Proper dental care can be a confusing subject for parents, but at Paramount Dental, we are determined to make it a simple and painless process for you and your family. Dr. Tam Nguyen, one of the highly-rated dentists in Round Rock, has compiled some of the most common questions we get from our patients with children and created a great kid’s guide to toothbrushing and dental care.
1. When will my baby’s first teeth come in?
Teeth begin forming before birth. Most infants get their first tooth eruption at about 6 months old. It’s not unheard of for this to occur as late as 12 months old however. They almost always appear in the following order.
- Central incisor (front two upper and bottom teeth): 6-12 months
- Lateral incisor (the two teeth flanking the upper and bottom front two teeth): 9-16 months
- Canines (pointy teeth in the upper jaw): 16-23 months
- First molars (upper and bottom back teeth): 13-19 months
- Second molars (upper and bottom back teeth): 22-33 months
2. How important are “Baby Teeth?”
Primary teeth are fundamental! As little as 15 years the accepted adage was, don’t worry, they’re only baby teeth. Many of us grew up with that belief and it’s still prevalent. What you may not know is primary teeth are not just for chewing, they are actually place holders for adult teeth. If a child loses a primary tooth before nature says it’s time the permanent teeth can migrate into the space left behind. This is a major cause of crooked or crowded adult teeth. Don’t assume that because you had crooked teeth your child will as well. It’s just possible you lost a baby tooth or too at too young an age. Take care of those baby teeth and your child may well be able to avoid, or minimize future orthodontics.
3. How do I care for my baby’s new teeth?
Start before the first teeth even emerge by caring for your baby’s gums. After each feeding, use a piece of damp gauze to gently wipe your baby’s gums. Not only is this healthy and keeps bacteria from growing in baby’s mouth, but it gets your child accustomed to having your fingers in his mouth. Be sure you’re comfortable and relaxed and smile at baby so she knows this is fun. Even young babies pick up on stress.
Once that first tooth emerges, switch to a soft damp washcloth. Put the smallest amount of fluoride toothpaste possible, (about the size of a grain of rice) on the cloth and wipe rub it across baby’s teeth, front and back. Do this twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. This is the age where Baby bottle decay is a danger. It occurs primarily on the back side of the front teeth, where the nipple sits. To help avoid this clean your baby’s new teeth regularly and don’t put him to sleep at night with a bottle.
4. When should I switch to a toothbrush?
Dentists have different opinions for different reasons so ask your dental professional first. Most say switching at about 2 to 3 years, after the first molars come in but before the second molars come through. Use a toddler toothbrush because the bristles are the softest available. You don’t want to scratch those precious gums.
Place a very small amount (about the size of a pea) of fluoride toothpaste possible on the brush. Have your child open wide and start with the rear teeth, the ones where decay is most likely to start in children past the baby bottle stage. You can sing or count or make funny faces. Anything that will keep your child happy and relaxed will make the tooth brushing routine fun and something they look forward to. There are a wide variety of toothpastes for children on the market. It may take a couple tries, but find one your child likes. When they get a little older let them pick their own brush and paste.
Once your child is 6 or 7 years old, you can turn the toothbrush over to them. Continue to supervise to be sure they get those back teeth clean. You might even use this time to brush with your child. Call off the parts of the teeth you’re brushing and say when it’s time to switch sides. Let them inspect your teeth, and you inspect theirs. Make this fun and your child will look forward to the ritual and so will you.
5. When should I make my child’s first dental appointment?
The American Dental Association recommends making your first appointment with the dentist as soon as that first tooth comes through, but no later than age 1. This appointment serves multiple purposes. First it introduces your baby to the dentist as a regular and fun part of their life. Second it lets the dentist examine your child for signs of early decay, jaw and tooth development. Third your child will get his first “special” tooth cleaning. Your dentist will discuss any issues he finds and talk about fluoride and can offer many tips to help you care for your child’s teeth.
Each time you visit the dentist with your child be sure to remind him of what’s going to happen so he knows what to expect and is less anxious. If you have your own dental anxieties keep them to yourself. Try to make the appointment early in the day when your child is well rested so she will be more cooperative and less cranky. Don’t underestimate the importance of early dental visits. Let your dentist be your partner in building good health habits that will last a lifetime.
6. What about fluoride?
Enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth and protects the tooth from decay and cavities. It is the hardest substance in the body. Fluoride, a naturally occurring substance, can strengthen tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. Some sources of fluoride that help prevent cavities are fluoridated drinking water, fluoride-containing toothpastes and fluoride mouthwashes. People have many opinions on fluoridated water and some don’t want their children to drink it, however fluoride is in some form or another is one of the best things you can do for your child’s teeth. Talk to your dental professional or physician about this subject. They may recommend or prescribe additional fluoride treatments for your child’s dental health. Be sure to follow his/her instructions. Too much fluoride can change the structure of tooth enamel, resulting in discoloration.
7. What about diet and nutrition?
Everyone knows that candy and sweets are detrimental to a child’s dental and physical health. Numerous studies point to so many hidden sugars in our foods that it may seem difficult to keep tooth decay at bay. Don’t despair, just remember that the same rules that apply to you apply to your child. Lots of vegetables and fruits. Easy on the carbohydrates. Apples, carrot sticks and low-fat yogurt and cheese makes a better snack than crackers. In fact crackers are very bad for your children’s teeth, particularly saltine crackers, so avoid them whenever possible. Like everything else, if you start your children early with a good diet they won’t develop that sugar addiction that will follow them into adulthood. Healthy body, healthy teeth.
Teaching your child good dental hygiene at an early age will make both your lives easier. You won’t have to fight with your child to brush their teeth once they get older, they won’t look at the dentist as the enemy and most importantly you will send them into adulthood with a beautiful smile and good health, and that’s the gift that keeps on giving.