While I was watching television with my three-year-old son the other day, we saw a woman being interviewed and the camera was pretty close to her. My son pointed out that the woman’s teeth were brown…and they were. He then said, “I guess she doesn’t brush her teeth.”
Good dental hygiene must begin at an early age! The Children’s Dental Health Project says, “Children with cavities in their primary (baby) teeth are three times more likely to develop cavities in their permanent (adult) teeth” The Children’s Dental Health Project is a non-profit organization which is funded by many respectable health agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Their slogan is “the voice for children’s oral health” and they hold to this statement as their website is full of information on the importance of dental hygiene for children, from babies to school-age kids.
So, how do you care for a baby’s first teeth? The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends beginning before your baby’s teeth even come in! They recommend taking a small piece of gauze to clean the inside of baby’s mouth after each feeding to clean out any residue or plaque. When baby’s teeth begin to show, take a small, child-size tooth brush and add a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste (about the side of a grain of rice, as recommended by the ADA) and brush over the teeth. Around age two is when you can increase the amount of fluoride toothpaste to pea-size (and picking their favorite cartoon character on the tube is a great incentive to keep them interested in brushing!) And absolutely never let your child take a bottle or sippy cup to bed (neither at nap time nor bedtime). Children should finish their bottle or sippy cup before going to bed. By allowing them to go to sleep with it, this places your child at a very high risk for tooth decay and damage as the liquid will set on their teeth once they’ve fallen asleep, causing severe damage to the teeth.
As your child grows, continue to instill dental hygiene by requiring your children to brush their teeth thoroughly twice a day. The ADA suggests that children should be able to independently brush their teeth by age seven, but recommends checking their brushing skills until you are certain their brushing is up-to-par! And don’t forget to teach them to floss!
It is recommended by the Children’s Dental Health Project as well as the ADA that children have their first visit to the dentist around their first birthday. From there the dentist will recommend a schedule for dental check-ups which could range anywhere from every 6 months to once per year. These routine visits should be kept. These visits are taken as a preventative measure. It is much easier to catch a problem (such as a cavity) and correct it early than it is to correct a problem that has been developing for a while.
Dental problems can cause overall health problems for your children if they are not taken care of promptly, and the longer a problem is ignored, the more it may cost to have the problem corrected. If your children do not have dental insurance and you cannot afford to pay for dental visits, there are programs that can help! Check with your local DHHR or visit https://www.cdhp.org/priorities/coverage-financing for more information! Your child’s oral health is worth it!