Raising a child is filled with a lot of firsts. First steps. First words. But what about their first tooth? How do you start your child down a lifelong path of good dental health?
Don’t feel bad if you’re unsure how to properly care for your child’s teeth. Even the best parents often have many questions about proper dental care for their children. Here’s a closer look at dental care for children, including the correct way to brush their teeth and how to spot potential problems.
Setting Your Child Up for Dental Success
Babies and toddlers can’t tell you directly when they have mouth pain. You’ll need to keep an eye out for any facial swelling or signs of discomfort. You’ll also want to work closely with a dentist. Choose a child-friendly dental practice with experience putting young patients at ease.
Generally, children should visit a dentist either around their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth. The first visit is usually just a simple exam where the child is introduced to the dentist, and the parent is presented with general information about tooth development and oral health.
At-Home Dental Care for Children
An oral hygiene routine starts before your child’s first tooth appears. Keeping their mouth clean helps prevent bacteria from developing on gums and surrounding tissue. Aside from helping to clear away bacteria, regular mouth cleanings also help your baby grow up feeling comfortable with the basics of oral care.
To clean your baby’s mouth, dampen a soft washcloth with warm water. Then gently rub the cloth across the gums and cheeks. Cleanings should be done after every meal and before bedtime.
After the First Tooth Appears
Congratulations! Your child’s first tooth has emerged above the gum line. Now you want to keep that tooth healthy. Instead of a washcloth, you should now start using a toothbrush. Choose a brush with soft bristles, a small head and a large handle.
Your dentist will help you select the best type of children’s toothpaste. Generally, toothpaste created for kids has a milder taste. Don’t use too much. A drop about the size of a grain of rice is the perfect size. When brushing, gently cover every side of every visible tooth.
As More Teeth Come In
As your child grows, more teeth will come in. Continue with regular visits to the dentist’s office. Your dentist will watch the development of new teeth closely.
You’ll want to help reinforce good dental habits at home, too. Generally, children around the age of three can start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Most three-year-olds still need help brushing, but you want them to become familiar with the routine of daily dental care.
When your child is able to write, they’re probably also ready to brush their teeth on their own. Just make sure they have enough dexterity to brush the front and back of every tooth. You’ll want to supervise until brushing consistency is achieved.
At the same time, encourage your child to take care of their own teeth independently. When developed early, good dental habits can easily last a lifetime. Oral health education is an important tool in preventing a huge range of dental problems.
Beyond Brushing: Flossing and Mouthwash
You can begin flossing as soon as your child has two teeth which touch. Generally flossing requires a bit more dexterity than brushing, so you might need to floss your child’s teeth for a while even after they can brush on their own. Flossing can be a difficult habit to develop as an adult, but children who floss are likely to stick with it for a lifetime.
Mouthwash also helps keep teeth clean and healthy. You only want to give children mouthwash when they’re old enough to safely swirl it around without swallowing. Generally, most children are able to floss around the age of six.
Warning Signs of Dental Problems
Even as your child becomes more independent in their dental care, you still want to keep a close eye on their teeth. Watch out for white, brown or dark spots. They can be signs daily brushing isn’t as thorough as it needs to be.
Red, bleeding gums are another warning sign. Your child might be developing gum disease. In other cases, irritated gums could be a sign your child is brushing too hard.
Saving Money on Dental Appointments
Raising a child certainly isn’t cheap. The good news is that regular visits to the dentist will help prevent most dental problems. Prevention is always simpler and less expensive than treating issues which have been allowed to develop over time.
If you’re looking for an additional way to save at the dentist’s office, consider a dental discount plan. This is a membership plan which provides discounts of 15% to 50% on many dental services at over 100,000 participating dentists. As a member of a dental savings plan, you can save on a wide variety of procedures for your child year after year.
Teaching proper dental care to your child is a great way to set them up for a lifetime of good oral health. Developing dental habits early helps ensure their future, and their smile, will always be bright.