This year, as you’re putting the presents under the tree, take a moment to consider these 12 important tips on kids’ oral health. A lifetime of health smiles is always a perfect gift for a child!
#1 – See a Dentist by Age 1
An Age 1 Dental Visit is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists and available at Mercy Dental Services. Early education leads to prevention of early childhood caries (cavities by age 6). At your child’s first visit, you will learn how to manage diet, hygiene, proper fluoride utilization, oral habits and the relationship of oral health and systemic health. Request an Age 1 Dental Visit today!
#2 – Teeth Erupt by Age 2
On average, the first teeth to erupt in children are the lower central incisors between 6-10 months. The last teeth to erupt are the upper second molars between 24-33 months, bringing the total number of “baby” teeth to 20. The first “adult” teeth to erupt are usually the first molars at age 6. These molars erupt behind their baby teeth. In other words, they will not lose a tooth before their adult molars erupt. Typically by age 14, all “baby” teeth are replaced and a total of 12 molars raises the number of “adult” teeth to 32.
#3 – No Bottles in Bed
Falling asleep sucking on a bottle or sipping throughout the night causes the mouth to enter an acidic state, dropping below the dangerous pH level of 5.5 (the pH of water is 7.0). Below this pH, bacteria reach their optimal acid production levels, wearing away enamel and causing cavities.
#4 – Avoid Thumbsucking and Pacifiers
Such oral habits can greatly impact a child’s teeth from coming in properly and cause misalignment. While most children will stop pacifier use on their own, it is highly recommended that children discontinue use by 3-4 years old.
#5 – Fluoride Strengthens Teeth
It is recommended that children consume water with fluoride levels between 0.8-1.0 parts per million. Most children receive optimal amounts of fluoride by daily consumption of public water systems. However, those with well water will most likely not receive enough fluoride and will need supplemental fluoride tablets. Furthermore, it is possible for well water to have an unnaturally high level of fluoride, as high as 3 parts per million! Too much of a good thing is a bad thing and can lead to unnaturally white spotted teeth called fluorosis. It is highly recommended to have your well water levels checked.
#6 – Beware of Early Childhood Caries (ECC)
ECCs are defined as cavities that occur before 6 years old. ECCs can lead to pain, inflammation and swelling in children’s mouths if left untreated. Losing a “baby” tooth to childhood caries can also have drastic effects on maintaining space for “adult” teeth. Research has shown that individuals with ECC have an increased incidence of adult cavities.
#7 – Brush at Least Twice a Day with Supervision Until 6-8 Years of Age
Young children may be able to run circles around you on the playground, but they lack the fine motor skills to properly brush their teeth. Your child may also need daily reminders and detailed instructions to keep a high level of oral hygiene. Remember to only use a “smear” of toothpaste for infants and “pea-size” amount of toothpaste for young children. The development of good habits early is imperative to a healthy mouth!
#8 – You are what you drink
Avoid regular use of sugary drinks! The American Dental Association recommends that children consume no more that 4-6 ounces per day. When consuming juice, your child should have it with a meal. Sipping throughout the day greatly increases the amount teeth are exposed to acid. Sugary drinks like pop and gatorade can also increase the incidence of diabetes and obesity.
#9 – Managing the Teething Process
It’s no secret that children can be irritable and wake up throughout the night when teething. It is recommended that your child chew on a cold wet wash cloth, cold teething ring or even a frozen bagel. When used sparingly and with proper directions, Baby Oragel and Baby Tylenol have proven to be effective.
#10 – No Re-implants on Baby Teeth After Trauma
If your child loses a tooth to trauma, do not try to re-implant it. (Note: the opposite is true for adult teeth). Reimplantation of a “baby” tooth will most likely result in damaging the growing “adult” tooth. From a different perspective, we see a tremendous amount of trauma to parents’ teeth from holding their child. Typically this occurs when the child is in front of the parent and the child’s head whips backward. Contact your dentist immediately if an incident occurs.
#11 – Don’t Pass It On
Babies are not born with “bad bacteria” in their mouth. They receive the strands of bacteria that cause cavities usually from their parents and primary care givers within the first two years of life. Avoid sharing spoons, forks and cups.
#12 – Take Care of Your Teeth During Pregnancy
Caring for your child’s oral health starts before they are born! Development of strong healthy teeth occurs during pregnancy. It is important to take care of your own teeth and gums and consume a balance diet to provide proper nutrients for fetal development.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a lifetime of health teeth!
Do you or your loved ones need a dental checkup? Mercy Dental Services is accepting new patients in the Canton, Ohio, area and beyond. Visit cantonmercy.org/dental for more information.