Tips for Parents – Children’s Oral Health
Good oral health begins early in life! It is never too early to start good oral hygiene habits, beginning in the first few weeks of life. It is recommended that baby’s gums be wiped with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque after every feeding. Once teeth start erupting, decay can begin. Most children are ready to learn how to brush by age 3. As the child ages, parents should supervise brushing and flossing, helping the child as needed. The child should brush at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes each time, once in the morning and before bed. Use a fluoridated toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Approval on it, putting only a pea-size dab of paste on the brush. Especially watch younger children that they do not “eat” the toothpaste. It is helpful to put on their favorite music while they brush, it will keep them brushing longer! Flossing should be done on a daily basis before bed.
Eating a balanced diet will help children from getting decay. The diet should consist of a variety of fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats and breads.
Calcium is very important in building strong teeth and bones. Milk and other dairy products have a high calcium content.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
One of the biggest causes of decay in infants is termed “baby bottle caries”. This occurs when children are given bottles filled with sugary liquids, such as milk or juice at nap and bedtime. When these sugary liquids “pool” around the teeth for long periods of time, serious, rampant decay can result. If you must give your child a bottle at bed or nap time, use water.
Teething occurs generally between the ages of four months to three years. When teeth are erupting, the gums are sore and tender. The pain can often be soothed by allowing your child to chew on a refrigerated teething ring.
Contrary to popular belief, teething does not cause a fever. If your child has a fever while teething, it is a separate medical problem and you should contact your physician.
Thumbsucking is a normal, comforting reflex in infants and children and gives them security. Generally, children will quit on their own between the ages of two and four. If a child is still sucking their thumb by the age of four or five, it can cause teeth alignment problems (buck teeth) as well as other skeletal problems related to the mouth. If your child does not stop thumbsucking, ask your dentist or dental hygienist for methods to help break the thumbsucking habit.
Sealants are plastic coatings “painted” over the chewing surface of permanent molars to help prevent or reduce decay from occurring in the grooves (called pit and fissures), where toothbrush bristles cannot reach. Sealants are proven to significantly reduce decay. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for details!
Fluoridation is considered the most effective means to prevent tooth decay. Many communities have fluoride in their water. Other ways for children to get fluoride include:
prescribed fluoride tablets or drops (only if community water is not fluoridated) pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on brush fluoride treatment in dental office fluoride rinse (ie Act, Fluorigard) for children age six and older
Fluoride is by far the most effective means of preventing decay!
Children playing sports should be fitted with a mouthguard. One good rule of thumb: If you need a helmet, you need a mouthguard! They can be purchased at any sporting good store, however, for a custom fit, please contact your dentist.
If your child has been in an accident in which a permanent tooth has been knocked out, you should do the following:
If the tooth is dirty, rinse GENTLY in running water. Do NOT scrub or remove any tissue fragments still attached Gently put the tooth back in the socket and hold it in place ( if this is not possible, place tooth in cup of cool milk or water) Go to your dentist immediately, within 30 minutes if possible. Go to the emergency room if after office hours.