“They’re just baby teeth, they’ll fall out anyway!”
Have you heard someone say this? Have you said it yourself?
Somehow there is a pervasive myth that dental care for kids isn’t that important. After all, aren’t all those baby teeth just going to fall out anyway?
Children have 20 primary, or baby teeth. They are already developing in the jawline by the second trimester in pregnancy, and yes, they will eventually all fall out to make room for the permanent, adult teeth.
Did you know, though, that decay in baby teeth affects the adult teeth still developing beneath? Not only can the decay affect tooth development of adult teeth, it just makes sense to start healthy habits early, so that children carry them into adulthood.
Why Dental Care for Kids is Big Deal
Child tooth decay is becoming an epidemic, with dentists seeing children as young as two years old requiring major surgery to fix problems caused by poor oral hygiene. It doesn’t just affect teeth, either. Tooth decay can lead to problems eating, speaking, and learning, as well as lead to other diseases.
The good news? You can help your children develop good dental habits now and avoid the pain (and cost!) of dental repair in the future.
See a Pediatric Dentist
Just like your little one needs to see a doctor especially for kids, it’s a good idea to take them to a dentist especially for kids.
Not only will these offices have special accommodations and the experience to put kids at ease, they are also specialists at dealing with the special challenges of children’s teeth.
Dental care for kids isn’t something that can be started too early. Children should start seeing the dentist no later than their first birthday, and need to go twice a year, just like you do. Even if they don’t have very many teeth (or no teeth!), these appointments help your dentist to get an idea of family dental history, and scope out your child’s mouth for any abnormalities or signs of decay. They are also a good learning opportunity for you , as your dentist can help teach you how to take care of your little one’s mouth.
Brush the Right Way, With the Right Stuff
Kids dental care is all about using the proper tools in the proper fashion. A toothbrush is no good if it isn’t being used the right way!
Fluoride has gotten a bad reputation lately, but the truth is, as soon as your little one has their first tooth, it’s time to start using a fluoridated toothpaste.
For babies, a dab the size of a grain of rice is perfect, and kids older than three can use a pea-sized amount. You should, of course, be brushing for your baby, and assisting older kids until they are fully capable of brushing on their own.
Keep an eye on that brushing technique, too. The side to side motion favored by kids? Not the way to go. It’s actually damaging to the tooth enamel, and doesn’t do an efficient enough job of cleaning the teeth.
Instead, teach kids to brush in little circles, making sure the brush makes contact with every single part of each tooth.
Clean and Replace Their Toothbrushes
A gag on an old TV show had a character saying “You don’t need to clean soap! It’s soap! It’s self-cleaning!” And for soap, this may be true, but not so much for toothbrushes.
After brushing, teach your kids to rinse their brush completely with tap water and let it air dry, upright, so that germs don’t survive. Once a week, you can give the brush a little swish in mouthwash to get rid of any germy stragglers.
You’ll need to keep an eye on the bristles of your child’s toothbrush to see when it’s due for a replacement. Once the bristles start to show signs of wear, and start sticking out in all directions instead of standing straight, it’s time for new one. This isn’t as much because of germs, but because a damaged or worn toothbrush isn’t going to be as effective at clearing away plaque.
Little kids might use a heavier hand, and need their brushes replaced more often, but teaching them to be gentle but firm when they brush should remedy the problem.
Floss – Yep, Even Kids
Just like it does for adults, proper dental care for kids includes flossing. After all, what is your dental hygienists favorite thing to tell you when she does your cleaning?
Floss picks can help with this, making it easier for little hands to get back into the nooks and crannies, but make sure you are watching and catching any spot s they miss. Remember, if two teeth are touching, no amount of brushing is going to get them completely clean.
Kids may not like having their teeth flossed, so you may have to resort to some good old-fashioned parenting ninja skills, aka, bribery, here. Just make sure it isn’t with candy!
What About Babies?
Babies need good oral health care, too! Formula, baby food, and even breast milk can decay teeth is allowed to sit on new teeth.
Even before teeth erupt, you can use a washcloth to clean the gum line and the inside of your baby’s mouth to avoid germ growth. If your baby’s first teeth have already erupted, watch for when they begin to touch. This will be your signal to start flossing.
It is also important to exercise preventative care. Never allow your baby to go to sleep with a bottle, as this can cause formula or milk to pool around their teeth at night, encouraging bacterial growth.
Making this a habit from the beginning will hopefully lead to more peaceful dental health rituals as your child grows.
Model Best Practices
You are your child’s first teacher, and when they see you brush and floss, they will want to as well!
Make sure you are taking care of your own teeth. Brush and floss together, so that your child knows this is something all people must do to take care of their bodies.
Dental care for kids is incredibly important, more so than it may initially seem. Even though their teeth are temporary, the habits and attitudes they form around dental health are not.
We’d love to help with all your family’s dental needs. Give us a call today!