How to keep your kids' teeth healthy

Children’s oral care changes as they grow.

While loving your child is deep and instinctive, parenting a young child is an art of adaptability. Small children learn and grow quickly, so you must learn how to handle each milestone and phase of their life, whether it’s their new ability to open kitchen cabinets or the discovery that they’ve inherited your stubborn streak. Your baby’s mouth grows and changes just as quickly as the rest of their body, which can make learning how to handle each phase of their growth seem overwhelming. Thankfully, you don’t have to do this on your own! We’ve put together a guide to help you keep your child’s teeth healthy from infancy to kindergarten.

What changes will my child’s teeth go through during this period of their life?

Your baby’s primary teeth actually start developing in the womb at only six weeks’ gestation. Their permanent teeth soon follow suit, beginning to form around four months’ gestational age. The development of your child’s teeth and jaw continues even after they’re born, with their first baby teeth erupting at around six months old. Your child will steadily begin getting more and more teeth, generally completing their set of 20 baby teeth by the time they’re three years old. Your child will probably lose their first baby tooth when they’re around six or seven years old.

When should I bring my baby in for their first dental visit and what should I expect from it?

You should schedule your baby’s first appointment with a pediatric dentist when they’re around six months old—right after their first baby tooth erupts—and no later than their first birthday. Your baby’s first dental appointment will be incredibly easy; your kid’s dentist will perform a quick evaluation of your baby’s teeth and jaws to make sure they’re healthy and developing normally. Then, they’ll clean your baby’s teeth and sit down with you to answer any of your questions and give you advice about caring for your baby’s teeth.

What are the benefits of seeing a board certified pediatric dentist?

While all pediatric dentists complete a graduate program to become a specialized dentist for kids, a board certified pediatric dentist is someone who has gone above and beyond to become certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. Pediatric dentists seeking this certification take a written exam and an oral clinical exam to demonstrate detailed expertise on a wide range of pediatric dentistry subjects; once they’re certified, they must renew their certification every year to maintain it. As a result, board certified pediatric dentists are committed to excellence; they set a high bar for themselves and meet it year after year. Choosing a board certified pediatric dentist guarantees that your child will receive expert care from a knowledgeable specialist who is up-to-date on the latest dental technologies and techniques to keep your children’s teeth bright and healthy.

What’s the process to treat my baby’s lip or tongue tie?

If you suspect a lip or tongue tie is causing your baby’s difficulty breastfeeding or your child’s speech delay or impediment, it’s wise to take them in for an evaluation. Lip or tongue ties can cause major problems for some children, but children with minor cases may do fine with less invasive treatments like speech therapy. Fixing lip or tongue ties is a relatively simple procedure, however, and only takes about five minutes to complete. Your kid’s dentist will use a laser to quickly and painlessly cut through the frenulum’s extra skin; the laser reduces bleeding and inflammation, so your child should immediately be able to begin breastfeeding normally.

How do I prevent cavities at home?

Sticking to a good oral hygiene routine at home is absolutely essential for preventing cavities and gum disease. You should begin brushing your little one’s teeth with a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste as soon as they erupt; add flossing to the routine when their teeth are close enough together. Additionally, you should ensure your family eats a balanced diet with plenty of lean protein, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Feed your little one fruits and vegetables for snacks instead of carbohydrate- or sugar-laden snacks and give them water to drink throughout the day.

When should I start letting my child use mouthwash?

Mouthwash is a vital part of an oral hygiene routine, but you should wait until your child is at least six years old before you introduce it into their routine, especially fluoridated mouthwash. Fluoride is essential for the development of strong, healthy teeth and can help prevent cavities, but ingesting too much of it over a long period of time can cause your child’s teeth to develop permanent spots or streaks, marring the appearance of their smile.

As a result, you shouldn’t give children fluoridated mouthwash until they can reliably swish and spit the liquid, which generally happens around six years old. It’s a good idea to let your child practice with fluoride-free mouthwash before you move them to a fluoridated mouthwash. Additionally, you should watch your child’s daily oral hygiene routine until they’re about 12 years old to ensure they’re doing a thorough job and spitting out their mouthwash.

When should I get an orthodontic evaluation for my child?

You should bring your child in for an orthodontic evaluation before they turn seven years old. Although this might sound early, it’s the ideal age because your child will already have enough permanent teeth for an orthodontist to predict the way their teeth will come in by examining their jaw and bite. This information can be vital, helping your dentist predict future issues with your child’s permanent teeth, such as overcrowding or misaligned bites.

In some cases, orthodontists can prevent or greatly reduce these issues by giving your child early orthodontic treatment, which includes devices like palate expanders; these devices take advantage of the fact that your child’s jaw is still growing by exerting a small amount of outward pressure to encourage your child’s jaw to widen over time, creating more room for your child’s adult teeth. This type of treatment doesn’t always eliminate the need for orthodontic care when your child hits their teenage years, but it greatly reduces how long your child will need braces and can reduce or eliminate the need for more invasive treatments like tooth extractions or dental headgear.

While your child might grow and change fast enough to make your head spin, it’s possible to keep up with the changing needs of your child’s oral health. If you have any questions about keeping your little one’s teeth or gums healthy and how you should care for them, feel free to call our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Mo, Dr. G, or Dr. Z at any time.