Visiting the dentist is an important part of good health for people of all ages. For parents, it’s important to make visiting the dentist a good experience for children so they will develop a lifetime of good oral health habits!
Before Teeth Appear
Babies tend to have their first teeth emerge between five and ten months. Before the teeth appear, you can keep your child’s mouth clean by wiping a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to remove bacteria. Remember – at every age – avoid sweet juices, bottles in bed with juice or milk, and no sweeteners on pacifiers. The sugars can remain on your child’s teeth and gums for hours!
First Teeth – Age 1
It’s important to take care of the teeth and mouth from the start to instill healthy habits. Continue to clean the gums after feeding with a damp washcloth. For new teeth, start using a child’s soft bristled toothbrush without toothpaste. As you begin to wean your baby from the bottle, offer water instead of juice. Children love water!
Schedule your child’s first dental appointment before the first birthday or within six months after the first tooth arrives, whichever is sooner. The first dentist visit will be a modified checkup intended to instill comfort in the child and ensure an enjoyable dental experience.
Ages 1 – 5 Years
Continue to brush your child’s teeth twice each day with a child-size toothbrush. You can introduce a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste and regularly remind your child not to swallow the toothpaste. At about age 2, children should learn to spit while brushing. At about age 3, most toddlers will now have all of their primary, or first, teeth. You can increase the amount of toothpaste to the size of a pea.
At age 5, encourage your child to practice brushing his or her teeth. Be sure always to supervise your child while they are brushing their teeth, and you will need to help complete for a thorough brushing job. It’s important to clean those new molars in the back of the mouth! Flossing can be introduced once enough teeth have appeared where the teeth now touch.
Continue to check your child’s mouth for any sign of tooth decay and regularly schedule regular dental checkups. Checkups will progress so that the dentist will be able to check all the teeth, the inside of the mouth, and perform a cleaning at each visit.
Ages 6-12 Years
These ages are an important time for children. While they can brush and floss regularly, children just may not want to! Ensure your child brushes their teeth twice each day and flosses regularly. Oral self-care and accountability is key to long-term success.
Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings for your child. The procedure will be similar to your own dental cleaning and involve X-rays, cleaning and polishing, flossing, and checks for any sign of decay. If a cavity exists, talk to your child and dentist about what steps are needed and preferred anesthesia options.
In addition to regular dental checkups and cleanings, your dentist will talk to you about having sealants put on your child’s permanent molar teeth. These teeth, which are located in the back of the mouth, can be difficult to clean and have crevices that create a home for bacteria. Sealants are a quick and painless treatment that involves the brushing of a long-term protective coat or film onto the permanent molars.
If your child is starting to play sports, talk to your dentist about having a professionally fitted mouth guard made. The increased comfort will help ensure your child will wear this protection and avoid any dental injuries while enjoying sports.
During these ages, if you child’s permanent teeth are crowding, crooked, overlapping or the bite is not well aligned, the dentist will discuss with you options for braces. Brushing will become even more important if your child has braces so be sure to reinforce the important responsibility of regular cleaning. Some straightening solutions are available from your dentist, or your child may be referred to an orthodontist. They are so many options now to straighten teeth – gone are the days of a mouth filled with metal brackets and wires!
Ages 12 – 18 Years
As children become teenagers, it’s important they maintain and build upon their oral health habits. Regular brushing and flossing continue to be the cornerstone of good oral health care and while you might be tired of asking, be sure they are still doing these critical daily routines!
Regular dental checkups and cleanings are as important as ever so help your child by making these appointments. Your child can expect cleaning, flossing, polishing, and X-rays. If cavities are an issue, you will still have the opportunity to discuss options on how best to approach fixing any problems. As they get older and are driving, allow your teen to take responsibility to make and get to these appointments on their own. This is another way to instill this good health habit!
Braces may or may not still be a part of your child’s life at this stage. If they are, continue encouraging thorough brushing to avoid any issues from food or sodas settling on the teeth around or under the braces. Likewise, if your child is still playing sports, consider having a new mouth guard made that ensures a good fit in a growing mouth!
Your child grows fast, and you’ll be pleased you supported them during this time with excellent dental hygiene habits they will have the rest of their lives! If you need dental checkups for your child or are looking for high-quality dental care for your whole family, contact us for an appointment!