This article is here to help parents understand the important points about their child’s dental care.
When should my child have their first dental visit? It is recommended that a child has the first dental visit some time during the first 12 months. Six months is a great age to start.
When should I start brushing my child’s teeth? As soon as you see the first tooth coming through, brush it! They make special toothbrushes for baby’s that are small and idea for cleaning little mouths. For ages two and below, use a rice grain sized amount of toothpaste. Ages 2-5, use a pea sized amount of toothpaste. If you child has no teeth, use a damp washcloth to clean their gums. During bath time is a great time.
Is it okay for my child to go to bed with a bottle? No! Sending your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice might solve one problem, but it creates another. The risk for decay increases greatly for children that go to bed with a bottle with a sugary liquid in the bottle. Even a watered down juice or milk is still bad and should be avoided at all costs. If your child has the habit already, break it as soon as you can.
My child wants to brush and won’t let me do it? Is that ok? Maybe. Small children do not possess the manual dexterity to brush without help. A good rule of thumb: if a child can tie their own shoes, they can brush their teeth on their own. Before that, it is unlikely they are doing an effective job. Provide assistance to your child during this phase.
When should my child floss? If teeth are touching, they need to be flossed. Many small children don’t have the skills to floss their teeth and need help from an adult. Some small children have large spaces between their teeth and may not need to floss until they are older. Other children have tight, crowded teeth and may need to have their teeth flossed as early as 3 and 4 years old. Ask your dentist if it is appropriate to start flossing your child’s teeth.
When I look in my child’s mouth I don’t see any cavities, should I take them to the dentist? It is highly recommended to do so. During a comprehensive dental exam, necessary x-rays are taken. With x-rays we can detect problems such as cavities between the teeth or extra teeth that can’t be seen otherwise. Cavities between the teeth can’t be seen without x-rays. When they get big enough to be seen without x-rays, they are already very large and could become infected and/or painful.
Does my child need braces? This is a question that is sometimes difficult to answer depending on the child’s age. The best way to monitor this situation is to take your child to see their general or pediatric dentist for a professional opinion. Orthodontists typically won’t do braces on a child unless they are receiving regular checkups and cleanings. Your dentist knows the orthodontists they work with and what times they like to begin treatment on children. Sometimes it is helpful for the parent to take the child to the orthodontist six months or a year before treatment will likely start just to establish an relationship with the doctor and get questions answered.
Is my child cavity prone? If you child hasn’t been seen by a dentist in a long time, they are at high risk for dental caries/cavities. Children with special needs, spots on their teeth, and a family history of decay are also more at risk than those that aren’t. While genes have some influence, diet and hygiene habits are the overwhelming influencing factors in the risk of a child getting a cavity.
The goal of the child’s first visit is to educate the child and the parent to build lifelong habits of good oral health. Prevention is key when it comes to treating children!