The tooth and nothing but the tooth
10 things parents should know during National Children’s Dental Health Month
The earlier parents introduce tooth brushing to their child, the earlier a habit of taking care of his or her teeth begins.
“Proper dental care actually begins before the baby’s first tooth appears,” said Tonya Fuqua, DDS, director for the Save a Smile program, led by Cook Children’s. “As soon as the baby’s born, it’s extremely important to make sure that parents begin wiping the child’s mouth and gums with a nice clean baby wash cloth. The cloth should be soft and easy to get wet.”
The early cleaning with the cloth removes any remaining milk from babies’ mouths and helps them become accustomed to something going in their mouth for cleaning. So when babies begin getting teeth and brushing starts, they will be used to the parents placing their hands in the mouth for brushing.
Once you see the first baby tooth, you can begin using a toothbrush. You aren’t doing a lot, but you are introducing that feel of the bristles in the mouth so that as the baby develops more teeth, he or she will be used to a toothbrush in the mouth. Make sure you are using a soft bristled, age appropriate toothbrush. As your child has more teeth, a routine should be established of brushing two times a day, the morning and at bedtime. Dr. Fuqua gave us 10 other helpful tips parents should know about when caring for their child’s teeth:
- Know the rules of twos. You should always brush your children’s teeth twice a day – every morning and every night for two minutes, regardless of how many teeth are in his or her mouth.
- Did you know: A baby should never be put to bed with a bottle or sippy cup filled with anything other than water.
- When should you schedule your first dental appointment? Find a dental home and take your child to the dentist by age 1 or earlier if you notice problems.
- How dangerous is tooth decay (cavities)? Tooth decay (cavities) are the No. 1 long-lasting disease in young children – even more than asthma.
- Can you catch a cavity? Germs that cause tooth cavities can be passed from parent or caregiver to a child. Choosing healthy behaviors from an early age will help prevent tooth decay (cavities) and improve a child’s overall health throughout his or her lifetime.
- How do you prepare your child for visiting the dentist? Read your child a book about going to the dentist, schedule a tour of the offices before the first visit and role play at home on what to expect for the visit.
- How long should you supervise your child’s brushing and flossing? As general rule, keep up with your child’s brushing and flossing activity until he or she is about 9 years old.
- Which toothbrush should you get for your child? Choose a soft or extra soft toothbrush with the right size handle and head for his or her mouth.
- How often should a toothbrush be changed? Every 3 to 4 months, when the bristles become worn or after there has been an illness.
- What toothpaste should you use for your child? Use a rice-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste when the first tooth appears around 6 months until age 3. Then use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.