Dental care should begin within days after birth by wiping the baby’s gums with a damp washcloth or gauze after each feeding.
A child’s first dental visit should occur 6 months after the first tooth erupts from the gums or by age one. Regular cleanings and exams for your child should begin by age 3 and are recommended for every 6 months by the American Dental Association.
Pediatric dental disease is the nation’s #1 chronic childhood illness and can lead to difficulties in eating, sleeping, speaking and learning in children. Baby teeth are important as your child grows to help your child chew food, form words and speak clearly, leave space for permanent teeth and maintain the shape of your child’s mouth and face as they grow. When a primary tooth is lost too early it can cause teeth to shift and not leave enough room for permanent teeth to grow. This can lead to crooked teeth or an uneven bite. This is why it is so important to begin habits for a healthy smile at an early age.
Baby’s First Teeth
A baby’s first tooth usually appears between 6 and 12 months of age. Some babies may experience tender gums while teething. Gently massaging the gums with wet gauze or giving the child a clean teething ring may help sooth soreness.
Contrary to common belief, it is not normal for a teething baby to experience a fever. If a fever is present during teething, please call a physician.
Decay can begin as soon as your baby’s teeth appear so daily brushing should begin when the first tooth erupts the gums. Parents should use an infant sized toothbrush with soft bristles and water to brush twice a day until the child reaches 2 years of age.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is one of the most common forms of tooth decay in young children. This is caused by frequent and prolonged tooth exposure to the sugars found in formula, milk and juices.
Here are some tips to help prevent baby bottle tooth decay:
- Do NOT put your child to bed with a bottle of formula, milk or juice. If you must put them to bed with a bottle, use just plain water instead.
- Stop nursing or feeding a bottle when the child is asleep or is no longer actively sucking.
- Start teaching your baby to drink from a cup at around 6 months of age. Stop using a bottle by age 12 to 14 months at the latest.
- Avoid letting your child use a bottle of milk or juice as a pacifier.
- Do NOT dip your child’s pacifier in sugar or honey.
- Continue to care for your baby’s teeth and gums as stated above.
Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers
Thumb sucking or use of a pacifier is normal and does not create a problem unless it continues after the appearance of permanent teeth. Most children give this up on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. If your child still has a sucking habit after the age of 4, please consult your dentist.
A healthy diet is also a major factor in the development of teeth, gums and tissues in the mouth as well as preventing tooth decay in your little one. A wide variety of foods including fruits and vegetables and plenty of calcium is recommended for healthy teeth. Foods high in sugar (candy and cookies), starchy foods (crackers) and sticky foods (raisins and fruit snacks) stay in the mouth longer so they can contribute to tooth decay. Minimize snacking between meals and limit or avoid drinks high in sugar such as fruit juices and soft drinks.
Find out more about healthy diet choices for your child’s smile.
Brushing and Flossing
From birth to the appearance of the first tooth, a babies gums should be wiped down with a soft, wet washcloth or gauze after each feeding.
After the first tooth erupts until around age 2, parents should brush a child’s teeth twice daily using a soft bristled child-sized toothbrush with water.
When a child is old enough not to swallow toothpaste (around age 2), a pea-sized amount should be used when brushing. Swallowing too much toothpaste with fluoride in it can actually harm your child’s teeth. Children usually like to show their independence but until they have developed the necessary coordination, it is important for parents to assist with a minimum of one brushing each day.
By age 4 or 5 until around age 7, your child should be able to brush their own teeth with adult supervision.
Flossing should begin to occur as soon as the gaps between your child’s teeth begin to close. This task is more difficult for young ones to complete effectively so it is important for an adult to assist until your child is able to floss on their own.
Use of a brushing chart like this one from Colgate may help develop healthy brushing habits.
Fluoride is important in making your child’s teeth strong and preventing tooth decay. If the water where you live does not have enough fluoride, your doctor my prescribe fluoride supplements starting around 6 months old. To further help prevent costly tooth decay, we provide professional fluoride treatments for children and adults. Treatments are recommended every 6 months and take just a few minutes to apply.
Sealants provide a clear layer of protection in the pits and fissures of the molars and premolars where chewing occurs. These areas are often difficult to reach with brushing so they have a higher risk of decay. Any at risk primary or permanent teeth that your dentist recommends for a sealant should be addressed quickly to help prevent decay from forming.
Malocclusion, or an uneven bite, can occur when teeth are crooked, out of alignment or if the jaws don’t meet properly. This usually becomes evident when permanent teeth begin to appear through the teen years. Invisalign Teen is a procedure that uses removable clear plastic trays to slowly align the teeth without the wires and brackets used in traditional braces.
Dr. Brad Holmberg of our office is the area’s top provider for Invisalign Teen. Using the latest technology of the iTero scanner, Dr. Brad is able to determine if your child is a candidate for Invisalign Teen and the length of treatment required, often in just one short visit. In addition, the scan will provide you with a simulated picture of how your child’s smile could appear upon completion in just minutes. The best part is that the iTero scan is done FREE of charge at our Eagle Lake office.
Sports Mouth Guards
Mouth guards are extremely important when a child participates in recreational or organized sports. Mouth guards can help prevent broken teeth as well as injuries to the mouth, face or jaw and can even help prevent concussions. A custom made mouth guard from your dentist office is much more effective in preventing injury than those purchased from a store because it in provides a better fit and is more durable.
Find out more about out Mouth Guards.