It’s exciting when children get their first teeth at just a few months old. The tiny pearly whites poking through the bottom gums are just the beginning of what’s to come. Taking care of these teeth is essential to your child’s health and well-being. You wouldn’t think that something so small could make such a difference in your child’s life, but it’s huge.
Here’s what you need to know about your child’s teeth and how to care for them.
Did You Know These 7 Facts About Your Child’s Teeth?
You should start brushing your kids’ teeth immediately.
Developing this habit early on is key to helping kids maintain good oral hygiene for the rest of their lives. This is essential since 42 percent of kids age two to 11 experience tooth decay, and it’s the number one chronic infectious disease among children in the U.S.
Get a soft-bristled baby toothbrush and run it along with the teeth. Until age two, you can use a tiny smear of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice or no toothpaste at all to remove bacteria and food. After age two, increase the size of toothpaste smear to a pea.
Kids (and adults) should brush their teeth for at least two minutes, twice per day.
The American Dental Association recommends at least two minutes of teeth brushing daily to ensure that every surface of teeth receives a good cleaning. To help kids meet this two-minute minimum, you can purchase a fun timer for them to use. This makes brushing teeth enjoyable and encourages good habits.
A child should see a dentist by the time they turn one.
It’s generally recommended that you schedule your child’s first dental visit within six months after the first tooth appears, and no later than your child’s first birthday. This is important for two reasons: It lets the dentist check for any problems with the teeth and it helps your child become comfortable with dental visits from a young age. It’s also a great time for parents to ask as many questions as they like about good dental hygiene.
Kids need to floss too.
Research shows that just 30 percent of the population floss their teeth daily, so it’s easy to skip this step in both your routine and your child’s. However, kids need to floss just as much as parents do. Their sensitive little teeth are prone to decay, especially if they don’t have a regulated diet, and it’s essential that they floss bits of food and sugar out of the crevices.
Flossing can be difficult for children to master, so you’ll likely have to help them at the beginning. It can also be helpful to give them flosser tools that are easier to manage than string floss.
Kids should not be drinking soda and other sugary drinks, especially before the age of five.
Modern research indicates that everyone, especially children, should cut back on sugar intake. Some of the most dangerous sugary substances are sodas and juices, which contain more sugar than most people realize.
The American Heart Association asserts that kids and teens should drink fewer than 8 oz of a sugar-sweetened beverage per week. That’s less than one can of soda.
Surprisingly, milk contains a lot of sugar as well. Because those five and under tend to drink a lot of milk, their teeth are exposed to a lot of sugar. Minimizing additional sugary drinks will significantly reduce tooth decay in kids.
Pacifiers and thumb sucking can lead to orthodontic issues.
Addictions to thumb sucking and pacifiers plague many parents who don’t want their children to grow up with these bad habits. Most importantly, these bad habits can affect dental health. Pediatric dentists encourage parents to eliminate pacifier use before the age of 4 to avoid dental problems, but pacifier use should be limited by the age of two.
Parents should also help their children stop thumb sucking. The best thing to do is to stop it before the habit forms. It may be cute to see your six-month-old son sucking on his thumb, but if you don’t diligently stop it from this young age, it will lead to negative consequences later.
Untreated dental decay can be deadly.
Oftentimes, despite our best efforts as parents, our kids still get cavities. This is not a huge deal, as dentists can treat cavities and preserve teeth at any age. However, if you don’t treat cavities, it can lead to a systemic infection that could be deadly.
Take care of any dental need before it becomes serious. It’s frightening and expensive to have your child in the hospital for a dental emergency, and good hygiene habits and regular dental treatment can prevent that problem altogether.