Parents play a vital role in their kids oral health. Healthy oral health habits start early. A food family health plan includes getting the dental care each member of the family needs. The American Dental Academy suggests that children see a dentist as soon as their first set of teeth come in, but there are things that you should be doing before those first set of pearly whites make their debut.
Until your child is old enough to manage effective brushing techniques on their own, they are dependent on you to help them manage their oral health. By the time your child gets into daycare and preschool, they should have a good understanding of how to brush their own teeth.
There are tips that you can follow for every stage of your child’s development to help them care for their teeth and enjoy good oral health. Managing your kids oral health is as important as managing their physical health. Follow these tips at every stage to help your child have a healthy smile they deserve.
Birth to A Year Old
Teeth develop while the baby is still in the womb, assuming mom is getting all the right nutrients can help to give you baby a head start in life. You can order calcium supplements online for mom, and for the baby later down the road to make sure that vital building block of teeth is being consumed.
Babies are born with about 20 primary teeth waiting to erupt through the gums. Keeping the gums clean before the teeth show up is important. Use a soft damp cloth to wipe the gums off in infants. At this early stage of development, it is important that you:
- Do not allow baby to sleep with a bottle in their mouth
- Do not provide any type of fruit juice other than while the baby is upright at meal times
- Do not clean baby’s pacifier, or bottle nipple by using your own mouth. Dental disease is a transmittable disease
Nursing bottle mouth is a syndrome that causes decay on newly erupted teeth. It is caused by an infant sleeping with a bottle in their mouth. Infant formula, whole milk, and juice are all high in sugar. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar and multiplies which causes cavities in tender young teeth. Make it a habit to prop baby up while they eat and wipe their mouths out with a warm soft rag before they go to sleep.
Around 4-6 months old baby will begin teething. Teething is a period that is marked by discomfort from irritated gums and an increase in saliva production (commonly called drooling). Dealing with a cranky baby because they are uncomfortable is never fun, but there are things you can do to help ease their discomfort.
A wet washcloth that has been chilled in the freezer (not frozen just very cold) can help baby to find some relief from the pains of teething. Enrolling your child in an activity that will take their mind off the teething can also help, baby swim classes are an excellent option. You should use over the counter pain relievers for babies sparingly.
There are commercial products that you can purchase like teething rings that can also help to soothe baby’s sore gums. During the teething period, you should continue to wipe the gums daily with a soft damp cloth.
When the first tooth erupts, you can add a soft-bristled baby toothbrush to your baby’s hygiene routine. Brush gently and do not use toothpaste at this stage.
12 Months Old and the Toddler Stages
By the time baby is 12 months old you should have made your first dentist appointment for baby. Partnering with a dentist that specializes in pediatric dental health at an early age can ensure that your child gets the preventive treatments and early intervention that sets them up for a lifetime of good oral health.
Your baby’s first visit to the dentist will be focused on an evaluation of how healthy their teeth are and will address any concerns. This is a great time to talk to the dentist and the hygienist about ways to help your childcare for their teeth now and in the future.
One of the key benefits to having regularly scheduled dental appointments for your child early on is that they get used to going to the dentist and getting oral health care. By the time your child is school-aged going to the dentist will be a normal part of their health care regime.
We Cannot Talk About Kids Oral Health Without Mentioning Diet
There are two things that affect oral health more than anything else. Diet and oral hygiene. A healthy diet is likely the most vital thing to good oral health. Sugary drinks and snacks are a recipe for disaster for children.
The “sugar bugs” are bacteria that thrive on the sugar in the mouth. They are the cause of decay. When your child consumes a diet that is high in sugar you are feeding the bacteria that cause cavities. Following a healthy diet with regular brushing and flossing is the way to ensure your child does not have to deal with painful dental problems.
Most all healthy tips for families including healthy dental tips for families include the importance of a well-rounded nutritious diet. Here are some eating habits you want your children to develop:
- Drink plenty of water with meals
- Avoid highly acidic foods and beverages
- Eat plenty of crunchy vegetables
- Avoid sugary juice drinks
- Chew sugar free gum
Drinking plenty of water with meals helps to increase saliva production and wash away food particles. Avoiding highly acidic foods can help to preserve the enamel on teeth. Sugar can hide in a wide range of “healthy” options like fruit juices. It is far better to eat the piece of fruit than it is to drink the juice of the fruit.
Crunchy vegetables like carrot sticks and celery can help to remove plaque and debris from the teeth. Sugar-free gum can be chewed after a meal when brushing is not possible.
One of the best ways to ensure your child has the best possible diet for their health and their oral health is to start them off on the right track. You cannot miss what you never had, withholding certain foods and beverages from their diet is not mean, it is necessary.
5-10 Years Old
Most school districts require a dental visit as part of the school health screening process. Some rural districts do the dental screenings themselves with a mobile dental clinic. In either case, the screening can detect any kids oral health problems that are present.
During the elementary school years a lot is happening with your child orally. Kids oral health begins to take on new meaning, as primary teeth are lost and adult or permanent teeth start to show up. Primary teeth play an important role in how permanent teeth develop.
Losing that first tooth typically occurs around the age of 6. Some kids manage the experience well, and look at it as a right of passage, other kids find it upsetting. Typically, a trip to the ice cream shop can make the transition easier. A few cheap family activities built around the milestone can make the next tooth to go less of a problem for even the most apprehensive child.
During this stage of development your dentist may suggest that sealants are applied to your child’s teeth. Sealants can help to protect molars from decay. Your dentist can explain in detail how the process works and whether it is recommended for your kids oral health.
From about the age of 10 to about the age of 13 is when most adult teeth erupt. During this period it is important that children understand the importance of not only brushing but flossing as well. At this stage losing an adult tooth is a hazard associated with many sports.
If your child should lose a permanent tooth due to trauma you may be able to save the tooth. Wrap the tooth in a wet napkin and get your child to pediatric urgent care that offers dental care services. The dentist may be able to reinsert the tooth into the socket to save the tooth.
Every child that plays a team sport should be fitted for a mouthguard to help protect young developing permanent teeth. Whether it is a full contact sport like football or a team sport like baseball a mouthguard should be used to prevent dental trauma.
Your dentist can fit your child for a mouthguard or you can by one over the counter and follow the instructions for a custom fit. Protecting your kids oral health should be a priority.
By age 13 most children have a full set of permanent teeth it is also the age when braces may be a part of the discussion. Braces can help to correct overbites, underbites, and other misalignments. Your dentist may suggest Invisalign braces for older children that do not want to have to contend with metal braces. Most people that are outfitted for braces are between the age of 8-14, and keep the braces on for an average of 2 years.
Braces are a great way to get a perfect smile and more importantly can help to improve kids oral health. Overcrowded misaligned teeth can be difficult to keep clean, and eventually cause other health issues like headaches and jaw pain. Addressing the issue while they are young is a great way to ensure they do not develop uncomfortable issues when they are older.
You have experienced many milestones with your kids oral health from teething to learning how to brush to adult teeth and even in some cases through years of braces, but you are not quite done yet. Between the ages of 17-21 (give or take a year) the wisdom teeth erupt.
Wisdom teeth are called “wisdom teeth” because they come in later in life when the person should be wiser than they were when they were a child. They are technically called the third set of molars. Wisdom teeth do not have a real function. In other words, humans can live comfortably without them. They are thought to be an evolutionary throwback.
Wisdom teeth are the final molars to come in usually in the late teenage years or early twenties. In some cases, these final sets of molars can come in without a problem but in most cases, they do not. Many times, wisdom teeth must be removed.
Often wisdom teeth are misaligned. They are pointing in the wrong direction and become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth push on the teeth around them and can cause the teeth to become overcrowded. In some cases, there is simply not enough room in the mouth for the additional molars.
The pain of having teeth come in as a young adult can be very uncomfortable. Mindful Wellness is an alternative to strong painkillers that may be able to help your child to deal with the pain without unwanted side effects.
Surgery to remove the teeth may be warranted. It is a common procedure that most people come through very successfully. The discomfort is immediately relieved by removing the teeth.
Finally You Are Done
If your child reaches the age of 21 in good oral health, your job is pretty much done. You have done your part to encourage family wellness. A healthy family including a family with good oral health is the ultimate achievement for any parent.
You have an important role in your kids oral health now and in the future.