Your child’s teeth are incredibly important, not only because they help them eat and speak, but also because they affect facial development. As a mom, you may already know the basics of children’s dental health, but it can be difficult to judge exactly how much dental care they need. It isn’t just about preventing cavities, but far more!
When it comes to healthy teeth for kids, here’s what to keep in mind:
1. Children’s Teeth Are Not Like Yours
Looking after your kid’s teeth is not the same as looking after your own. A child will start developing primary teeth or baby teeth when they’re between 6 months to a year old. In most cases, they will have 20 baby teeth by the time they’re 3 years old.
Adults have 32 permanent teeth. The difference doesn’t just lie in the number, though. Baby teeth don’t have as much protection, since the enamel layer on them is thinner and more delicate. This is why children’s smiles are so bright and white, but also why their teeth are more prone to cavities.
2. Baby Teeth Play an Important Role
You may think that baby teeth don’t really matter, since they will fall out when your child’s permanent teeth start to come in. However, the first set of teeth helps your child develop speech, chew solid foods and have room for permanent teeth.
If your little one loses baby teeth too early, whether due to natural reasons or because they have cavities and need an extraction, they may face alignment issues later. When surrounding teeth move into the gap left by missing teeth, orthodontic treatment may be the only way to correct the problem.
3. Caring for Your Child’s Teeth
Along with taking care of your kid’s teeth when they’re too young to do it themselves, help them learn proper tooth care habits:
- Brushing – Use a child-size toothbrush with soft bristles to start cleaning your child’s teeth when they are 1-2 years old. Use water or a small amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste, and switch to a fluoridated one when they are old enough to spit it out after brushing. Teach them how to clean their teeth, tongue and gums properly for at least 2 minutes twice a day and help them brush till they reach age 7 or 8.
- Flossing – Make sure your child knows the importance of flossing, and help them floss their teeth at least twice a day. Pre-threaded floss on a stick can be easier to use, especially when they first get started.
- Cavities – Monitor your child’s teeth for any sign of tooth decay or cavities, which occur due to bacterial build-up on and around teeth. Risk factors include tooth discoloration or white spots, premature birth or low birth weight, medication and irregular dental visits.
- Nutrition – Diet affects oral health, and the right nutrients make a difference. Avoid sugary or acidic foods and drinks, which promote the growth of bacteria and damage tooth enamel. Your child should have loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water and unsweetened juices.
4. Watch for Common Dental Problems
If your child has toothaches or sensitive teeth, schedule a dental checkup. Even with proper care, their teeth can develop cavities, especially if gum disease and tooth decay run in the family. Early treatment can save them a lot of pain later.
Alignment problems such as crooked teeth, overbites and underbites can be corrected with pediatric orthodontics. Today’s dental technology and materials allow orthodontic treatment to start at a younger age. If minor issues are not treated now, they can become worse and require more extensive treatment later!
Dr. Satish Pai – an Ivy League trained dentist and a faculty at Columbia University, believes that a perfect smile not only makes a person look great but feel great while boosting confidence. As the founder of Putnam Orthodontics, he is dedicated to not only creating perfect smiles for his patients but also educating people with his engaging articles about all things related to a perfect smile and oral health. Spending time with his family always brings a smile on his face. In his free time, you can find him golfing, doing yoga or surfing.