From a baby who is teething, to toddlers taking care of their shiny new teeth, and up to the teenagers with braces, parents are ultimately responsible for teaching their kids to care for their teeth.
Babies are born with 20 tiny temporary teeth under their gums. These teeth protrude from the gums at various times during the first three years of life. Each baby is unique, and your baby’s teeth may appear at a different time than those mapped out on the American Dental Association’s website.
Although it can be difficult, teething is a rite of passage all babies must endure. Besides the drooling and pain, a baby can have a rash, diarrhea, reduced appetite and endless crying when one or more teeth are growing out of their gums. Softly and gently rubbing a soft wet washcloth, or your finger, on a baby’s gums is helpful when teething. Specially made “teethers” can be frozen in a regular freezer and given to a baby to help soothe the tooth-growing process.
Baby teeth help your child smile, speak, and chew new foods. It is important to brush your baby’s teeth as they are the “placeholder” for the permanent teeth that will replace the temporary choppers as they age.
It helps to perform brushing even before the teeth come in to get a baby used to a toothbrush. You must use a toothbrush specifically made for babies at first because the bristles need to be extremely soft. As the baby becomes a toddler, you can allow them to brush their own teeth and add toothpaste.
First Dental Visit
Your child’s first dental visit should be scheduled with the appearance of his or her first tooth. The simple reason for such an early appointment is cavities. A tooth can get a cavity at any time in its growth.
You can learn more here about ways to help your baby through the often difficult teething and new tooth care.
To avoid tooth decay, which can happen at any moment teeth appear, it is recommended to use a fluoride toothpaste. It is important to use the least amount of toothpaste possible, twice a day, until your toddler is a little older. When a child can successfully brush their own teeth, use a bit larger dab of paste.
Until your toddler can master the art of brushing their teeth, it is vital you either brush their teeth for them or assist them with this important task. If a toddler loses a tooth before it is time, the permanent tooth underneath it could come in crooked or with decay.
As your toddler grows, lets go of the baby bottle and leaves teething behind, the best defense against cavities of the temporary teeth is water with fluoride. Most tap water contains a significant amount of fluoride. Water is not only best for teeth, it is essential for a growing body.
Do not offer sugary drinks like sports drinks, sweetened drinks, or juices. Juices labeled 100% natural still contain an unusually high amount of sugar. Sugar can sit on the teeth if not brushed away immediately and can cause cavities and decay. Sugary drinks can also damage the tender gums, and unlike the baby teeth, does not grow back.
An Additional Defense
Once your young school-age child begins brushing and flossing twice a day, it is time to add a sealant. This will help prevent the build-up of bacteria which cause cavities. The right sealant for your child can be added at a dental appointment.
Once your child becomes a teenager, they should brush, floss, and clean their teeth two or three times a day. These will be the same teeth they will have the rest of their lives and it is important to take care of them. A new sealant is recommended at this age as well.
This is also a good time to talk with your child about the bad habits that can lead to painful dental procedures and permanent tooth loss.
Smoking and Vaping
Smoking is not only bad for your lungs and other parts of a growing body, it will also strip away the enamel on the teeth. This allows a yellow stain to replace the white, which is extremely difficult to reverse.
The latest craze in smoking is called Vaping. These are electronic cigarettes and are marketed as “less harmful” to a person’s health. This is a false statement. Recent research has shown that smoking just one e-cigarette is the equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes.
The dentist will not tell your teen to skip the pizza, but will tell them not to drink soda. Sugary drinks like soda and sports drinks is a leading cause of gum decay and cavities in teeth. All sugary foods, like donuts, candy bars, and chewing gum are considered detrimental to teeth. However, a recent study has given the green light to sugar-free chewing gum in moderation. A teenager should opt for foods naturally sweetened, such as fruits.
During the late teen years, the majority of kids will see the growth of their third molars or “wisdom teeth”. A small amount of discomfort typically accompanies these back teeth appearance. An over-the-counter pain-reliever can help.
The purpose of the third molars is to assist with chewing, if they grow in correctly. There are times when these extra-large teeth come to the wrong place, not straight or partially out of the gums. If this is the case, a visit to an oral surgeon may be necessary to alleviate the pain and pressure they can place on the other teeth.
Not all children will need to visit an orthodontist for braces. Braces would be needed in the case of crowded teeth, shifting teeth, or due to an accident. Everyone, no matter their age, want straight teeth. Depending on the severity of uneven teeth, hard metal or invisible plastic would be prescribed to straighten a teen’s smile.
Helping your baby, toddler, and teen to practice healthy tooth care will allow them to have a better, brighter smile all the years of their lives.