If you have questions about taking care of your child’s teeth, you’re not alone! Many parents are confused by the contradictory information out there. Here are some answers to the most common questions.
Baby teeth will fall out eventually– so why bother to take care of them?
Poor early dental hygiene can set a child up for poor dental hygiene throughout life. Dental health is about prevention and incremental maintenance, so it’s vital to build good habits as early as possible so they stick!
Additionally, decaying teeth are painful and unsightly– no child needs to deal with the discomfort and poor self-esteem that comes from ugly teeth. Poor dental hygiene also affects speech and eating habits. Losing baby teeth too early can cause new adult teeth to come in crooked, or worse– infected by the neighboring baby teeth.
What is “baby bottle decay,” and how can I prevent it?
Tooth decay comes from bacteria that feed on the sugars in the foods we eat. Letting a baby fall asleep with a bottle lets the sugars in juice, milk, and formula linger in their mouth for a long time, increasing the chance of painful tooth decay.
To prevent baby bottle decay, give the baby water at night, at nap time, and in between feedings. Rub the baby’s gums with a clean washcloth after feedings, and start using a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss as soon as they have any teeth. Make sure the baby is getting enough fluoride, which helps develop strong teeth. Schedule a dental visit by the baby’s first birthday, or if you see anything like redness or dark spots that you can’t explain.
Does thumb sucking or pacifier use put my child’s teeth at risk?
A pacifier or thumb sucking isn’t a problem for short periods of time, and is developmentally appropriate until around the age of 2. Thumb sucking or using a pacifier can interfere with bite development after 2, causing long-term orthodontic problems. Most children stop on their own, but if they don’t stop by age 3, check with your dentist to find a solution.
At what age should my child use toothpaste– and how much?
When your baby’s teeth first come in, just use a wet toothbrush. For children age 2 and older, use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Swallowing toothpaste can make a child feel sick to their stomach, so teach them to spit it out. Children need help brushing until they are around 7 or 8 years old and have the motor skills to brush on their own. Brushing your teeth together as a family is a great way to build healthy habits and guide your child as they learn to take care of their teeth!
Are dental sealants a good idea for my child?
For most children, sealants are a good idea as soon as their baby teeth come in. The bacteria and plaque that cause tooth decay isn’t always fully removed by brushing and flossing. Sealants can protect the surface of the teeth, preventing tooth decay. Check with your dentist– insurance usually covers the procedure!
Do you have more questions about your child’s teeth?
In general, preventing decay through healthy habits is the best way to set your child up for success with their adult teeth. Every child is unique, and so is their dental health! The dentists at Greater Houston Pediatric Dentistry are experts in their fields and can give you the best advice.