Care of Your Child’s Teeth
Begin daily brushing as soon as the child’s first tooth erupts. A pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used after the child is old enough not to swallow it. By age 4 or 5, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with supervision until around age 7 to make sure they are doing a thorough job. However, each child is different. Our dentists and dental hygienists can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly.
Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces. When teaching a child to brush, place the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle; start along gum line with a soft bristle brush in a circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.
Flossing removes plaque between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. You should floss the childs teeth until he or she can do it alone using either traditional floss or the newer flossers with handles. If using traditional floss, use about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss lightly between the thumbs and forefingers. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this procedure on each tooth. Dont forget the backs of the last four teeth.
Good Diet = Healthy Teeth
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Many snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chances of tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy, chewing gum, and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese which are healthier and better for childrens teeth. Also, when gum chewing is allowed, always pick a sugar-free gum.
How Do I Prevent Cavities?
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. See “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay” for more information.
For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, and limit the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends six month visits to the pediatric dentist beginning at your childs first birthday. Here at Webster Pediatric Dentistry, infant exams are recommended at any time parents have questions or concerns. We recommend dental cleanings be started at around three years of age depending on the maturity of the child. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health. Your pediatric dentist may also recommend protective sealants or a daily fluoride rinse for your child. Sealants can be applied to your childs molar teeth where deep grooves are more prone to decay. Daily fluoride rinses also help to prevent decay.
Seal Out Decay
A sealant is a clear plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the molar teeth, where four out of five cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth. Sealants are usually recommended for the six year and twelve year molars, which are permanent teeth.
Fluoride is a substance which has been shown to be beneficial to teeth. The correct amount of fluoride will strengthen the teeth and decrease the chance of decay. However, excessive fluoride ingestion by preschool aged children can lead to dental fluorosis. This condition is identified as a chalky white to brown discoloration of the permanent teeth. Many children often get more fluoride than parents realize. Being aware of potential sources of fluoride can help prevent the possibility of dental fluorosis.
Some of these sources are:
- Too much fluoridated toothpaste at an early age.
- The inappropriate use of fluoride supplements.
- Hidden sources of fluoride in the child’s diet.
Two and three year olds may not be able to expectorate (spit out) fluoride-containing toothpaste when brushing. As a result, these youngsters may ingest an excessive amount of fluoride during tooth brushing. Toothpaste ingestion during this critical period of permanent tooth development is the greatest risk factor in the development of fluorosis.
Excessive and inappropriate intake of fluoride supplements may also contribute to fluorosis. Fluoride drops and tablets, as well as fluoride fortified vitamins should not be given to infants younger than six months of age. After that time, fluoride supplements should only be given to children after all of the sources of ingested fluoride have been accounted for and upon the recommendation of your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
Certain foods contain high levels of fluoride, especially powdered concentrate infant formula, soy-based infant formula, infant dry cereals, creamed spinach, and infant chicken products. Please read the label or contact the manufacturer. Some beverages also contain high levels of fluoride, especially decaffeinated teas, white grape juices, and juice drinks manufactured in fluoridated cities.
Parents can take the following steps to decrease the risk of fluorosis in their children’s teeth:
- Use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste for young children who are unable to spit.
- Place only a pea-sized drop of fluoridated toothpaste once they get to age 2 and can spit.
- Account for all of the sources of ingested fluoride before requesting fluoride supplements from your child’s physician or pediatric dentist.
- Avoid giving any fluoride-containing supplements to infants until they are at least 6 months old.
- Obtain fluoride level test results for your drinking water before giving fluoride supplements to your child (check with local water utilities).
When a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your childs smile, and should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.
Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.
Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.