We’ve shared 5 tips on teething to help ease your child’s discomfort while his or her baby teeth come in, but what are you supposed to do to once those pearly whites finally make their debut?
Turns out there’s more to do than I, as a new mom, was even aware of actually. Fortunately, a dental expert from Children’s Medical Center Dallas, Taylor McFarland, M.D., shared a few guidelines and tips to help my little Benjamin have a healthy smile for years to come.
Early detection of potential dental problems is key
Dr. McFarland says that in general, the dental care guidelines for your child depend more on his or her risk of cavities or tooth decay, rather than age.
Since these risks can only be evaluated by a dentist, and because many pediatric dental problems can be identified and diagnosed early, it’s important for your child to make his trip to the dentist by his first birthday.
The first visit will be fairly simple: the dentist will examine your child’s gums and teeth (if he has any) and will talk with you about your family’s dental history and current oral health.
If your child has a low risk of dental problems, the dentist will most likely suggest a follow-up visit in six months. If there are potential risk factors that may need closer observation, you may need to schedule quarterly visits.
The bacteria that cause cavities can actually be transferred between family members, so it’s important for your child’s dentist to understand your family’s background and current situation to accurately access risk factors that may need to be addressed.
Caring for baby teeth at home
Three major factors can help support your child’s oral health: daily care, daily diet and daily habits
Once your child’s first baby tooth arrives, you should begin gently brushing his teeth with a soft, age-appropriate baby toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste twice a day. Until he is 2 years old, use a grain of rice-sized amount of toothpaste, and once he turns 2, a pea-sized amount will do.
Before baby teeth arrive, you can use a damp washcloth to wipe out your child’s mouth after eating to prevent build-up on their tongue and gums instead of a baby toothbrush.
Dr. McFarland recommends parents continue to assist their child in brushing their teeth until they’re able to tie their shoes on their own – or around age 6 – and assist with flossing until age 9.
A healthy diet plays an important role in your child’s dental health, as well as their overall well-being.
The bacteria that cause cavities are fueled by sugar, and when these sugars get stuck on and in between your child’s teeth, it can cause problems.
To reduce these risks, serve healthy, age-appropriate snacks such as vegetables, plain yogurt, lean meats and low-fat cheeses instead of sugary, processed foods, and be leery of hidden sugars in juices, sodas and cereals.
Dr. McFarland says some of the most frequent questions she and her colleagues hear from parents is about thumb sucking.
While many parents are concerned from a behavioral or social standpoint, thumb sucking does not typically cause a severe dental problem until a child’s permanent, adult teeth have started to come in.
Still, if you have concerns, be sure to talk to your child’s dentist and pediatrician for suggestions and recommendations to help your child break the habit.
Additionally, Dr. McFarland and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation to phase out bottles between 12 to 24 months and use sippy cups only as transitional tools to help teach your child to use an adult cup.
In addition to potentially causing orthodontic issues and promoting tooth decay if used improperly, sippy cups can cause trauma to a child’s teeth if they trip and fall with the cup in their mouth.
How to Find a pediatric dentist
While Children’s Medical Center Dallas provides comprehensive dental care for medically compromised children, we do not currently provide general dental services for children without special needs.
Fortunately, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry makes it easy to find a pediatric dentist near you.