By Heather Hradek, DDS, FAGD
Being a first time parent isn’t easy. There’s so much to learn about… well, pretty much everything. As a parent of two young children of my own, I get it. I’m still learning everyday about what’s best for my kiddos to make sure they grow up healthy and strong. Even as a dentist, I’ve learned more about pediatric teeth since my kids have come along so I want to share so you can make sure your kids have healthy smiles!
Try to develop good hygiene habits early on, brushing twice a day with your child using a fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoridated toothpaste is important to help protect against cavities, particularly in the snack-based culture our kids are growing up in where they get a snack for every outing. Fluoride helps to rebuild teeth when cavities start to break them down. For children 2 and under, use a rice-sized amount. For over 2, use a pea sized amount. When you can trust that your child will spit, you can start to incorporate a fluoride mouthrinse. When back teeth start to touch, around age 3, start to incorporate flossing to prevent cavities in between teeth. We use disposable floss tools to help get flossing done quickly to minimize of them biting my fingers. There are various kids flossers such as Dino flossers or bright colors to make the job more fun. If there are big spaces between the teeth, a good brushing will suffice to help keep those areas clean.
It’s important to help your child brush to make sure they are learning properly as well. As they get older, they will obviously want to do it by themselves, but I tell my daughter I have to make sure she chased all the sugar bugs out, so I get the chance to brush too. They are old enough to brush by themselves usually by age 6, when they have the manual dexterity to write properly, but I would recommend continuing to monitor them doing to make sure they’ve got the technique down.
For younger children that fight the whole process in general, I recommend trying to make it a game with them. I would pretend to ‘see a sugar bug’ and chase it all around their mouth trying to chase it out.
Electric or rotary toothbrushes are an option for kids and technically will provide more thorough cleaning, but in general, it all depends on what your child is going to use the most. If you decide to go the electric route, spring for the higher end Sonicare or Oral B options as they do clean more thoroughly than the battery operated sold in grocery stores. The other nice thing about the electric brushes is they have a built in timer which helps to develop good habits to make sure we are all brushing long enough! 99.9% of kids (and adults) do not brush for the prescribed two minutes. You never realized how long two minutes was until you have a toothbrush timer holding you accountable!
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child’s first dental visit by 1 year old or 6 months after the first baby tooth erupts, so we are ready to see your child any time after that! At that visit, we will complete a lap to lap exam to evaluate their dental development and discuss diet, hygiene, and any questions you may have. We will also apply a topical fluoride varnish as well, which helps continue to protect teeth against cavities for up to 21 days afterwards! Even our local pediatrician has started applying fluoride varnishes at their ‘Well visits’ to help protect against cavities so even the medical doctors approve of their cavity protecting abilities!
Last of all, baby teeth matter! These teeth can’t be thought of just as the training pair. It’s important to care for your child’s teeth like your own because even though, yes, they will fall out eventually, these baby teeth are help with the growth and development of the jaws, maintaining space for those eventual permanent teeth. Because these teeth are smaller, the enamel is thinner so unfortunately cavities can grow very quickly. We try to treat cavities early, while they are small so as to minimize your child’s discomfort and make it more easy to maintain those teeth until it’s time for them to come out naturally. Untreated cavities can lead to scary abscesses and infections which can affect the development of the permanent teeth, but also can impact your child’s overall health. I talk more about this in my previous blog post if you want to read more here:
Chesterton Family Dental is the general dental office of Dr. Mystie Pieters, Dr. Heather Hradek, and Dr. Robert Pieters providing comprehensive dental care for the entire family.