Being a mom can be super scary, stressful, and overwhelming. So many things to keep track of, learn, and plan. Being a parent can be stressful and all consuming with everything you need to learn and know. Being a Dental Hygienist, hopefully my advice can give you a head start in regards to your child’s teeth, their first visit to the dentist, and what to do at home.
First off, yes baby teeth are important!! They help with speech, eating, smiling, and hold the place for permanent tooth eruption. Cavities unfortunately are more common in “baby” teeth than most would think. Once a cavity has started, it can spread or grow a lot quicker than in a permanent tooth. This is why prevention is key. It is recommended for children to have their first dental check up at age 1yr or 6 months after their first tooth erupts. While not a lot will be done at this age (yes no one expects a 1yr old to climb up into the chair) it is a great time for education on preventing cavities, establishing good home routine, and a dental home for your child.
This tooth chart is a good reference for average age of tooth eruption.
What you can do at home:
-Start brushing gums and teeth at first sign. Establish a routine (morning and night) from early on.
-Use a wet wash cloth or soft bristle brush.
-Use fluoride toothpaste early on. Under 3yrs just a smear on the brush and graduating to a pea size amount 2x a day. Not enough to harm if swallowed.
– It is recommended for parents to assist with home care until about 8-9yrs of age. This is because kids just don’t have to proper hand dexterity to reach all the areas. Have them brush morning and night themselves, learning to brush for a full 2 minutes, then at least one of those times an adult follow up. Some kids may do great right away, some it may take longer. If you ever have questions ask their hygienist at their next check up.
– Flossing all teeth that are touching. Lets be real, it’s hard enough to brush, we get that. Getting around to flossing your own teeth is hard enough now adding another mouth (or 2) to keep clean. Lets just say attempt to 1xday. Do your best!
This plays a huge role in cavity prevention.
-Try not to nurse to sleep. If unavoidable, wipe teeth off as to not allow milk to sit on teeth throughout the night.
-Never give your little a bottle to bed with anything other than water inside.
– Frequency rather than quantity- juices and sugary snacks should be kept to a minimum and never a constant throughout the day. Have child sit for meal/snack time rather than grazing.
ex. a cup of juice consumed over an extended period of time (constant coating) will do more harm than a liter at one sitting.
– Keep a balanced diet.
-It is recommended your child be seen every 6 months for an exam and cleaning. This includes x-rays. Depending on your child’s individual risk to cavities, your provider will determine a frequency for x-rays to be taken. Its not a black and white area, each patient is different. Just know that without x-rays your dental provider cannot properly diagnose your child and in turn cannot treat them to the best of their ability.
– Obviously I’d recommend taking your child to a Pediatric Dentist not only due to their additional education and training, but the environment alone contributes to an overall better experience for you and your child. Find a dental home where you feel comfortable. You want to feel as though they are treating your child as they would their own.
– Don’t expect too much from your child. Everyone develops differently and may not be ready to hop up in the chair their first go around. A good office will work with your child and move at their pace. If this means no x-rays and they need to sit on your lap for the exam, so be it. It may take a few visits until they are ready to jump right in.
– Not every child will love getting their teeth brushed right off the bat. Just as some do not like being buckled into the car seat. We as parents have them do things for their safety and health. This is one of them. Enlist a second set of hands to help with the brushing part. If they cry and scream, hey at least their mouth is open and makes it easier for you to get in there. Eventually they will see its not harming them and get used to it.
– Yes fluoride toothpaste is recommended along with in office fluoride treatments (once old enough) as the standard of care. However if you have concern with the use of either, just discuss with your provider. If your child does not like the taste of any you have found, start with water only. Its the mechanical removal of plaque that matters most. Best to brush without toothpaste than not at all.
* Disclaimer- while the information given is based on the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, I have added personal experience and those of other mothers. This should not take place of recommendations given by your own provider.