Baby teeth and beyond: All about children’s dental care
Establishing a good routine of oral hygiene and dental care at a young age will help your child develop healthy milk teeth and, later on, a strong set of permanent teeth. So what should you know about caring for children’s teeth throughout their lives?
What do I need to know about teething?
Teething in babies usually starts between the ages of six and 12 months, and most children have their full set of 20 milk teeth by the age of three. Teething can be a very uncomfortable process for babies, causing them to cry often and giving them the urge to chew on things. Other symptoms of teething include drooling, refusal of food and swollen gums.
Some argue that diarrhoea and fever tend to come along with teething, which may be because babies tend to want to put more things in their mouths at this time and are thus more likely to catch viruses. Other doctors believe that these symptoms might result from the excess swallowing of saliva. Whether or not your baby is teething, if your child has a high fever accompanied by diarrhoea, vomiting or lethargy, make sure to get in contact with your paediatrician as soon as possible.
There are a few different strategies you can use to reduce your baby’s discomfort when he or she is teething. Offering your child a teething toy, or even a refrigerator-chilled wet washcloth, can help reduce the pain. You can also try massaging your baby’s gums with a clean finger. If your child is eating solids, offer a teething biscuit or cold foods such as applesauce.
How should I care for my child’s milk teeth?
At the age of three, most children have all 20 of their milk teeth, or baby teeth, in place. At around age six, these same baby teeth begin to fall out to make room for adult or permanent teeth. But in the meantime, it’s important to care for these temporary teeth to support your child’s ability to speak and chew.
As soon as baby teeth start to emerge, you can start brushing your child’s teeth gently with a small, soft toothbrush. When using an age-approppriate toothpaste, use only a rice-grain sized amount until age three when you can graduate to a pea-sized amount. Make sure you are brushing all sides of your baby’s teeth and ensuring that they don’t swallow their toothpaste and are instead spitting it out. Like adults, babies should have their teeth cleaned twice a day.
Supervising your child while brushing will ensure they don’t miss spots. Even if your baby can hold the toothbrush by themselves, you should continue to supervise the process until they are completely independent, usually around age six. Even then, keep an eye out – kids aren’t always truthful about brushing their teeth!
Other than brushing, there are a few things you should look out for when you’re caring for your child’s milk teeth. Firstly, you should avoid giving your baby sugary drinks in their bottle, especially at night. This is because the sugar tends to pool in the child’s mouth while they are sleeping, providing perfect conditions for tooth decay. Secondly, thumb sucking should be monitored by you and your dentist so that it doesn’t impact your child’s bite when their permanent teeth come through.
When should I take my child for their first dentist appointment?
We recommend that you take your child for their first dental appointment at age one, or six months after their first tooth comes in. During this visit, your dentist will start building a relationship with your baby and will examine your child’s teeth (or tooth) for signs of decay and any issues. The dental hygienist might clean your baby’s teeth and then the dentist will discuss with you general oral health as well as any concerns. Dentists usually recommend bringing your child for a dentist appointment every six months.
If your child has anxiety about visiting the dentist, try a few tips to ease their worries:
- Schedule their appointment right after your own checkup, or an older sibling’s. If they see that others can have a positive, easy experience, they might be less afraid of trying it themselves.
- Avoid talking about dreading the dentist – kids pick up on your fears and any negative connotations you attach to the dentist.
- Try to schedule their appointment when they’re least likely to be fussy. For instance, some children can get more tired as the day goes on, so a late afternoon or evening appointment might mean they’ll be less amenable to treatment.
- Point out favourite cartoon or movie characters who go to the dentist. This can get them comfortable with the idea!
How and when should I teach my kids to take care of their own teeth?
By brushing your child’s teeth for them starting at an early age, you’re already teaching them good oral hygiene by example. When your toddler is old enough to hold the brush by themselves, you can demonstrate good technique by brushing your own teeth while also making sure to inspect your child’s teeth to confirm they’re not missing any spots.
You should start flossing your child’s teeth once a day when there are enough teeth present to create tight spaces. Flossing necessitates a certain level of dexterity, but most kids can floss by themselves around age 10.
To learn more about taking care of your child’s teeth or booking your baby’s first dentist appointment, contact Wendouree Dental today on 03 5339 3770.