Did you know that just because you do not see any teeth in your child’s mouth, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any there? That’s right. A common misconception is that parents do not need to worry about dental hygiene with their little ones, until they actually have visible teeth. This could not be further from the truth. Studies show that tooth substance development begins at just 6 weeks into a pregnancy. At birth a child has 20 primary teeth, some of which are already fully developed in the jaw (http://www.lpch.org). So as you can see, as a parent, you should be concerned with your child’s dental hygiene from the start.
At Home Oral Hygiene
How do we care for our children’s teeth, before they are visible? By simply dampening a clean washcloth and running it over your baby’s gums you can help clean away harmful bacteria. This is a simple bath-time routine that can keep up your baby’s oral hygiene. Once your baby has its first tooth, you can begin brushing with an infant toothbrush with just a tiny smear of toothpaste until age 2. Remember that toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed, and can be harmful if large amounts are ingested, so until your child is old enough to spit, use just a tiny amount.
Even babies can develop tooth decay if eating habits are unhealthy. One helpful hint is to avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle or “sippy cup”. Although this may be an easy way to get them to sleep, it can certainly be damaging to their tiny teeth. The sugars from milk and juices can settle in around the tooth and sit for hours through the night. These sugars eat away at the enamel of the teeth and can create a condition known as bottle mouth. Pocked, pitted, or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Severe cases result in cavities and the need to pull all of the front teeth until the permanent ones grow in (www.mouthhealthy.org).
Once your child is old enough to spit, usually around age 5, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and encourage them to brush their teeth with your direction and supervision. Although they will most likely need your help finishing the job correctly, this gives them a sense of ownership and pride in taking care of their teeth.
When To Begin Visiting The Dentist
Experts recommend that you begin taking your child to the dentist for a routine checkup by their first birthday. The first several visits to the dentist are really to establish the relationship between your child and their dentist. Although these early visits can detect early issues in oral development, the visits primarily serve as opportunities to get your child used to the dentist chair, and also educate you, the parent, on children’s oral hygiene. At the very latest, your child should be in to see the dentist by the age of 2.
Research shows that 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dentalrelated illness (www.childrenshospital.org). Dental care is something that parents must take seriously with their children. Not only can you prevent expensive dental bills down the road, you can prevent disease and even death. Let’s give our kids a great outlook on life with a great smile as well!