Caring for Your child’s teeth

Caring for your child’s teeth is an important aspect of caring for your child. Children are developing cavities at younger and younger ages because of the foods that they eat and poor dental care. Doing one more task before bed or when they get up in the morning can sometimes feel like climbing a mountain to a parent.

But, it is the parent’s responsibility to teach the child how to care for his teeth in the best way possible so they are not faced with cavities, fillings, gum disease and bone loss by the time they are teens.

Caring for your child’s teeth includes dental visits as well. The first dental office visit should be when your dentist suggests. There are some experts who recommend the first visit around 2 years and others recommend a visit before the first tooth comes in. Just as with older children who are loosing their baby teeth and their adult teeth are already formed in the mouth – but not erupted – babies also have teeth located within the soft tissue of the mouth. The teeth begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. For this reason some dentists like to do an overall evaluation of the mouth and structure before the first teeth come in.

The first several dental visits are usually done with the child in the parents lap so the child gets used to having a stranger hovering over their face with their mouth wide open. The dentist will be able to look for early signs of decay and will give parents tips about brushing, eating at bedtime and when to begin flossing.

The American Dental Association recommends that you begin flossing your child’s teeth when there are two teeth touching. Your dentist can help you with the proper technique since although you may be well versed in flossing your own teeth, flossing teeth of someone else requires a different degree of dexterity.

Caring for your child’s teeth begins in infancy. Even before a tooth erupts you can use a damp wash cloth and run it over the gum line at night to prevent the buildup of damaging bacteria. Once a few teeth have come through you can use a soft toothbrush at the end of the day.

Even young children can develop cavities and problems with decay because of poor feeding habits. Some children enjoy going to bed with a bottle for comfort – but as parents we are the ones who develop that habit. Unfortunately there is a term that is used for children who develop decay in specific areas around their mouth as a result of sleeping with a bath of bacteria up against their teeth. Dentist call the condition – bottle mouth. The sugars from the milk or juice will eat away at the enamel and feed the bacteria that normally lives in the mouth. If you have to put your child to bed with a bottle then make it water.

Many people wait too long before caring for their child’s teeth. Teeth seem to be an easy thing to over look when parents are struggling with time management, dinner, jobs, potty training, and grocery shopping. It’s only one more thing on the list of things to do. Unfortunately, when you wait too long it’s more difficult for the child to develop the habit of brushing his teeth well or tolerate flossing. It then takes a bit more time and energy on the part of the parent to engrain these habits into their daily schedule.

It’s good to get into the habit of wiping down an infants gums after drinking from a bottle or eating foods. Once an infant has teeth come through their gums it’s time to start brushing twice a day – once in the morning and once at night.

Caring for your child’s teeth also includes being evaluated for treatment by an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a specialized dentist who deals with the placement and manipulation of braces and appliances. Children can begin to wear some appliances as early as 7 or 8, which may help to prevent or decrease the use of second stage braces when they are teens.

Your dentist may also recommend fluoride treatments, which they will tell you will prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is a process that works only topically. Many communities have put fluoride into their water supply with the intention of helping to strengthen the teeth of their residents. The use of fluoride is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. Do your research and determine if the risks of using fluoride in yourself and your child are worth the benefits.
RESOURCES

KidsHealth: Keeping Your Child’s Teeth Healhy
http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/teeth/healthy.html

Healthfinder: Take Care of Your Child’s Teeth
http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/parenting/doctor-visits/take-care-of-your-childs-teeth
Cleveland Clinic: Caring for Your Child’s Teeth
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/dental_care/hic_caring_for_your_childs_teeth.aspx
American Dental Association: Parents
http://www.ada.org/2844.aspx
American Family Physician: Taking Care of Your Child’s Teeth
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0101/p123.html

NHS: How can i look after my child’s teeth
http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/2366.aspx?CategoryID=74&SubCategoryID=741
HealthyChildren: First steps to a healthy smile
http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/oral-health/Pages/First-Steps-to-a-Healthy-Smile.aspx

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