Keep these few numbers in mind and I’ll show you the step-by-step approach of what you and your child should be doing to keep those pearly whites cavity free.
A tooth is a bit like an iceberg — only a portion of it is visible, and so much lies beneath the surface. Your pearly whites not only give you your smile, but extend into your gums and then beyond the gums into the bones of your mouth. Although some people think of a tooth as a solid piece of bone, it is actually a multi-layered structure alive with nerves and blood vessels.
At Birth and Before the First Tooth Erupts
Begin cleaning the baby's mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby's gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. This establishes at an early age the importance of oral hygiene and the feel of having clean teeth and gums.
Six Months to One Year
Begin brushing your child's teeth when the first tooth erupts. You can use small soft toothbrush or a clean washcloth. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless.
Your child's baby teeth are very important. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Baby teeth also keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it's time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded.
Why it is Very Important to Keep Those Small Teeth Clean?
As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, decay can occur. One serious form of decay among young children is Baby Bottle Syndrome.
Baby Bottle Syndrome can destroy the teeth and most often occurs in the upper front teeth. But other teeth may also be affected. What causes baby bottle tooth decay? Decay occurs when sweetened liquids like milk, formula and fruit juice are given and are left clinging to an infant's teeth for long periods. Bacteria in the mouth use these sugars as food. They then produce acids that attack the teeth. Each time your child drinks these liquids, acids attack for 20 minutes or longer. After many attacks, the teeth can decay. It's not just what you put in your child's bottle that causes decay, but how often and for how long a time. Giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid many times a day isn't a good idea. Allowing your child to fall asleep with a bottle during naps or at night can be really harmful to your child's teeth.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Clean you baby’s teeth and gums after each feeding.
- Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids.
- If you must give your baby a bottle as a comforter at bed time, make sure it contains only water. Never dip a pacifier into sugar or honey.
- Avoid filling your child's bottle with liquids such as sugar water and soft drinks.
- Start regular dental visits when the child is 3 or 4 unless there is a problem that you think needs attention.
Preparing For the First Day at the Dentist
It's very important that your child's first visit to the dentist be a positive one. You play a big part in setting the tone. The best predictor of a child's behavior in the dental setting is the parent's level of anxiety. In most cases, if the parent is anxious, the child is going to experience some difficulty.
Here are a Few Tips to Help Your Dental Visit Go Smoothly
Tell your child about the visit, but don't go into details. Answer any questions in a simple, matter-of-fact way. Let the dentist answer questions about dental tools, procedures or anything you're unsure about. Most dentists, especially pediatric dentists, are trained to explain things to children in non-threatening, easy-to-understand terms.
- Don’t use the words “HE WON’T HURT YOU” I can’t stress this enough.
- Don’t tell your child about an unpleasant experience that you had.
- Don't promise your child a reward for going to the dentist.
- Stress to your child how important it is to maintain healthy teeth and gums
- Explain that it is the dentist’s job to help us keep our teeth healthy.
- Don't make promises that the dentist can't keep
At The Office
Typically, the first dental visit is a short visit where very little complex treatment is done. The goal is to give your child a chance to get to know the dentist and dentistry in a friendly, non-threatening way. During this visit, the dentist will:
- Thoroughly examine your child's teeth for tooth decay
- Examine your child's gums and soft tissue for disease or problems
- Evaluate your child's bite
- Identify any potential problems
- Show you how to properly clean your child's gums and teeth at home
- Talk about your child's fluoride requirements
- Answer your questions or concerns
During the first visit, your child's teeth may also be cleaned and fluoride may be applied. The dentist may examine your child while you hold the child in your lap. Or the dentist may want your child to sit in the dental chair and have you to sit in a chair next to the child. Some dentists ask parents to wait outside the treatment room. During the exam, the dentist's movements will be slow and gentle and he or she should speak in a low, calm voice. A good children's dentist will be able to handle all types of youngsters in a friendly, patient and understanding way.
It's very important that a parent or legal guardian accompany a child for his or her first dental visit. This person will be asked to fill out medical and health information forms about the child. He or she should also be prepared to discuss all health issues, especially if the child has a medical condition or problem.