Caring for Your Child's Teeth
Protecting Those Pearly Whites
Your kids have million-dollar smiles. But how can you ensure that they keep those smiles well into adulthood? By taking care of their teeth and gums, of course! Although parents should be educated about proper dental health even before a child is born, there may be cultural, economic, and environmental factors that affect whether good dental habits are developed.
While many children go for periodic check-ups with their pediatrician or family doctor, many don't regularly visit with a dentist. Oral health is critically important. A dental professional helps prevent and correct common (and major) dental problems, including:
However, dental visits don't just identify and treat diseases -- they also promote overall dental health by identifying risk factors for dental disease.
Dental Care Starts in Infancy
Learning about your baby's dental health (e.g., fluoride supplementation, how teeth develop, habits that may affect tooth development) should begin during pregnancy. If you're planning to bottle feed:
Visiting the Dentist
The initial visit to a dentist should be around your child's first birthday, when she's making the transition from drinking from a bottle to a cup. Most kids get their first tooth by about six months of age, but some don't get them until after their first birthday. The dentist can intervene early if there are signs of decay and provide good advice to head off future dental problems.
If your child doesn't see a dentist until her third birthday, the process of cavities may already be too far along! Prepare your child for a visit to the dentist by explaining what to expect. Tell your child that "the dentist will talk about your teeth first, and then look inside your mouth to see your gums and teeth."
Taking Care of Your Baby's Teeth
Although primary ("baby") teeth are temporary, they still require proper care, since they serve as placeholders for the permanent adult teeth. If a child loses his baby teeth due to cavities or injuries, he may need a space-maintaining appliance to prevent overcrowding of the permanent teeth.
To care for a baby's teeth:
Tips on Brushing and Flossing
Start brushing your child's teeth early in life so that he develops a routine. As a parent you are your child's most powerful role model and need to set a good example by taking good care of your own teeth and gums. Kids under four or 5 years of age will continue to need help with brushing because they don't have the skills to do it themselves yet.
Additional times for brushing after meals are a good idea. When your child turns four (when the back teeth are in contact with one another), you'll have to step-up the cleaning regimen. The following tips will be helpful:
Helping your child learn a routine of good dental care will put him on the right track to prevent problems later. Good oral hygiene and the use of fluoride in low doses are the most effective ways to reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease.
Dental sealant can prevent tooth decay where oral hygiene and fluoride can't reach. A low carbohydrate diet will help control the plaque-producing bacteria. For a child younger than two years old, try limiting exposure to saliva from adults or other children on utensils or pacifiers.
You should also:
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