Teaching your child proper oral care at a young age is an investment in his or her health that will pay down the road. You can start by setting an example; taking good care of your own teeth sends a message that oral health is something to be valued. And anything that makes taking care of teeth fun, like brushing along with your child or letting them choose their own toothbrush, encourages proper oral care.
Neglecting oral hygiene for a child can lead to many complications for your child and become more expensive to fix and repair in the future. In some cases, it can be fatal for a child. In 2014, a couple was charged with abuse for neglecting their child’s teeth; which at the time had 14 abscessed that could have led to infection and death for the child.
Good dental hygiene habits should begin before your child’s first tooth comes in. Wiping your baby’s gums with a soft damp cloth after feedings helps to prevent the buildup of bacteria. When teeth appear, start using a soft children’s toothbrush twice a day.
Once your child is preschool-age, start using fluoride toothpaste. Don’t cover the brush with toothpaste; a pea-sized amount is just right. Young children tend to swallow most of the toothpaste, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause permanent stains on their teeth.
Your child might be at risk for cavities if he or she eats a lot of sugary foods (such as raisins, cookies and candy) and drinks a lot of sweet liquids (such as fruit juice and punch, soda and sweetened drinks). Cavities are holes that are formed when bacteria (germs) in your mouth use the sugar in food to make acid. This acid eats away at the teeth. Cavities are common in children. Good tooth care can keep cavities from happening in your child. Fluoride helps make teeth strong by hardening the tooth enamel which can prevent cavities as well.
Avoiding sweets, sticky foods and between-meal snacks is good advice. To avoid cavities, limit sweet snacks and drinks between meals. Have meals and snacks at regular times. Teeth-friendly snacks include foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Baby bottles can create additional problems with your child’s dental health. When liquid from a bottle like milk and juice stays in contact with the teeth for a long time, the sugars cause tooth decay. This can create a condition called bottle mouth. Your baby’s teeth can develop cavities and become pitted or discolored. Never put a baby to bed with a bottle. Don’t let your child walk around during the day with a bottle, and teach your child to use a drinking cup around his or her first birthday.
A child can start going in for dental check up as soon as they start developing teeth or if teeth are visible. A dentist can check for early signs of cavities or any other findings while teaching proper brushing techniques for you and your child. A good habit to build prior to their first check up is to have them open wide while you count their teeth. This will be less traumatizing for them as they will get use to having their teeth counted.