Our baby teeth, and how they are cared for, are the foundation for our permanent, adult teeth. They also are holding the correct spaces for our adult teeth. If baby teeth are lost early on, due to decay, our permanent teeth may not have the room to come in properly. Baby teeth that are not cared for in the correct way, may also cause bad breath, infection, discomfort and even pain. It can also create problems eating, speaking, and cause a child to have a poor self-image.
The eruption of a baby's first tooth may happen as early as 6 to 7 months old. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents schedule their child's first dental visit by their first birthday. As soon as the first tooth appears, it's time to begin an at-home routine of brushing twice a day— after breakfast and before bed is recommended. Use a soft, small-headed toothbrush and water to remove food, bacteria and debris in the mouth, as well as sticky plaque. Don't use toothpaste until your child is old enough to rinse and spit on their own (usually over two years old).
When your child is about 4 years old, it's time to start teaching them to brush and care for their own teeth. Teaching basic oral hygiene techniques and habits begins in toddlerhood, but is an important process that continues through the childhood years. Preschoolers usually don't have the fine motor skills to be accomplished at tooth brushing, so it is important to continue to teach and supervise your child's brushing habits until they are about 6 to 8 years old—depending on the individual child.
From dental visits to at-home care, at Park View Pediatric Dentistry, we believe in approaching all that has to do with oral health and teeth in a positive and fun manner.
Here are some of our tooth brushing teaching tips:
1. Choose a short brush with two rows of soft bristles on a small head. Store a spare brush, since often children will drop toothbrushes cause them to get get dirty or wear out quickly. Remember to change brushes when the bristles get bent.
2. Using a toothpaste before the age of two is not necessary. After that a small (size of a pea) dab of fluoride toothpaste is fine. Make sure it is a flavor the child enjoys. We fine that Bubble Gum is always a popular flavor!
3. Teach by demonstration. Show your child how you brush your own teeth. Then let your hands be their guides. Gently place your hands over theirs as you guide them to brush entire mouth. Begin brushing the front teeth and ease toward the molars. Be sure to angle the bristles toward the gumline and brush each tooth with short, gentle circular motions. You may want to end with gently bushing the tongue to eliminate even more bacteria that may cause bad breath.
4. Again, make this a fun activity that your child looks forward to. Some parents even make up their own tooth brushing song, or try one of our favorites (to tune of Row, Row Row Your Boat!):
Brush, brush brush your teeth
Get them nice and clean
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Let your smile be seen!
5. Make sure your child realizes the importance of reaching every tooth. Some parents make up names for certain teeth or areas of the mouth, saying something like, “Ooops, let’s not forget about Molly Molar! I see some lunch caught back there.”
6. Props, dolls or stuffed animals are also a fun way to have your children pretend practice brushing in between brush time. At Park View Pediatric Dentistry, we have several stuffed animals with a full set of choppers. Children enjoy brushing those animal’s teeth with our instructions and our big colorful giant toothbrushes! (see photo). We believe that our early childhood oral education is a great compliment to your home efforts.
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Park View Pediatric Dentistry