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Frequently Asked Questions about Oral Health for Babies and Children

May 2, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about Oral Health for Babies and ChildrenBeing a new parent can be overwhelming to say the least. There’s so much to think about in order to keep your child healthy and safe. Our pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center are here to help you learn one step at a time. Even though dental hygiene is part of an adult’s daily routine, it’s easy to overlook or underestimate it when it comes to young children, and a child’s oral health has its own unique set of guidelines. To bring you up to speed, we’ve answered some of the most common questions parents ask about their children’s oral health.

At what age should I start brushing my child’s teeth?

There are varying recommendations about when you should start brushing your teeth, so when you visit one of our board-certified pediatricians for your baby’s early well-child visits, we can discuss your infant’s risk factors for tooth decay and help you determine when to start brushing his/her teeth gently. When it’s time, you should start by brushing your child’s teeth for them, then gradually having them take on more and more of the responsibility (while you supervise to correct any mistakes they might make). Kids are generally able to brush effectively on their own by around age 6, but every child matures at his or her own pace, so simply keep an eye on how well your child brushes in order to judge when he/she is ready to do it on his/her own.

What foods should my child avoid to reduce tooth decay?

Tooth decay happens when certain bacteria in the mouth convert sugar to an acid that degrades the teeth. So, put simply, offering healthy childhood nutrition by minimizing the amount of sugar in your children’s diet (even natural sugars) will lower their risk for childhood cavities. Be particularly cautious with sugary foods that tend to stick to the grooves in teeth, like raisins, gum, and caramel. On the flip side, try to also provide food and drinks that are high in tooth-healthy nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

If “baby teeth” fall out anyway, does it really matter if they get cavities?

It’s a common misconception that the health of your child’s baby teeth isn’t important because they’re temporary, but the fact is that tooth decay in these teeth can have both long-term and short-term effects. It can impact the health of your child’s “adult teeth” and make him or her more likely to have more cavities later in life. But even in the short term, cavities can be painful for your child, and what begins as mild tooth decay can worsen and even cause a dangerous infection. By getting started with good dental hygiene early, you can give your child a head start to a life of healthier, more comfortable teeth.

Is fluoride safe for young children?

Fluoride, a chemical that many cities add to their drinking water, makes the teeth stronger and more resistant to decay. For young children and adults alike, it’s a healthy addition that can help to minimize dental problems. The only issue to keep an eye out for is fluorosis: a cosmetic condition that can develop in the “baby teeth” in children who are using too much fluoride. Fluorosis causes white or brown marks on your child’s teeth, and while it’s not dangerous, it’s a signal that you can cut down on the amount of fluoride your child is using.

When should I take my child to see a dentist?

For most of our patients, we recommend that children have their first dental visit when they’re three years of age. But our pediatricians will also evaluate your child’s teeth during their well child visits, and will let you know if your child should start going to a dentist earlier.

How do I know if my child has tooth decay?

Spotting early cavities can be challenging, especially on your child’s tiny teeth. During your regular well child exams at Children’s Wellness Center, we’ll examine your child’s teeth for any identifiable tooth decay.

What type of toothpaste and toothbrush should I use for my child?

Look for a toothbrush that is designed for your child’s age group (these usually have softer bristles and are small enough to fit a child’s mouth). As far as toothpaste goes, be sure to choose one that contains fluoride, and use small amounts based on your child’s age. For children under age three, only use a drop of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. From age three until your child is able to properly rinse and spit, use a pea-sized amount. Once your child can rinse and spit, he/she can use a normal amount of toothpaste.

As small as a child’s teeth may be, they can have a strong impact on his or her health and comfort both today and for years to come, and as a parent, there is plenty you can do to keep your child healthy and happy. To discuss your child’s oral health in more detail, schedule an appointment using our online patient portal. Or, for more health and safety tips as well as the latest news in pediatrics, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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