Proper oral care is as important for your child as it is for you. While the fundamentals of brushing, flossing, and dental visits remain the same, introducing them into your child’s routine and making them a priority will look a little different. These steps are essential in caring for your child’s teeth.
Cavities are one of the biggest threats to your child’s oral health. You can protect their teeth in infancy by cleaning your child’s gums after feeding. As they grow, introduce and model good brushing and flossing habits. For tweens and teens, orthodontics may become important to straighten crooked teeth or expand skeletal development.
The Dangers Threatening Children’s Oral Health
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), cavities “are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States.” A chronic disease is one that lasts a year or more and requires repeated medical attention. They may also limit your ability to engage in activities you once enjoyed or in tasks that had previously been easy to accomplish.
From infants to teens, this can result in difficulty:
Also concerning is that cavities and other childhood oral health problems can have a serious negative impact on their grades. Children with poor oral health are at a much higher risk of missing school and getting lower grades than kids who don’t.
Fortunately, cavities are largely preventable for children of all ages. Fluoride varnish can prevent around 33% of cavities in baby teeth, also known as primary teeth. Dental sealants applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth help prevent around 80% of cavities. Communities with fluoridated water also play an important role in keeping children’s teeth strong.
Of course, basic dental care should be a top priority for every parent or caregiver, and you should work to instill these habits in your children. This includes brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing, as well as taking your child to their regular dental appointments.
How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth at Any Age
The basics of children’s oral care are largely the same as adults. Brushing twice a day for two minutes, flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings are the cornerstones of healthy teeth. What makes children’s teeth different is that their smiles are still forming and these steps will need to be introduced gradually to ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Oral Care for Babies
Babies can get their first tooth at different times. On average, infants start teething around six months. However, some may start teething before they reach four months, while others may not until after they’ve turned 1. In some cases, babies may actually be born with their first teeth.
Infants born without any teeth will still need regular oral care. In this case, your focus will be on caring for their gums. You can do this by wiping their gums twice a day with a clean cloth. Their first cleaning should occur after their morning feeding and the second right before bed. This will help remove any sugars and bacteria that could cause cavities further down the road.
You’ll start brushing once their first teeth come in. Just like for your own teeth, you’ll want to brush your child’s teeth twice a day. Use plain water and a soft-bristled brush with a small head that will fit in their mouth. We’ve written previously on how to choose a toothbrush for yourself, and we’ll have plenty of toothbrush recommendations for your child.
Talk to us before you begin using a fluoride toothpaste for your child’s teeth. While safe for adults and children, it’s important that it be used correctly. You may also want to discuss using fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth to keep them cavity-free.
Infants and Children
Your child’s first dental appointment should be once their first tooth comes in or before their first birthday, whichever comes first. This ensures that they see their dentist between their first six and 12 months. It also gives our team the opportunity to examine incoming teeth along with other aspects of their oral development.
Your child’s first dental appointment can be as stressful for you as it is for them. Check out Dr. Wes’s article, When Should I Start Taking My Child to the Dentist?, to learn more about:
- Why this is the perfect time for their first visit
- What to expect
- How to prepare
Preschool-aged children can start brushing their teeth on their own at the age of 3, but you’ll still need to supervise and help them until at least the age of 6. However, you’ll probably still need to follow up and supervise them until at least the age of 6.
You can set an example by brushing your teeth together for the full two minutes, modeling good brushing technique. Introduce flossing as soon as they have teeth that touch.
Brushing and flossing should be second nature once in grade school. You may want to try different flossing options to see which works best for your child. While we’re big fans of waxed dental floss, check out 5 Surprising Facts About Flossing for more options that you can try with your child. You may also want to discuss dental sealants and mouthwash with our team.
Tweens and Teens
By this point, your child should be brushing and flossing without any reminding or supervision. What makes this stage of life different from others is the possible need for orthodontics. Crooked teeth can be embarrassing at this age, but so can the metal wires and brackets that come along with braces.
Invisalign makes the perfect alternative in many cases. They provide a discreet straightening solution that doesn’t require a lot of extra cleaning. Our team can help develop a treatment plan as well as teach your child how to properly use and clean retainers. For more information on Invisalign, check out our recent blog.
Pediatric Dentistry in Knoxville, TN
My Family Dentistry is your source for oral care for the whole family. Many of us have families of our own and understand the importance of comfortable, worry-free dentistry for your kids. We create a warm and welcoming environment for your child as we perform:
- Oral exams
- Fillings and sealants
- Cavity prevention education
We strive to make visiting the dentist as fun and safe as possible for your little ones.
One of the biggest threats facing your child’s oral health is cavities. Start them off on the right foot by cleaning their gums after meals. Once they’re able to brush and floss on their own, model good techniques and help reinforce good oral hygiene habits. As they reach middle school and high school, you may want to consider Invisalign to help straighten crooked teeth.
Are you looking for a dentist that can guide your child’s oral health into adulthood? Contact us today to schedule your appointment!
We believe everyone deserves to have a smile they can be proud of, and we provide that to our patients using the latest techniques in comfortable dentistry. My Family Dentistry is open Monday through Thursday and every other Friday. Give us a call at (865) 947-6453 or you can schedule an appointment online.