According to the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should first be seen by a dentist by their first birthday or within six months of the first tooth erupting (whichever date comes first).
Caring For Your Infants Gums
Even before your baby's first tooth appears, their gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast or bottle feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby's gum tissue. This practice both clears your baby’s mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.
Baby's First Toothbrush
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it's time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.
At this stage, toothpaste isn't necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn't react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don't give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months and then try the toothbrush again.
Brushing with Toothpaste
When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child's brush. For the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, unless advised otherwise by FFD, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your child practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing to prepare them for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.
Don't give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle. Sugary liquids in prolonged contact with their teeth are a guarantee for early childhood decay (also called baby-bottle caries). If your baby is in the habit of taking a bottle to bed, and will not go to sleep without it, the bottle should contain only water.
Your child's first primary or baby teeth will begin to erupt between the ages of six and 12 months, and will continue to erupt until about age three. During this time, your child's gums may feel tender and sore. To help alleviate this discomfort, we recommend that you soothe the gums by rubbing a clean finger or a cool, wet cloth across them. You may also choose to make use of a teething ring or a baby toothbrush that has a teether. When your child has finished teething, you can expect a total of 20 primary teeth.
Your child's primary teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood, and their permanent teeth begin erupting at age six, and continue until age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth, 32 including wisdom teeth.
Adopting Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits
As your child's teeth erupt, be sure to examine them every two weeks, looking for lines and discoloration that may be caused by decay. Remember that sugary foods and liquids can attack a new tooth, so take care that your child brushes after feeding or eating. We recommend brushing four times a day for optimal oral hygiene: after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, and at bedtime.
Brushing can be fun! At Folan Family Dental we have a list of “brushing songs” that are written to use with familiar tunes (such as Row, Row, Row your Boat and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star). If you would like a copy of these cute songs to sing with your child during “brushing time,” please request a copy of them from our front desk staff.
Flossing is also a part of good oral hygiene habits, and your doctor or hygienist at FFD will discuss with you the right time to start flossing. If you notice signs of decay, contact your FFD immediately.
Preventing Tooth Decay with Regular Checkups
Tooth decay is caused by sugars left in your mouth that turn into an acid, which can break down your teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason: many children and adolescents do not practice regular, good oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away.
Your child should visit the dentist every six months for regular dental cleanings and checkups. We recommend fluoride treatments twice a year along with cleanings to keep teeth their strongest. Tooth sealants are also recommended because they "seal" the deep grooves in your child's teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years, but will be monitored at your child's regular checkups at FFD.