Last month was National Children’s Dental Health Month. Sponsored by the American Dental Association, the goal of National Children’s Dental Health Month is to promote good oral care habits and remind people of the importance of taking care of their mouth and gums, especially from a young age.
If you have a little one at home, now is a great time to review the basics of good dental care, from brushing to seeing a dentist on a regular basis. Get your child in the habit of taking good care of his or her mouth from a young age, to reduce the risk of gum disease, cavities, and other oral problems in the future.
Introduce Your Child to the Dentist
When’s the right time to start scheduling dental visits for your child? The answer is no more than a few months after he or she gets that first tooth, or at the very least, by his or her first birthday. Scheduling a dental visit early on accomplishes two things. First, it gets your child used to the idea of seeing a dentist. If your baby is visiting the dentist from a very young age, the process won’t be too alarming or upsetting when he or she is a bit older and can understand what is going on.
Secondly, seeing a dentist sooner rather than later allows you to know about any issues before they become major concerns. The dentist will check over your baby’s gums and any teeth he or she might have to make sure they are coming in well and that your baby is on track in terms of development.
If your child isn’t one for going to see medical professionals, you might want to use a bit of strategy when scheduling the first few dental appointments. Pick a time when he or she will be rested and not in need of a nap, such as first thing in the morning or right after his or her afternoon nap. Bring along a favorite stuffed animal or toy so that your child can feel a bit more relaxed while waiting for the dentist and while sitting in the chair.
Start Brushing and Flossing
Your child is never too young to have his gums cleaned and once the teeth appear, never too young to have his teeth brushed. Right from the start, use a small piece of gauze to wipe a baby’s gums clean after he or she eats.
When the first tooth does appear, you’ll want to start brushing it with a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste. The recommendation is to use an amount of toothpaste that is about the size of a grain of rice for kids up to age three. Once a child reaches age three, you can increase the amount of toothpaste used to a portion about the size of a pea.
Usually, kids are able to handle brushing their own teeth by about age six. But you’ll still want to make sure your kid is actually brushing regularly and brushing for long enough. Have him or her brush after each meal at home for at least two minutes. Put an egg timer in the bathroom and set it two minutes during each brushing session. If your child is hesitant about brushing, you can try brushing together. Modeling good dental habits can encourage your child to adopt them for him or herself.
Flossing is also something a child needs to do from a young age for the sake of his or her teeth and gums. You can hold off on flossing until your child has two teeth that touch each other. At first, you’ll want to floss for your child, but as he or she gets older, you’ll want to teach him or her to do it. Demonstrating how to floss on your own teeth might be the easiest way to teach your child.
Encourage a Healthy Diet
A good diet is as important for your child’s oral health as it is for his or her overall well-being. One easy way to get your child to eat foods that are great for the teeth from an early age is to only introduce him or her to those foods. Limit candies and crunchy snacks, which contribute to tooth decay or can chip, crack or otherwise damage teeth. Foods such as raw veggies, apples, and cheese are particularly great for your child’s teeth. But, the most important thing is to make sure your child is eating a balanced diet with enough of the nutrients he or she needs for healthy gums and teeth.
In Miami, Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas specialize in treating periodontal disease. They also perform oral surgery and offer sedation dentistry to patients who are nervous about seeing a dentist. They are able to answer any questions you might have about caring for your child’s teeth and gums from a young age. Call (305) 447-1447 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Gallardo and Dr. Lamas.