February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, which aims to raise awareness and educate about maintaining children’s good oral health.
In the spirit of National Children’s Dental Health Month, let’s answer some of the Internet’s most frequently asked questions about children’s dental care.
Why is children’s dental care important?
Before we dive into the FAQs on caring for children’s oral health, let’s first look at why it’s so important to do so.
Caring for children’s oral health has far-reaching effects on their overall well-being.
Oral health affects their overall growth and development.
Poor oral health negatively impacts a child’s development and growth. It can affect their ability to eat, breathe, speak, smile, and socialize comfortably. Unhealthy teeth and gums cause pain and discomfort, leading to embarrassment and decreased self-esteem. It can also make daily activities more difficult.
Children with poor oral health may be underweight and more irritable, and susceptible to illness. It may also stunt their growth and make them more prone to sleep disruptions.
Oral health impacts their cognitive development.
Poor dental hygiene is also associated with lower academic performance. Toothaches and other dental problems can make children miss school, resulting in lower attendance and grades.
Children with poor oral health have more unsatisfactory school performance worldwide. In one study, they had a 52% higher risk of having school problems, a 42% higher risk of missing school, and 24% less likely to complete their homework.
Poor oral health has psychosocial consequences.
Poor dental health also has adverse psychosocial consequences. For example, some children become more bad-tempered and unable to stabilize their emotions due to constant toothaches. This decreases their involvement with others in group activities.
Children may fear rejection if they have crooked teeth, misaligned jaws, or bad bites. Unhealthy or injured front teeth may make them feel shy, unattractive, worry about how others see them, withdraw from others, and avoid smiling.
These children, especially adolescents with bad oral health, are 30% to 40% more at risk of developing feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness, or depression. They are also more afraid of being friendly, with an increased tendency to feel and act shy.
Now that you know how critical taking care of your child’s oral health is, let’s delve into the Internet’s most frequently asked questions.
When should a child first visit the dentist?
The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests taking your child for their first dental visit when they’re a year old. During this first visit, the dentist will guide you on proper brushing and flossing techniques and examine your child’s teeth.
Dental visits are vital to keeping teeth healthy. They can help identify potential issues early and help your child become more comfortable with the dentist, reducing their anxiety as they grow older. Choose a dentist who specializes in treating kids. They’re well-equipped to handle all aspects of a child’s dental health. They know when to refer them to a specialized orthodontist or oral surgeon when needed.
Is it okay for a child to fall asleep with a bottle of milk or juice?
Placing a baby in bed with a bottle can damage their teeth. Sugar from juice or formula milk left on the teeth for a long time can erode the enamel, their teeth’s protective layer. Enamel erosion can lead to “bottle mouth” or “baby bottle tooth decay,” which causes discoloration, pitting, and cavities on the front teeth. Severely decayed teeth may require extraction.
When do you start brushing baby teeth?
You should start caring for your baby’s teeth before they come in. Clean their gums with a massager, a clean washcloth, or gauze. Start brushing twice daily with water once their first teeth emerge.
Flossing will have to wait a while. Experts recommend flossing once your child’s teeth touch each other, usually around two to three years old. Food debris can get stuck between the teeth, leading to bacteria growth and plaque formation.
How do you brush children’s teeth?
Just as your child continues to grow and change, you also need to adapt your brushing methods.
4 to 24 Months
Use a soft-bristled brush or washcloth with water to wipe your child’s gums after feedings. Once their first tooth emerges, brush their teeth twice daily with a child-sized brush and non-fluoridated toothpaste for at least two minutes.
2 to 4 Years Old
They can now use fluoridated toothpaste to prevent cavities. You can also make it more fun with themed brushes and flavored toothpaste. Remember to use pea-sized portions.
5-7 Years Old
Children aged five to seven can brush their teeth, but they’ll still need your supervision and help with flossing. Teach them the correct techniques and make brushing part of their daily routine. Their permanent teeth will also begin coming in, so brush them with fluoridated toothpaste every morning and night to strengthen them.
How can I prevent cavities in my children’s teeth?
Cavities occur when bacteria and food residue are not removed from the teeth. Bacteria can produce acids that accumulate on the tooth, softening enamel and eventually creating a hole or cavity. To take care of teeth and prevent cavities:
Start good oral habits early.
There’s no harm in establishing good oral care habits early. Encourage your child to brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss regularly.
Start using fluoride.
Fluoride strengthens the enamel, making it more acid-resistant. You can ask your dentist for fluoride supplements if your water supply doesn’t have fluoride or if you use purified water. While most toothpaste brands have fluoride, it’s not enough to protect your child’s teeth. However, be careful; excess fluoride can cause tooth discoloration. Consult your dentist before using supplements.
Avoid or limit some foods.
Sugary and starchy foods, juices, and candy — especially sticky candy, gummy vitamins, or fruit leather — can erode enamel and cause cavities. Avoid or limit these foods. Encourage kids to rinse their mouths with water or brush their teeth when they consume sweets. The same applies when taking sweetened medications.
Use dental sealants.
Your dentist can apply a thin layer of resin called a sealant to protect your child’s teeth as they grow. They place sealants on the molars to prevent decay and keep bacteria from settling in hard-to-reach areas. However, they don’t replace regular brushing and flossing.
This National Children’s Dental Health Month, let’s prioritize children’s dental care since it affects their overall well-being. Take your child for their first dental visit when they turn one, and never put them to bed with a bottle. Brushing begins as soon as the first tooth emerges. Begin with a soft cloth and gradually transition to a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits their mouth as they grow. Brush twice daily, and go for regular dental check-ups to maintain good oral health.
Make your child’s oral health one of your priorities.
An experienced pediatric dentist is your partner in keeping your child’s teeth and gums healthy. Our Durango dentist and staff will put your child’s oral health first and keep them comfortable throughout their appointment. They will also guide you and answer all your questions about children’s dental care.
Take the whole family with you and ensure their oral health today at Sunrise Dentistry.