By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert
Good dental health starts when your child is very young and actually even before birth. The development of cavities in primary teeth increases the risk of developing cavities in permanent teeth. Cavities can then lead to infection of the teeth and can result in tooth loss. So what are some ways you can set your child up for a bright dental future and help create healthy habits in the early years?
Let’s take a look at 10 great tips for taking care of your little one’s teeth because it’s never too early to start!
- Begin the habit of daily brushing even before the first tooth erupts. For a child age 3 or younger, fluoride-free toothpaste the size of a grain of rice or water is all that’s needed. Once your child is 3 you can increase the amount of toothpaste to a pea-sized amount and switch to a children’s fluoride toothpaste.
- As soon as your child’s first tooth appears and before your child’s first birthday it’s time to make their first dental visit. This may seem early but a cavity can start to form as soon as a tooth erupts.
- Fluoride is important for protecting enamel and keeping teeth strong. In addition to introducing children’s fluoride toothpaste around age 3 be sure your child is drinking a sufficient amount of fluoridated tap water. The American Dental Association states that drinking water with fluoride can reduce the risk of cavities by 25%! Also, once your child knows how to swish and spit, help them incorporate mouthwash into their daily dental routine.
- As soon as your child has two teeth that touch introduce the habit of flossing. Flossing with a plastic flossing tool is likely the easiest way to assist them until they learn how to floss independently.
- Don’t share utensils with your child or “clean off” their pacifier by putting it in your mouth. Cavity-causing bacteria called Streptococcus mutans is passed on from parents to children through saliva. Even blowing on food to cool it down can pass this bacteria from parent to child. This bacteria increases your child’s likelihood of developing cavities in their baby and adult teeth.
- Baby bottle tooth decay – caused by prolonged exposure of your child’s teeth to sugary beverages –is a very real threat to their dental well being. If you must put your child to bed with a bottle opt for fluoridated tap water over a bottle filled with milk or juice.
- Sugar is one of enamel’s biggest enemies. Substitute water with fluoride for juice or other sugary beverage choices. Also, limit your child’s intake of fruit juice to 4oz. a day to minimize exposure to sugar.
- A pacifier certainly has its place but try and wean your child off of it before the age of 2. Long-term pacifier use can cause crooked teeth and a misshapen palate. We now know that a narrow or vaulted palate due to thumb sucking or pacifier use will cause airway complications throughout childhood and often into adulthood.
- It’s ok to incentivize good dental hygiene! Invest in a toothbrush for your child that flashes or plays music, create a star chart or give your child a sticker each time they brush. Also, many parents find that brushing with their child is motivation enough to ensure compliance.
- Head it off at the pass and assist or encourage your child to brush, floss and rinse early in the evening – perhaps right after dinner – to avoid bedtime resistance and meltdown.
If you would like to discuss how to implement good dental habits with your child we would love to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us at Eggert Family Dentistry!