Many parents find it challenging to determine the appropriate level of dental care their children require. While the desire is to prevent cavities, the optimal methods for achieving this goal may sometimes take work. Adequate dental care should commence even before a baby’s first tooth emerges. It’s important to note that teeth start forming in the second trimester of pregnancy, and by birth, a baby already has 20 primary teeth, some of which come fully developed in the jaw.
Despite their invisibility, babies can experience tooth decay, mainly if they fall asleep with a bottle, as the sugars from juice, formula, or milk can linger on their teeth for extended periods, eroding the enamel and leading to conditions like “bottle mouth” or “baby bottle tooth decay.” In severe cases, this can result in discolored, pocked, and pitted front teeth, possibly necessitating tooth extraction due to cavities. Parents must proactively ensure proper dental hygiene for their children from the earliest stages of life.
Good Guidelines to Follow
When children reach six months of age, transitioning from a bottle to a sippy cup (with a straw or hard spout) is recommended to prevent liquid pooling around their teeth. By their first birthday, most children will have acquired the motor skills and coordination to use the cup independently. Following these dental care practices from an early age contributes to the development of good oral hygiene habits and promotes the long-term health of your child’s teeth:
- Before Teething – Even before your baby’s first teeth emerge, maintain oral hygiene by gently wiping their gums with a clean, damp washcloth to eliminate harmful bacteria.
- Teething Phase – Once your baby’s teeth appear, brush an infant toothbrush with water and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (equivalent to a grain of rice). Ensure the toothpaste has the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. If using fluoride-free baby toothpaste, maintain the same minimal amount to minimize the risk of swallowing.
- When Teeth Touch – When two of your baby’s teeth touch, floss between them to maintain proper oral hygiene.
- Around Age 2 – Teach your child to spit while brushing. Avoid providing water for swishing and spitting, as it may increase the likelihood of swallowing toothpaste.
- Ages 3 and Up – Children three and older should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. It’s crucial to supervise kids under eight during brushing to prevent the ingestion of toothpaste.
How Often to Visit
Typically, we advise that children have regular dental checkups at least twice a year, spaced around every six months. This regularity ensures that the pediatric dentist can offer the following:
- Consistent Dental Care – A continuous and reliable schedule for dental care.
- Comprehensive Dental Examination – A thorough assessment of all aspects of dental health.
- Thorough Cleaning – A comprehensive cleaning to remove plaque and maintain oral hygiene.
- Fluoride Treatment – Application of fluoride to strengthen teeth and prevent decay.
- Occasional X-ray – Periodic X-rays to detect any underlying issues not visible during a routine examination.
Even if your child’s dental checkup appears trouble-free and everything seems fine, extending the next appointment to a 12-month interval is not advisable. Skipping a session may mean an entire year without a comprehensive checkup, potentially allowing essential dental hygiene concerns, such as hidden tooth decay, concealed cavities, or unnoticed inflammation, to go unnoticed.
These biannual checkups offer a valuable opportunity for your dentist to evaluate the efficacy of your child’s brushing habits. Are they brushing too vigorously or inadequately? Are there any elusive cavities that may go unnoticed? Do not interpret a clean bill of health following a checkup as a reason to decrease dental visits; instead, it underscores the importance of maintaining regular appointments. The consistent cleaning and fluoride treatment regimen protects your child’s dental health, preventing issues from emerging unnoticed.
Caring 4 Smiles Dental Group is a team of modern and friendly dentists located in the heart of Epsom that take pride in offering the highest quality dental care at affordable prices in a modern and friendly clinic.