Everyone knows the tooth fairy wants to collect perfect teeth. Kids leaving decayed teeth left under the pillow may find a few coins the next morning, but those leaving glistening white ones can earn as much as $5. True story!
There are certainly other good reasons to take care of those baby teeth.
* Establish lifelong healthy habits early.
* Save money, time, and pain of having to undergo restorative procedures at the dentist (drill and fill, or even worse- pulling teeth, yikes!).
* Bacterial causing tooth decay linger in the mouth long after baby teeth have fallen away, creating the same problems for permanent teeth.
* A mouth full of dental decay left untreated is like letting an infection fester, risking spread to other parts of the body.
|first visit to dentist at 12 months|
1. More frequent fluoride. This is the single most important item on the list as it strengthens teeth and makes them resistant to decay.
2. Less frequent sweets. Best time for sweets is with meals. Juice, even diluted ones, are worst for teeth. If you're going to eat a bag of candy, do it all at one time and with a meal; same goes for glass of juice.
3. Regular check-ups. Every 6 months to a dentist who will monitor teeth development closely and build a friendly relationship with your child so they don't fear going.
4. Brushing. Twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
5. Sealants. This is done on molars when they start to appear around 6 years of age to seal the deep grooves that toothbrush bristles cannot reach.
You may be surprised to see brushing so far down on the list!
Take good care of PARENT's teeth! You're assuming I'm referring to modeling good behavior for your children. Sure, that is helpful. But what you may not know is that a parent with bad teeth can DIRECTLY be responsible for their young child's cavities. That's because germs that cause cavities are not inherent in every mouth, they are CONTAGIOUS and are passed down from one generation to the next, or from a child's peers. This means you can prevent spread of these bacteria by keeping your own in check, especially during those first few years when a child's immune system is more vulnerable to new bacteria. More in this LA Times article.
Watch WHAT and WHEN your child eats. It is important to not only avoid sticky sugary foods that are a breeding ground for tooth decay, but also to minimize how frequently these are indulged in. Having a glass of juice at once is not nearly as bad as taking sips of it throughout the day which gives it more time to linger and cause problems. Same rule applies to bottle of milk, which is why we recommend never leaving bottle in baby's crib. It's best to avoid putting juice in bottle as well.
Did you know that apple juice is the #1 cause of decay in infants and toddlers?
Here's a great visual provided by our dentist's office. On the left side are good choices, on the right are ones promoting cavities. You'll notice the right side is higher in sugar, sticky, and processed foods.
Birch Sugar (Xylitol)
Celery and Peanut Butter
Diet Soda Pop
Fresh Fruit (Sliced Apples, Oranges, Grapes, Bananas)
Oatmeal with Sliced Bananas
Shredded Wheat Cereal
Sugar-Free Pancake Syrup
Yogurt (Plain or Sugar-Free)
Dried Fruit (Raisins, Figs, Dates, etc)
Gum (Bubble Yum, Juicy Fruit)
Jam & Jelly
Juice (Apple, Grape, Orange)
Rice Krispy Treats
Soda Pop (Coke, 7-Up, etc)
Sugar Coated Cereals
Use fluoride toothpaste. Until your child can learn to spit out the toothpaste you have one of two options:
1) Use toothpaste without fluoride, or
2) Use a teeny tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste, no bigger than a grain of rice.
We opt for the second starting at a year of age, which is what our dentist recommends, to maximize fluoride benefits.
(An older child who can swish and spit may use fluoride rinses as well.)
Fluoride supplement. If you live in a place with added fluoride in your water, great! If you live in Portland, Oregon or any other city without fluorinated water, you need to give your child fluoride supplement. The pediatrician should prescribe this for you.
To find out whether your water has fluoride, check out My Water's Fluoride by the CDC or EPA's Consumer Confidence Report and search for your area.
This is what the American Dental Association recommends for fluoride supplement by age (when there is no fluoride in the water supply):
6 months to 3 years: 0.25mg fluoride daily
3 years to 6 years: 0.5mg fluoride daily
6 years to 16 years: 1mg fluoride daily
Clean those teeth, even baby ones. As soon as those first teeth pop through the gums parents should be cleaning them on a regular basis. For young infants that can be done with wet washcloth or infant-sized toothbrush. For toddlers the routine of using toothbrush with toothpaste twice daily should be taught. Make it fun by brushing your teeth alongside them- at this age they want to do exactly what mommy and daddy are doing. You can even let them hold your toothbrush as you brush, tell them thanks for helping, and now your turn to brush theirs. At this age (and for the next few years) do not trust your child to be able to adequately clean his teeth alone, you should be helping.
Side note about flossing:
Flossing is more important for older children and adults. At a young age, it isn't as crucial. According to our dentist, flossing on daily basis helps prevent gingivitis (gum disease), but does very little toward fighting cavities. Gum disease simply isn't a common problem in young children, it's more of an adolescent and adult issue. I would suggest using floss for obvious chunk of food stuck between teeth, and getting your child acquainted with it by 6-8 years so they will continue the habit later on.
Choose a child-friendly dentist and get regular check ups every 6 months. The time to start is at one year of age, even if there's just a few teeth poking through. This is because your child will learn to be at ease with the dentist (see photo at top of our daughter having a blast at her first visit) and parents will benefit enormously from the education your dentist will give personally. Prevention is KEY, so why not get information straight from the source?
Have your child's dentist apply sealants to molars as soon as they erupt, beginning around 6 years of age. This gives a protective coating to those deep grooves which brushing just can't reach.
Special thanks to Dr. Allan Pike and his friendly staff for their warm welcomes, great information, and very positive experience for our little one's visits.