Healthy teeth not only help your child eat and talk freely but also improve their overall health. Poor oral care can lead to tooth decay and infection.
Moreover, implementing good oral care helps set good oral hygiene habits for your child as they grow.
How to brush and floss Your Child’s teeth
Of course, you’ve been brushing Your Child’s teeth since the first tooth popped up, but as more teeth come out, you need to improve your brushing skills by adding flossing to the dental care routine. Flossing helps to remove pieces of food from the spaces between the teeth that are too small for toothbrushes.
Here’s how to properly brush and floss Your Child’s teeth:
- Be prepared for resistance, Your Child might not want to participate, but keep in mind that brushing is the most effective way to prevent cavity and other oral diseases
- Use a toothbrush that fits comfortably into Your Child’s small mouth: The brush should have soft bristles so that the brushing exercise will be gentle on the gums
- Try to brush twice a day: brush in the morning after Your Child wakes and at night before the little one goes to bed. Do not let the little one eat anything after a nighttime brush
- For each session, brush for about two minutes: You can make it fun by singing for your baby! You may also do it in front of a mirror so that Your Child can be distracted by looking at the reflection in the mirror
- Use a spread of thin layer of fluoride toothpaste for babies younger than 3 years old, use the size of a green pea for 3-6 year-olds, and spread a full layer of toothpaste along the length of the toothbrush for a 6-year-old and older and use dry brushing technique
- Ensure brushing all surfaces of the teeth (chewing, inner, and outer) and also brush the tongue
- Floss the inter-teeth spaces to remove any hiding food particles
- From time to time, lift Your Child’s lips and thoroughly check for suspicious small white or brown spots on the teeth, which may indicate dental decay (cavities). If you see any, schedule an appointment with your dentist right away
Teaching your child to brush and floss their teeth
You have been cleaning Your Child’s mouth from the early weeks, but as your child grows, you need to start teaching them how to brush and floss their teeth. This is how you do it:
- During one of the brushing sessions, allow Your Child to hold the brush and play with it
- Guide Your Child to put it into the mouth and show how to move it
- You can hold Your Child’s hand as the little one moves the brush in the mouth
- Ensure that the little one spits after brushing
You should always help your child brush until they develop good brushing skills. This may take up to the sixth birthday.
Why and when to use fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride toothpaste is important to dental health and should be used once the first tooth appears, as fluoride is known to reduce cavities in both primary (baby) and permanent (adult) teeth and help make teeth strong by hardening the enamel. Research has shown that fluoride varnish can prevent about one-third (33%) of cavities in the baby teeth, and children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have fewer cavities.
However, some children get fluoride in drinking water, and many cities are required to add fluoride to tap water. Studies have shown that children living in communities with fluoridated tap water have fewer cavities than children whose water is not fluoridated. If your water supply is not fluoridated, discuss with your dentist about oral fluoride supplements.
Note that too much fluoride can be harmful to your child and also cause tooth stains. So, it’s important you use the right quantity of fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash when brushing Your Child’s teeth and make sure they do not swallow.
Sugar and tooth decay
Sugar is known to cause most tooth decay. Bacteria change sugar residue into acid deposits that erode the tooth surface and eventually cause cavities.
Avoid giving your baby anything that is high in sugar, such as candies, lollipops, biscuits with cream, chocolate fillings, and dried fruits. Instead, offer your baby fresh-cut fruit or veggies, like apple and pear slices, carrot, or celery sticks, as well as nuts. Don’t let your child fall asleep while sucking on a baby bottle, the milk residue can create cavities. A proper diet not only helps your child grow up strong and healthy but also helps prevent tooth decay.
From baby teeth to adult teeth
Baby teeth usually start to emerge between 4 and 7 months old. The 2 bottom front teeth are often the first to pop up. By 3 years of age, most kids have all 20 baby teeth.
Children start to lose their baby teeth between 6 and 12 years old starting with the ones in the front. So, during this period, your child has a combination of baby and adult teeth, with the baby ones falling off to give way for the adult ones to erupt. With the exception of the first molar tooth that grows behind the last baby tooth, deep inside the mouth and can be very hard to clean, hence has a very high risk of cavities. Your dentist might recommend applying a sealant as prevention.
A full set of adult teeth is 32 in number, including the wisdom teeth, which usually appear in late teens or early adulthood.
When to see a dentist
Children should see a dentist when the first tooth appears, around their first birthday so that any problems with your child’s teeth can be identified early. Preventing oral disease can help save time, money and prevent any obstacle for Your Child’s development.
Apart from the scheduled visits, you can contact your dentist anytime there is a need for them. For example, if your child has tooth pain or a tooth or mouth infection or if your child loses a permanent tooth. In the case of the latter, if you find the tooth, put it in milk and take it to the dentist — they may be able to reattach it.
Nachsamin Patchrawiphakkit , D.D.S. (18 February 2022)