February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and we are fortunate to have Natalie Rogers, DDS contributing all month long to help parents and caregivers protect their children’s smiles as they grow.
Raising a child is a daunting task. With so many decisions to make and feel uncertain about, don’t let oral health be one of them! Just follow these simple steps to ensure you are doing the best you can to ensure their teeth are cared for properly.
For most infants, the first tooth erupts at around 7 months. Irrespective of when that first tooth comes for your child, caring for their teeth starts at this very moment. Brushing should occur on a daily basis eventually increasing to 2 minutes of brushing, 2 times per day by the time your child has their full set of “baby” teeth, around 2 years of age.
Selecting a Toothbrush
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There are many different toothbrushes available on the market. When selecting one for your child keep two things in mind: soft bristle and an age appropriate brush. Despite popular belief, soft bristles clean teeth as well as hard bristles, without causing damage the surrounding gum tissue. Toothbrushes for children are often designed to best fit not only your child’s mouth, but also their grasp.
Using the appropriate brush will make cleaning the teeth easier by being sized for which teeth are in their mouth as well as the actual size of their mouth and jaw. This little detail can make a huge difference in the ease and quality of cleaning. Keep in mind, especially early on, a brush isn’t always necessary. Feel free to use a tissue or gauze. Some parents find great ease in silicone fingertip brushes as well. Whatever you can use to clean the teeth will do a great job.
Many children show interest in brushing on their own around 2 years old. This is fantastic! A child should be encouraged to do so. But do keep in mind, most children do not have the manual dexterity to properly clean their teeth until they are about 8 years old. That means after they give it a go, you should grab the brush and finish the job properly.
Technically, flossing isn’t necessary until there is contact between teeth, but it is never too early to teach ideal habits to kids. Get the routine started when they are still learning and enthusiastic about the process. Flossers work great and are much easier to use in your child’s mouth. They are usually able to do this on their own by 8 years as well.
Selecting a Toothpaste
Toothpaste with fluoride is always best, but not before 2 years of age. Excessive ingestion of fluoride can cause problems with their teeth in the future. Early on, you should use a fluoride-free training toothpaste. Begin transitioning to a fluoridated paste after 2 years, but just wet the bristles with paste until your child can consistently spit and not swallow the paste. This way you can avoid the excess intake of fluoride.
Visiting the Dentist
The American Dental Association recommends your child starts visiting the dentist within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth. These early visits are a perfect opportunity to create happy, easy experiences to help your child acclimate to the dentist, while also serving as a screening for oral hygiene, dietary habits and specific behaviors that can negatively impact long term health goals.
For more information on Dr. Rogers and Queen City Dental see our recent Mom of the Week article on her http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/health-family/moms/article34320306.html or visit her website at http://www.queencitydental.net/.