The Parents’ Guide to Healthy Teeth for Children of Every Age
Keep your child’s teeth healthy at every age.
Healthy teeth are important no matter how young or old you are, but the methods we use to keep them that way change as we grow up.
Do you know the difference between caring for an infant’s teeth and a kindergartener’s? What about when to schedule your child’s first appointment and how to choose their dentist?
Whether this is your first child or you just want to make sure you’re on the right track, we have you covered. Read on to find out how to keep your child’s teeth healthy from infancy through middle school and beyond.
The First Visit: What to Expect
Experts recommend you start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first ones poke through. This is also when you should schedule their first appointment with a dentist, as early as one year of age and definitely before they turn two. It’s important to keep those tiny baby teeth clean, but it’s also just as important to give your child a chance to get used to a healthy oral care routine.
If your child is a bit older and still hasn’t seen the dentist, don’t feel guilty! Start helping them get used to regular dental visits by booking an appointment right away and practicing good oral hygiene at home.
Why choose a board-certified pediatric dentist?
Many parents aren’t aware that a pediatric dentist is more than a dentist who likes kids. Pediatric dentistry is a specialty that requires two to three years of extra training on top of dental school. This added experience means they’re more qualified to care for your child’s teeth than a general dentist.
Another benefit is that pediatric dental facilities are designed with kids in mind. They’re decorated with fun, bright colors and exciting themes, and the equipment is child-sized to help your kiddos feel at home.
What can you expect from your child’s first trip to a pediatric dentist? At Must Love Kids, it will be a laid-back examination of your child’s mouth and dental health so far. The primary goal is to create a positive experience where your child feels comfortable—and even has fun.
We’ll start by giving your child a tour of our office, introducing them to the team along the way. They’ll get a chance to ask questions and sit in the dental chair. We’ll also take this opportunity to talk about healthy habits at home, like brushing and flossing your teeth and eating tooth-friendly foods.
If they’re comfortable enough afterward, we’ll give them a full dental exam with a cleaning. We can also do X-rays or fluoride treatments at this time if needed. If your child is still very young, they’ll sit in your lap during the cleaning.
Our team makes sure to only use positive language to avoid creating unnecessary anxiety, avoiding terms like “pain” and “hurt.” Follow their lead to learn how to address dental cleanings in a way that helps your child stay excited about their appointments.
Brushing Teeth for Infants and Toddlers
The process of brushing your baby’s teeth looks a bit different than what you may be used to. Because their mouths are still small and delicate, it’s best to brush them with a clean, wet washcloth wrapped around your finger. You can also use a gentle finger toothbrush designed for infants. This can also help relieve some of their teething pain.
Once a small row of teeth comes in around age two, it’s time to graduate to a real toothbrush. Choose a child-sized brush with soft bristles. Soaking it in warm water for a couple of minutes ahead of time will soften them even more. Use a tiny, pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and instruct your child to spit it out, not swallow.
One of the most important parts of keeping your child’s teeth healthy in the infant and toddler years is to make sure they eat a balanced diet that isn’t high in sweets. Even infants and toddlers can experience tooth decay if they eat and drink a lot of sugar. Fruit juice, for example, isn’t required for kids’ nutrition or development, but it does contribute to cavities.
Healthy Teeth in the Pre-K and Kindergarten Years
Kids generally finish growing a full set of teeth around their third birthday, though some children take more or less time. By age four, once your child’s face has started to grow and develop more, you’ll notice gaps starting to form between their teeth. This is completely normal as their mouth prepares for their larger permanent teeth to come in.
Once your child can be trusted not to swallow it (usually around age five or six), start letting them use a kid’s fluoride mouthwash. Make sure it’s alcohol-free, as alcohol will kill the good bacteria in their mouth along with the bad.
Now that your child is old enough to sit on their own in the dental chair, you may want to consider staying in the waiting room during their appointments. Many children are happy to be “grown-up” enough to sit in the room by themselves. This also gives the dental team the opportunity to steer the appointment to give your child the best care possible.
Healthy Teeth in Elementary School
Elementary school is an exciting time for dental care because it’s when your child starts losing their baby teeth! Their front teeth will likely fall out first, between ages six and seven. The others will follow throughout the next few years, ending with the molars in the back of their mouth by age 13.
Even though it might seem early, the beginning of elementary school is the best time to schedule your child’s first orthodontic evaluation. This can help identify any problems down the road and make sure they get treatment as soon as possible.
Healthy Teeth in Middle School and Beyond
You’ve made it to the middle school years! Your child will have a full set of permanent teeth by the time they’re about 14. If they have any alignment issues, it might be time for them to get braces or another orthodontic treatment.
The middle school years are where your child begins to have more choice over the foods they eat. To make matters worse, soda and junk food companies target kids with advertising, encouraging them to make unhealthy food choices. Work hard to make sure your children know that the occasional treat is OK, but the bulk of their diet should come from foods that are good for their teeth and the rest of their bodies.
Healthy teeth are a priority at every age.
No matter how young or old you are, making sure your teeth stay in tip-top shape is important. Following the above tips for dental care can set up good habits that help your child keep their healthy teeth from preschool to adulthood.
If you’re searching for a “kids dentist near me” in Vancouver, WA, check out the board-certified pediatric dentists at Must Love Kids. We’ll help your child learn to take care of your teeth like the superhero they are.Ready to embark on the exciting adventure of building a healthy smile? Contact us today with any questions or to set up an appointment.