Although a baby’s first visit to the dentist should be by his or her first birthday, parents must also be vigilant about their child’s oral health at home. Do not wait until your child has multiple teeth before establishing a routine. At the first emergence of a tooth, parents should keep it clean by gently rubbing it with a terry cloth washcloth or clean piece of gauze once a day. As more teeth grow in, parents may begin to use a soft-bristled baby toothbrush. Most babies that are at least five months old can use the infant toothpastes sold at drugstores.
For young children, remember to never put more than a small smear of toothpaste on the toothbrush, as swallowing too much can be dangerous. If your child is too young to brush his or her teeth independently, it may be helpful to sit behind the child and tilt his or her mouth back toward you so you can see every section of the teeth and gums. The British Dental Health Foundation suggests brushing in small circular movements and focusing on one area at a time. In addition, it is important to remember to brush behind the teeth as well as on the gums.
Although most children ages 4 and older can start brushing their teeth on their own, parents should supervise the routine until at least age 7 to make sure the child is brushing thoroughly. If you have difficulty getting your kids to brush their teeth, try establishing a routine that is consistent and fun. Regular, direct praise can go a long way in encouraging children to keep their teeth clean and healthy. For more information about oral hygiene and young children, talk to a pediatric dentist on your dental plan. He or she can help you find a routine that fits your family and give you advice to keep your children’s smiles sparkling.
If you have a baby approaching 6 months old, you can expect to see signs of teething soon. According to the National Institutes of Health, babies’ teeth first begin to appear when they reach 6 to 8 months old, and continue emerging until the child reaches 2 ½. The first teeth to emerge are generally the two bottom teeth in the front, followed by the child’s two front teeth on top. The NIH recommends that parents watch for the following signs of teething:
- Continuous desire to bite hard objects
- Sensitivity of the gums and swelling
- Difficulty sleeping
- Refusing food
Because the teeth are exerting pressure on their gums, babies who are teething often experience varying levels of discomfort. Parents can help alleviate the pain by gently rubbing the child’s gums with a rubber teething ring or even a cold apple or clean finger. However, parents should never attempt to expose the tooth themselves, as this can lead to infection. Regardless of when your child’s first tooth emerges, remember that babies need to see a dentist by their first birthday. To learn more, schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist through your True Care Advantage membership.
Losing the first baby tooth is a much-anticipated milestone of childhood. Many children are proud to see their “adult teeth” emerge and, as a result, parents can sometimes overlook the importance of their child’s primary – or baby – teeth. Although not permanent, a child’s primary teeth serve many purposes, including saving the appropriate amount of space for each adult tooth.
In their role as placeholders, primary teeth help ensure that adult teeth will have space to grow into and often help them grow straighter than they would without the guidance of other teeth. In addition, primary teeth equip children to consume a wide variety of foods – including meats, vegetables and fruits – that are necessary for proper nutrition.
They also play an important part in speech development as the child learns how to pronounce words and syllables. The interaction of the tongue, teeth and gums is a major factor in learning to speak well. Finally, when properly cared for, baby teeth help instill a good sense of self-esteem in a child. Children with healthy teeth often take pride in their appearance and are motivated to learn personal hygiene skills.
For all of these reasons, it is vitally important to impress upon your children the importance of caring for all of their teeth – primary or adult. For more tips about establishing good dental habits with your children, talk to a dentist on your True Care Advantage plan. He or she will help you start your child on a lifelong path of good oral health.
Even though your baby may have only one or two teeth, it is critical that you start establishing healthy dental practices at a young age. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, once a child begins eating or drinking anything other than breast milk, any teeth above the gums are at risk for decay.
The Academy recommends not allowing a child to fall asleep with a bottle of anything except water and, specifically, avoiding allowing a child to drink juice out of a bottle. In regard to thumb sucking, it is important to take your child to a pediatric dentist if this habit is continued longer than age 3. Long-term thumb sucking can lead to crooked teeth and bite problems, so make sure this habit is ended before any damage can be done. Finally, the Academy recommends starting to clean your baby’s mouth and teeth as soon as possible.
Even if a baby does not yet have any teeth, parents can still use either a soft toothbrush made for infants or a cloth to clean the baby’s gums. Once teeth erupt, parents should use a soft-bristled toothbrush (in an age-appropriate size) to clean the child’s teeth twice a day with a tiny bit of toothpaste. By starting your child on a path of good oral health as an infant, you can set her up for a lifetime of healthy teeth. True Care Advantage will help you achieve this goal without breaking the bank.