Our teeth are meant to last our entire lives. Caring for them properly in the first part of our lives is essential if we’re to enjoy them later on.
But that doesn’t mean that our children’s dental health needs are the same from childhood through the teenage years. Pediatric dentistry can guide us along the way from baby teeth to fully mature adult teeth.
Young mouths need to be cared for, even if baby teeth haven’t come in yet. Oral bacteria can grow with or without teeth (and can also spread through saliva from mother to child), so starting a regimen of good oral hygiene habits early on is essential.
Start building good pediatric dental care habits
Wiping your baby’s gums after feedings with a clean, damp cloth will help remove food particles and the bacteria they produce. Once baby teeth begin to erupt, brushing gently with a child’s sized toothbrush and water will do the same. Usually tooth eruption begins around the six-month mark and is your reminder to schedule an appointment with your child’s dentist.
Pediatric dentistry guidelines encourage establishing a “dental home” for your child by their first birthday, a place where he or she (and you) can feel comfortable, ask questions, and receive guidance on what’s best for those new baby teeth.
By the time your child can be trusted to spit (rather than swallow) toothpaste, start using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste for brushing. You should assist your child with this practice until the age of 6.
Another very important issue for baby teeth is Early Childhood Caries (ECC), or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.
Many parents feed their toddlers sugary drinks in bottles or sippy cups. These bacteria-producing liquids tend to pool around the front baby teeth when administered this way, creating concentrated areas for potential decay. Avoid giving your child juices or sweetened water in a bottle or sippy cup, and don’t let your child fall asleep with these in hand (or mouth!).
If your water supply lacks proper levels of fluoride, pediatric dentistry techniques can assist your child with fluoride washes and applications to strengthen baby teeth enamel.
Once solid foods are introduced to your toddler, maintaining good eating habits will go a long way toward ensuring those baby teeth are replaced with healthy adult teeth. Besides providing excellent nutritional value, fruits, vegetables and whole grains can also leave less fuel for plaque to grow with. Adequate exposure to fluoride is a must for young children. If your water supply lacks proper levels of fluoride, pediatric dentistry techniques can assist your child with fluoride washes and applications to strengthen baby teeth enamel.
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Dental hygiene as children grow older
As your child grows, their dental hygiene habits can slack off. School, sports, activities, friends, and junk food can all conspire to get in the way of good oral hygiene habits. Reminding your adolescent or teen that their baby teeth are gone and their adult teeth are the last set to come in is important. Also, hormonal changes can make teens susceptible to gingivitis and other periodontal diseases due to extra gum sensitivity. Make it easy for your teen to brush, floss and eat well. Plenty of healthy snacks around the house are a good way to avoid the temptation of junk food.
Tobacco – whether smoking or chewing – puts your teen at great risk for periodontal diseases, not to mention oral cancers.
Many teens require orthodontics, which require even greater vigilance in the oral hygiene department. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions on the proper way to keep braces and retainers clean.
It really all comes down to the oral hygiene habits you began practicing with your young child. If they can make brushing at least twice daily, flossing, and eating smart a priority, their teeth will likely last well past their own children’s formative years.
Do you have experience transitioning a child through the phases of dental care? What’s your best tip for others who are going through this now? Let us know in the comments section!