February is National Children’s Dental Health Month
Nothing warms the heart quicker than the smile of a child. But… that pearly white smile takes a lot of maintenance. Parents, teachers, caregivers, and dentists must work together to ensure that smile remains healthy. One way we do this is by shining the spotlight on this cause… February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! Though we want you to be concerned with your child’s teeth every day of the year, February is the month we shine the light on children’s dental health, hopefully, the information you receive here will keep you and your smiling angel motivated throughout the year.
Cavities are caused by the tooth’s frequent contact with acids, such as those formed from the sugars and starches found in food and drinks. Habitual care through a daily routine is the best source of prevention.
There is no permanent removal or blockage of the acid that forms in the mouth because it’s a natural process that takes place. The good bacteria in saliva is the first defense in fighting the bad bacteria. Replacing those all-important minerals such as calcium and phosphate which are found in our saliva, is of immense importance. Other things we can do include:
- Use of fluoride – Fluoride is a mineral that can prevent tooth decay from progressing
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Fluoride rinse
- Fluoride tablets
- Note: Fluoride is not recommended for children under age 2. The reason is the over consumption of fluoride which can cause damage to growing teeth with a condition called dental fluorosis. This causes white flecks/patches on the growing teeth.
- Regular brushing – A child should brush their teeth twice a day, morning and night. Remember… no sugary drinks or eats after brushing at bedtime. Overnight the bad bacteria have a lot of time to grow and do damage.
- Flossing – is the best way to clean between the teeth thoroughly. However, as the child’s teeth begin to come in, they still have enough space between them to be covered by the toothbrush, so flossing is not necessary until the spaces are filled in.
- Regular dental checkups – typically the first dental visit for your child will be at age one. Between ages 4-6 they will get their first x-ray.
When do you start brushing your child’s teeth? The answer is… before they even begin to come in. Yes, that is correct, however, it’s done a little differently. Toothpaste is not used on infants. Simply wet a swab or cloth and wipe gently over the gums.
When the teeth start to appear, between 6-18 months, is when you start brushing with an actual toothbrush twice a day. If you use fluoride toothpaste, place only a small amount on the brush, typically the size of a grain of rice for younger children and up to a size of a pea for the older children. Again, this relates back to over-consumption of fluoride… so, encourage your child to spit the toothpaste, not swallow it.
Be sure to brush the inside and outside of the teeth and don’t forget the tongue. The bacteria covered tongue can cause bad breath. Rinsing is optional at this stage because we are using such a small amount of toothpaste.
Selecting the Right Toothbrush
It is important to select the right toothbrush for your child. Let them have input on it. If they have no interest in the toothbrush, they will have no interest in brushing. The things that you need to be concerned about are the size and bristle type. The bristles should be soft. The toothbrush head should be no bigger than your child’s thumb to the first joint. Electric toothbrushes are acceptable, just be sure you are using a toothbrush head made for a child as an adult’s toothbrush head will be too large and possibly cause gagging.
Finding a Pediatric Dentist
If you don’t have a pediatric dentist, visit America’s Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to search for your local provider.
The Development of Your Child’s Teeth
With Parents Assistance – Children’s Dental Health
Most of the information out there tells parents they should assist their child with teeth brushing until the age of 10-12 years. Personally, I think that’s a little old and have never known a 10-year-old who wanted mom brushing their teeth. In the early years, you will definitely need to do the work yourself. When the child is old enough to follow instruction, you can teach them how to do it and watch to make sure it is done correctly. By the time they enter school, they can probably brush their own teeth, you will just need to remind them because, in their eyes, teeth brushing is of far less important than that toy they really want to play with at the time.
Author: Belinda Davis ©2018