Understanding Your Child’s Dental Health: A Parent’s Guide

At Ericson Dental, we love seeing young families come into our offices for checkups and exams. It’s a treat to work with children from a young age to help them develop great dental health habits to last a lifetime.

Many new parents are trying very hard to establish a healthy way of life for their kids and spouses. However, many of these young parents themselves are still learning proper dental health habits are, either because they weren’t raised with that mindset when they were young or they fell back into bad habits in their adult lives.

Either way, these parents are looking to help their kids get off on the right foot, and it’s our job to make sure they know how. In today’s post, we’ll review what every parent needs to know about their child’s dental health.

During pregnancy

Every child’s health is established long before they are brought into this world. This is a hard realization for many parents. Not only is the expecting mother’s overall health vital to the proper development of the baby – maintaining their oral health is critical, too.

Developing good oral hygiene habits early in pregnancy will helps parents impart those habits to their kids and set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

Poor oral health during pregnancy can cause:

  • Low birth weight
  • Premature births
  • While an extreme occurrence, even stillbirth is possible

Newborn – 2 years

Even before kids have teeth, there are a few simple habits that can set them up for lifelong oral health. The types of bacteria that lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay are still present and keeping them at bay is critical in the near future.

The simplest way to prevent baby bottle decay is avoid any liquid in the bottle with a high sugar content, especially at bedtime. Juice, soda, and sports drinks are obvious things to avoid. However, milk is a commonly overlooked problem. While milk is a must for all babies, parents also need to realize that allowing their baby to go to sleep all the time with the bottle can lead to problems.

Babies will get their first teeth around the age of 6 months. Oral health at this time is critical because bacteria now have a place to hide and something they can affect. Healthy eating and drinking habits are important, but oral hygiene is a new habit to implement.

What parents should do:

  • Allow babies to brush their own teeth or just chew on the toothbrush.
  • Always have a parent thoroughly brush their teeth even when the child does it themselves, too.
  • We recommend a toothpaste without fluoride for children. Fluoride can lead to gastrointestinal and developmental issues if it’s ingested at this age.

2 years – 6 years

Around the age of 2 years is a great time to introduce children to the dental office. The best way to do this is to bring in the young child to the parent’s hygiene and exam appointment. Your child will see how easy this appointment can be, and get them ready for their next appointment, which will include a checkup and coronal polish.

Now that your children are a few year older and have more teeth, flossing before brushing should be introduced. Handheld floss threaders are an easy first step and can be bought in all types of fun colors and characters to keep it interesting for the kids. As with brushing, this should always be done by an adult even if the kids are allowed to practice themselves.

Make sure you pay attention to small gaps in between your child’s teeth that can trap food. Once your locate these areas, they should be thoroughly flossed multiple times per day. Our hygienists or doctors help parents identify these problem areas to help prevent cavity or gum issues.

Proper jaw bone formation is another critical issue parents need to be aware of at this age. The use of pacifiers and thumb sucking are the most common causes of children’s jaws becoming too narrow or improperly formed. This can lead to the need for extensive orthodontic treatment in the future as well as airway and breathing issues.

How parents can help:

  • Bring kids along to your own dental appointments
  • Create an at-home care routine– and stick to it!
  • Schedule your child’s first dentist appointment and follow up

6 years – 12 years:

Now is the perfect time for children to be evaluated for orthodontics. Dentists are recommending that children start orthodontics much younger than in the past. It is much easier to fix problems with less intervention than if they started later in the child’s life.

Sometimes an early orthodontic start, or Phase 1 treatment, can avoid the need for things like headgear and surgery.
Sealants are the best way to minimize the occurrence of some types of cavities on molars and premolars, and should be placed as soon as possible. Sealants are evaluated at every check up to ensure they are still in place and working.

Help your kids be in control of their dental health:

  • Introduce the proper use of an electric toothbrush into the child’s daily routine. We recommend Sonicare above all other electric toothbrushes.
  • Encourage your child to keep developing good brushing and flossing habits

12 years – 17 years:

Children will have their second set of molars come in around the age of 12. It’s even more important to have these molars sealed because they are the teeth that most commonly attract cavities, especially when the gums cover a portion of the erupting teeth.

As children age, they start to make their own eating habits and once again it’s critical that parents monitor these habits.
Also, around the age of 15 years is the perfect time to have a child’s wisdom teeth evaluated. While not all children will be ready to have them removed, nor will every child need to have them removed, it’s very important to have them evaluated by a dentist.

When the wisdom teeth are not erupting properly or when the child does not have enough room, dentists are recommending that children have them removed early to avoid painful and detrimental complications.

Prepare your children for a lifetime of dental health:

  • If needed, now is the time for wisdom tooth removal. The recovery and healing after wisdom tooth removal is much better when done earlier.
  • Eat and plan healthy meals low in sugary, starchy and acidic foods.

Dental health for the whole family…

Schedule your appointment at Ericson Dental today! Our dentists are here to help.

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