Starting your child out with good habits and dental care will help to ensure that they have the best chance for a healthy mouth that will last a lifetime. Baby teeth have an important role and beginning to care for your child’s teeth before they erupt should not be overlooked. The first tooth may appear at around 6 months and as soon as it starts to erupt it is at risk for decay. By the time your child reaches his third birthday they will have all 20 of their primary teeth.
Tips for Children's Dental Health
1. To clean your child’s teeth before they fully erupt use a warm washcloth or moist 2 x 2 gauze. After teeth erupt use a child size soft toothbrush. It is okay to use only water when brushing.
2. If you use toothpaste only use a pea-sized amount. I would not recommend using toothpaste until after age 2. Until you feel that your child can brush on their own it is recommended that you brush for them after breakfast and at bedtime.
During the preschool years your child may not want you to help. Make an agreement with them that they can brush first and then they must allow you to take a turn. When you see that their teeth are touching you can begin flossing.
Diet is Important in Preventing Tooth Decay
3. When you put your child to bed only water should be in their bottle. Avoid giving your babies juice in the bottle. The reason for this is that anything other than water will bathe the child’s teeth and cause decay. Do not allow them to walk around holding sippy cups with sugary juice in them. When you put your child to bed only water should be in their bottle.
4. When your child begins school do not pack their lunch boxes with sugary snacks that will stick to their teeth. Besides causing decay they keep your child from being attentive in the classroom. Encourage your child at a young age to eat fruits and vegetables. The younger they are when you introduce them to new healthy foods the more accepting they will be. It often takes several tries with a new food before a child will acquire a taste for something new, so do not give up after the first try with a new vegetable. Be careful of what is on the label.
Schedule a Dental "Happy Visit"
5. Taking your child to the dentist for their first check-up is another important first. At Holistic Family Dentistry we recommend you schedule a “Happy Visit” to acquaint your child with our staff. They will meet their dentist and hygienist, take a ride in the chair, get their teeth checked and begin to establish a level of comfort with our office. This is a brief visit and there is no charge as it is meant to create a positive experience. Some children are anxious and it may take more than one “Happy Visit” before they are comfortable. It is best to schedule your child’s appointment in the morning when they are well rested.
If you are anxious about going to the dentist it is important not to transfer your anxiety to your child. The less you say about the appointment the better. For many adults the first visit they had with a dentist was when they had a cavity and it was not a positive experience. You can start your child out right by taking them to meet their holistic dentist and hygienist early, and start them on good dental habits for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Laurie DeRosa RDH is a Registered Dental Hygienist with the holistic dental team at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, an integrative medicine and dental center serving the Washington DC metro area. Using the latest in dental technology, her goal is to help the dental patient understand the important connection between their oral health and their overall health.