Dental Care For Kids: Q&A
Thanks to everyone who joined me at the American Baby Q&A session today on Facebook! For those who missed it or anyone who’s looking for information on kids’ dental care, I thought I’d put together a post of the most commonly asked questions, and a few things I didn’t get to mention. (Note: this post, just like any information on the internet, does not substitute for an exam and regular dental care– see your dentist for any specific concerns.)
When should I schedule my child’s first dental visit?
The official recommendation is by one year of age or the first tooth, whichever comes first. The purpose of the first visit is to establish a dental home for your child, to educate you (the parent) about proper home care and diet, and to start establishing healthy dental habits and introduce the child to the dental office environment.
When should I start brushing, and what kind of toothbrush should I use?
You should start brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. (Some parents like to wipe the gums with a clean finger or washcloth even before teeth start coming in, to get the baby used to the parent cleaning their mouth.) You can use any brand of kid-sized toothbrush. I like the Oral-B Stages brushes because they are appropriately sized for different ages. If you choose an electric toothbrush, be aware that the technique is different. With a manual brush you do the scrubbing motions, angling the bristles toward the gumline. With an electric brush you hold the brush still for several seconds in one area and then move on to the next.
When should I start using regular toothpaste?
As soon as the first tooth appears! The “training” (fluoride-free) toothpaste is actually not necessary. Until your child learns to spit out well (around age 4), you should use a tiny smear the size of a grain of rice, twice a day. It is assumed that the child will swallow it, but such a tiny amount is not considered to be harmful.
What about flossing? When do I need to start, and how can I get my child to let me do it?
When the teeth touch each other (no spaces between them), you can start flossing. Let your child watch you floss first so they know it’s not a bad thing. You can try the mini-flossers that look like a plastic hook with floss threaded through it, and let your child hold one and play with it before you try any actual flossing.
My baby grinds his teeth– is this harmful, and what can I do about it?
It’s very common for babies to grind when teeth are new– they’ve suddenly got these hard bumps in their mouths and they don’t know what to do with them! The noise can be alarming, but just ignore it and allow the phase to pass.
How do you know if your baby is teething? What can I do to help her with the pain?
Signs of teething include fussiness, wakefulness, loss of appetite, drooling, rubbing at the mouth, and even diaper rash and low-grade fever. To help with teething pain, you can give your baby a frozen damp washcloth, cold teething ring, or cold spoon. Some moms like Hyland’s teething tablets (which are homeopathic) and Baby Orajel. If you use the Orajel, just use a tiny amount and apply it only to the affected area with a clean finger, and don’t use it for prolonged periods of time.
My baby is 9 months/12 months/ 14 months and doesn’t have any teeth yet! Should I be concerned?
The amount of teeth kids have at specific ages varies widely! Plenty of kids don’t have any teeth by a year old.
What if my baby’s teeth are coming in out of order? Is this normal?
Just like the time of eruption, the order of eruption can vary from child to child– this is considered to be completely normal. If a tooth is missing long past the time it should have erupted (i.e. years), it may be impacted or missing, and your dentist can take an x-ray to check.
My child doesn’t want to brush/won’t let me brush! What can I do?
Definitely try to keep brushing a positive experience at all costs. In my opinion it’s better for a child to view brushing positively over the long run than to get in two minutes of brushing, twice a day, every single day without fail (although you should always strive for that!). Try laying your child in your lap and brushing from behind, making brushing a game, giving them their own toothbrush to play with while you get in there with another brush, and letting them see you brush your teeth. Some kids like electric toothbrushes better because they are like a toy (the SpinBrush by Arm & Hammer is only about $7), so you can try that as well.
How can I help my child not be afraid of an upcoming dental appointment?
You should prepare your child well in advance and talk about the appointment as a positive experience. Try reading books about the dentist and looking at pictures of kids going to dental appointments. Have your child brush and “play dentist” on a doll or stuffed animal. Some pediatric dentists will let a child come in for a quick visit to watch other kids in the chair without the child actually having any work done– that way they can see that it’s not so scary before they actually come in for their own checkup. Modeling is a great way to ease a child’s fears, so if the parent is happy about going for dental care, hopefully the child will be too.
Last few tips and pieces of info: You should be helping your child with brushing until they are old enough to do it well on their own (age 5-6 or so, although this will depend on the child). Diet plays as big of a role as oral hygiene, so steer clear as much as possible from sugary snacks, juice, and soda. The frequency of sugar matters more than the actual amount of sugar– sipping a single cup of juice throughout the day is much worse for teeth than having a drink of juice all in one go. And never put your baby to bed with a bottle, because whatever is in the bottle will sit on the teeth all night long and increases the risk of tooth decay.
For more information on kids’ dental care, see the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s website. I hope this was helpful, and again, thanks to everyone who stopped by to chat with me today!Add a Comment