Nothing is sweeter than a child’s smile. It’s enough to melt a parent’s heart, and make everything—sleepless nights, exhausting days, and the crazy costs of clothes, food and toys—worthwhile.
But this smile also needs a little ‘maintenance.’ If your child doesn’t learn proper dental hygiene or get into the habit of going to the dentist regularly, then he can develop tooth decay and dental caries. Here are some frequently asked questions on caring for your child’s teeth.
1. When should I bring my child to his first visit to the dentist?
The general rule is schedule the first visit by the first birthday. You can also bring your child by the time the first tooth appears, which usually occurs between 6 to 12 months of age.
Many parents wonder why a baby should see a dentist at so early an age. The main reason is a practical prevention program. Because dental problems can begin very early, it’s best to catch these problems beforehand. Believe it or not, babies are at risk of developing tooth problems, primarily because of baby bottle tooth decay (which happens when he continuously sucks on a bottle filled with milk or juice at night or during naps). Studies alsoshow that nearly half of all children between ages two and three have at least a mild inflammation of gum tissues.
2. How often should my child see a dentist?
Twice a year is best, although some kids need more frequent visits due to increased risk of decay, poor oral hygiene and unusual growth patterns. Regular visits help keep your child cavity-free, since regular teeth cleanings remove debris build up, which lead to decay. Flouride treatments also renew the enamel’s fluoride content, which will strengthen teeth and prevent cavities as well. During these visits, your dentist should impart hygiene instructions to improve your child’s brushing and flossing for healthy gums and teeth.
3. Should young children learn to floss?
If your child is aged one to two years old, floss only if you need to remove any food particles stuck in between teeth. Start flossing your child’s teeth regularly when all baby teeth have erupted, usually between ages three to three and a half years old.
4. What kind of toothbrush should my child use?
You can brush your baby’s teeth with a small soft-bristled brush and non-flouridated toothpaste. Flouride toothpastes should be given to kids who already know how to rinse.
Some kids may also enjoy using ‘special’ toothbrushes that light up (some come equipped with a timer: it stops blinking only after two minutes, which is how long they should be brushing their upper and lower teeth).
5. How do I prevent baby bottle tooth decay?
Avoid putting baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or sweetened liquid. Instead, fill the bottle with water. Though he will fuss a bit at the start, he will eventually get used to sucking on just plain water. You may also want to start weaning your child from the bottle by the time he reaches toddlerhood. Teach him how to use sippy cups for juice.
6. What’s the right way to brush baby’s teeth?
Check with a pediatric dentist on how to make sure your child is getting enough fluoride against decay. Finally, brush your baby’s teeth properly. Use a circular scrubbing motion on teeth, clean gums with a gauze or washcloth, an brush the tongue as well.
7. How do I prevent dentist phobia?
It’s very common for children and even adults to develop dentist phobia. You can avoid this by bringing your child to the dentist regularly, so any dental problems can be corrected before they become worse and require painful treatments. You can also bring your child to a pediatric dentist, who is used to allaying fears.