Contributed by Village Family Dental
You should start cleaning your infant’s mouth during the first few days after they are born. Every time you feed your baby, wipe their gums with a clean, wet washcloth or gauze. This will remove the plaque and left over food debris. It also makes your baby comfortable with having their mouth checked.
Eight months to Toddler
Once teeth begin to erupt, you need to begin cleaning your child’s teeth on a regular basis. You can continue using a washcloth or gauze after feedings. However, once the molars come in, you should begin using a soft or small size toothbrush and water. When your child can spit on their own, you can begin using a pea-size amount of toothpaste. Do not allow them to swallow. Replace toothbrush every three months or after a child has recovered from a contagious illness.
Many children at this age are still drinking from a bottle, especially when going to sleep. When your child’s teeth are exposed to long and frequent periods of time with liquids that contain sugar (milk, juice, formula), they are more prone to decay. This type of decay is called baby bottle tooth decay. Encourage your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday to help avoid this. Also, never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey and always keep it clean.
Toddler to Six-Years-Old
While your child is in this age group you should continue to brush their teeth for them. You can begin to allow them to brush their teeth, but mommies should double check and finish the process for the child. Usually at this age, a pea size amount of toothpaste is adequate because your child can predictably spit. You should also floss your child’s teeth on a regular basis. Use a soft, small size toothbrush.
Continue to provide your child with a healthy diet. Incorporate plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Your child’s snacks should be nutritious and try to limit sweets to mealtimes. Of course, encourage brushing and flossing after every meal when possible.
Sucking is a natural reflex. When your child sucks on their thumb, fingers, pacifiers or other objects, it makes them feel safe and happy. However, sucking that continues beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems in alignment of teeth and proper growth of the mouth. How often, how intense and how long your child engages in sucking habits determines whether or not a dental problem will occur. Usually, children stop their sucking habits between the ages of two and four.
Useful Hints to Help Stop Thumb Sucking
· Do not scold your child for thumb sucking.
· Reward and praise your child when he or she is not thumb sucking for difficult and/or long periods of time.
· Have your dentist explain to your child the consequences of thumb sucking.
· Provide comfort to a child that sucks their thumb when they are in need of comfort.
· If your child sucks their thumb due to anxiety, try to correct the cause of the anxiety.
· If all else fails, your dentist can recommend an oral appliance to aid in stopping of the habit.
Six to 12-Years-Old
By this time, children should be able to brush and to begin flossing on their own. Of course, continue to follow up on your child, encouraging good brushing and flossing habits.
Once your child begins to develop their permanent molars (around age six), it is highly recommended to place sealants on all posterior teeth. A sealant is applied to the chewing surface of the tooth. They act as a barrier for the area of the tooth most prone to accumulating plaque. Doing this procedure is fast and no discomfort is involved. They usually last several years and help protect your child’s teeth from decay on the chewing surfaces. Flossing still needs to be encouraged to prevent decay from developing between the teeth.
SPACE MAINTAINERS/ORAL APPLIANCES & BRACES
In the case a baby tooth is lost before the adult tooth erupts, your child may need a space maintainer. This is an appliance that allows the area where the baby tooth has been removed to maintain open, allowing the permanent tooth to erupt properly by not allowing shifting to occur. These are also the years when your child has an orthodontic evaluation by the age of seven. Your child will probably be involved in athletic events by this age. Speak to your dentist about mouth protection appliances to wear while playing their favorite sport to help reduce dental emergencies. Remember to keep all of these appliances VERY clean!