Young Childrens' Teeth
Thursday October 4,
Dear Dr. Mady: I was wondering if you can provide me with some information about how my sister and I can care for our young children and babies teeth, and when they should see a dentist—Charlene in Tilbury
Dear Charlene: Teeth erupt in babies at different ages, but usually before one year of age. As soon as your baby’s teeth appear, you should be cleaning them with a damp wash cloth after feeding your baby. Some children are even born with teeth.
When more of the deciduous teeth erupt you can purchase an extra-soft children’s tooth brush and brush your child’s teeth gently. In the beginning, no toothpaste is required and water is usually a good source of fluoride, depending on where you live and if it is available in the water supply there. Sometimes it is beneficial to lay your child in your lap when brushing at a young age so that all the teeth can be viewed.
It is also very important to remember never to put your child to bed with a bottle containing milk or juices. Water alone is fine but other beverages can cause rampant damage to erupting and erupted primary (baby) teeth. The problem is known as baby bottle tooth decay and it can lead to premature loss of these teeth.
Many individuals think that primary teeth are not important because they will eventually fall out. This is not true. They serve many important functions related to digestion and nutrition for your child, but they also reserve space for permanent teeth to erupt into. If a primary tooth is lost early, a permanent tooth can try and erupt early and may not go into the proper position. This later can lead to malocclusion (an improper bite) and costly orthodontic treatment.
As far as your child’s first dental appointment, most dentists recommend that kids begin treatment in a dental office at around the age of three unless there is a problem or concern prior to that. It is however not uncommon for parents to have their children’s teeth checked as early as one year of age. If there are any minor problems noticed by parent or dentist, they can be prevented sometimes from becoming major ones. It is often good not to wait until there is pain or an injury before you introduce your child to the dentist. It is a great idea to make the first visit a pleasant and positive one. This helps lessen the chances of your child developing a dental phobia at an early age, from a traumatic experience.
When you teach your child to brush and floss, allow them to watch you. Imitation is often an excellent training tool, especially after the age of two, even if you have to help with the brushing for the first while. Get your child into the habit of brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste made specially for kids. It is also a good idea to floss your child’s teeth and they should be able to do it on their own by the age of nine or ten. The most important thing of all is for a parent to praise their child’s attempts at good oral hygiene practices from the minute they start trying.
Children are the most susceptible to tooth decay of all age groups. A well balanced diet and minimal snacking along with good home care helps prevent cavities from invading your children’s teeth. Fluoride helps to make teeth more cavity resistant. If there is no fluoride in your drinking water, consider purchasing bottled water that contains it. This alone can reduce cavities substantially. Also fluoride tablets, drops and mouthrinses are available. Just be careful that fluoride is not swallowed, because it can lead to a very upset stomach and possibly vomiting.
Children, just like adults, need healthy teeth and mouths for eating, speaking and smiling. Nice teeth can be a big determining factor in your child’s level of self esteem. With the technology and knowledge available today in dentistry and dental products, there is no reason why your children can’t grow up with strong, cavity-free teeth and maintain them for life.
Remember, regular dental checkups are a key factor in healthy oral development and as parents, we play a key role because better oral and dental health for the child begins with the parent or caregiver of a child.
If you have a dental question you want answered, please e-mail Dr. Mady at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.askthedentist.ca under “articles” for an abundance of dental health related information.
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The
Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS
member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of
each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask
The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A