Teeth to Adult Teeth
Between the ages of 5-7, children will begin losing their baby teeth. Typically the first teeth lost are those in the front. By the age of 12-14, all 20 baby teeth will typically have fallen out and are replaced by their permanent adult teeth. Don’t be concerned if your child has a mixture of larger adult teeth and smaller baby teeth for awhile. In time, their smile will even out.
Good oral hygiene and consistent dental visits during this time of transition are especially important. Regular dental visits combined with good at-home care will ensure that your children have a smooth transition from their baby teeth to their adult teeth.
Seeing an Orthodontist for the First Time
This is also the time when many dentists recommend that children see an orthodontist for the first time. Around the age of 7 most children have lost some of their baby teeth and have started to get some of their adult teeth.
While the bones are still developing in their palate is an ideal team for your child to be evaluated by an orthodontist for the first time. Although most children will not need orthodontic treatment this early, there are some orthodontic problems that can be treated faster and more efficiently with interceptive orthodontics.
If your child is 7 or about to celebrate their 7th birthday, speak with your dentist at his or her next check up to discuss the need for an early orthodontic evaluation.
Proper Dental Care for Each Stage of Childhood
As your son or daughter transitions from baby to toddler to child to teenager, their dental needs will evolve. Below are some tips for proper dental care during each stage of their development.
6 months – 7 Years
- When your child’s first teeth come in, use wet gauze or a cold teething ring to soothe their gums. Do not allow them to suck on anything sugary or syrupy during this time as that creates a breeding ground for bacteria in their mouth.
- Do not use oral anesthetic creams to sooth your child’s gums while teething. These products can cause dangerous reactions in some children. Talk to your pediatrician or dentist if you have questions about them.
- Do not let your child frequently sip juices or sugary drinks such as soda or sweet tea.
- Get your children in the habit of brushing twice a day for 2 minutes each time as early as possible.
- Do not put infants to bed with a bottle or training cup that has milk, juice, formula, or any sugary liquids.
- Do not put pacifiers in your mouth before giving to your child. Disease-causing bacteria can be passed from your mouth to theirs.
- Avoid letting your child snack on anything that is chewy or sticky. Instead, feed them healthy snacks.
- Try to discourage the use of a pacifier past your child’s 2nd Talk to your dentist if your child is struggling with sucking their thumb or still using a pacifier past age 2.
7 Years – 12 Years
- Between the ages of 5-12, your child will lose the majority of their baby teeth and will begin to get their permanent adult teeth.
- Regular dental check-ups are very important during this time of transition for your child. Do not be worried if your child seems to be losing teeth out of order, or if they don’t seem to be losing their teeth as soon as you expect. Rely on the advice from your dentist to determine if your child is on track.
- Talk to your child’s dentist about the application of dental sealants. Sealants form a barrier around the teeth and help protect their teeth from decay in hard-to-brush areas.
- Schedule an appointment with an orthodontist around age 7 so that any early problems can be treated sooner rather than later.
- At-home dental care is very important during this time because it is when most children will develop habits that last them their entire life. Encourage brushing for 2 minutes 2 times a day and flossing daily.
- If your child is having trouble brushing, consider an electric toothbrush. Rechargeable electric brushes can be used as early as age 6 or 7. Some even have Bluetooth technology that allow you to monitor your child’s brushing habits from an app on your phone.
- Discourage the consumption of soda, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages.
- If your child plays sports, talk to your child’s dentist about getting a mouthguard that will help protect them from facial injuries.
12 Years – 18 Years
- By age 12 your child should have almost all of their permanent teeth (except wisdom teeth).
- If they have not been evaluated by an orthodontist, talk to their dentist about the need for an orthodontic consultation.
- During this time is when many teens begin to get cavities for the first time. Prevention is key! Encourage your teen to continue brushing for 2 minutes 2 times a day and flossing every day. They can also begin using an over-the-counter fluoride mouth rinse for extra protection.
- If your child plays sports, talk to your child’s dentist about getting a mouthguard that will help protect them from facial injuries.
- Wisdom teeth will begin coming in between the ages of 17-21. Regular dental check-ups are important during this time so that your dentist can monitor their development. If their wisdom teeth are impacted your dentist will most likely recommend that they be extracted.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the key to a healthy mouth for teens. The following lifestyle behaviors can have a severely negative on your teens oral health as well as their overall health: smoking, eating disorders, the use of illegal substances, drinking alcohol, oral piercings, and eating unhealthy. Talk to your teen about the dangers of these lifestyle behaviors and make sure they understand the risks.
How to Handle Dental Emergencies
Knowing the proper way to handle a dental emergency can be critical for saving a tooth that your child may otherwise lose during an emergency. Here are some tips for handling dental emergencies:
- Bitten Tongue or Lip – if your child bites their tongue or lip hard enough to break the skin, use a cold compress and apply pressure to the area to try and stop the bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop after your attempts, contact your dentist or an after-hours children emergency center.
- Cracked or Broken Teeth – use a cold compress on your child’s face to help reduce swelling caused by the trauma. Try to get your child to the dentist right away and bring the broken portion of the tooth (if possible) with you by wrapping it a wet towel.
- Knocked Out Tooth – take your child to the dentist as quickly as possible. If you have the tooth, soak it in milk or saline until you can get to the dentist. Do not try to put the tooth back into the socket, and try to avoid picking up the tooth by the socket (bottom). Instead, handle the tooth by the crown (the top).
- Broken Jaw – if there is a possibility that your child’s jaw has been broken, take them to the emergency room as soon as possible. Apply a cold compress to the affected area to reduce swelling in the mean time.
Surprising Facts You May Not Know about Your Child’s Oral Health
JUICE ISN’T MUCH BETTER THAN SODA
Most juices have a sugar content that is just about as high (or higher) than soda. This can wreak havoc on your children’s teeth, especially when consumed regularly. Your safest bet is to encourage your children to drink as much milk and water as possible.
IT’S NOT HOW OFTEN THEY BRUSH, IT’S HOW WELL THEY BRUSH
Children need to learn how to properly brush their teeth in order to maintain good brushing habits for the rest of their lives. Brushing for a full 2 minutes is a must. To help, purchase a kitchen timer for your kids to keep in the bathroom or if you really want to get fancy, check out the Kolibree, a toothbrush that will digitally sense how well and how long your kids are brushing.
CHILDREN SHOULD FIRST SEE THE DENTIST AROUND THEIR 1ST BIRTHDAY, OR 6 MONTHS AFTER THEY GET THEIR FIRST TOOTH
Why so early? Tooth decay isn’t sensitive to age. It’s important to begin cleaning your children’s teeth and reinforcing good oral hygiene in them from a very young age so that they will continue taking good care of their teeth for the rest of their life.
KIDS NEED TO WEAR A MOUTHGUARD WHEN PLAYING SPORTS
Mouthguards aren’t just for high-impact sports such as football and hockey. They need to be worn during all sports in order to protect your child’s face, teeth, and gums from possible injury. Each year dentists and oral surgeons see way too many nasty facial injuries that could have easily been prevented with a mouthguard.
CERTAIN FOODS CAN REALLY HELP YOUR LITTLE ONE’S SMILES
Good food options include dairy, nuts, lean protein (such as chicken), veggies, and firm/crunchy fruit and vegetables. These foods provide calcium and phosphorous which help to re-mineralize teeth and protect enamel. Incorporating these into their meals will help their teeth stay healthy for years to come.
The Dental Heath Resource Guide has been brought to you by River Run Dental.
About River Run Dental:
Formerly Rusnak Family Dentistry, River Run Dental (http://www.riverrundentalspa.com) is a place where common stresses are left behind and dental care is top-notch. Their award-winning dentists are dedicated to exceptional care, treating both children and adults in a state-of-the-art dental facility located in the West End of Richmond, VA. Complimentary comfort services are provided at every appointment, and extended appointment hours accommodate even the busiest of schedules. Learn more about the River Run Dental experience by visiting their website or calling 804-262-1060.