One of the biggest misconceptions is that a baby’s’ and toddler teeth are not as important because they “just fall out anyway”. This sentiment couldn’t be more wrong.
Starting your child off with good dental habits—even before a tooth makes its grand appearance—can help keep their teeth healthy, strong and protected for decades to come! Baby teeth preserve the spacing for the permanent ones, not caring for them properly can lead to tooth decay and/or gingivitis, which can affect the spacing of the permanent teeth.
A cavity develops when a tooth is exposed to acid frequently — for example, if you ingest foods or drinks containing sugar and starches—the repeated cycles of acid attacks cause the enamel to continue to lose minerals. A white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is a sign of early decay. Although enamel can be repaired from the minerals in your saliva and the fluoride in your toothpaste, it can also weaken and destroy overtime, creating a cavity.
Ways to avoid cavities and tooth decay:
- Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice—the sugar will stick to the teeth
- Don’t leave the bottle in the childs mouth for a long period of time, especially if they are not feeding from it
- Drink water after every meal/bottle feeding
- If water is not available, run a damp washcloth over their teeth
You can begin to clean your baby’s mouth as early as a few weeks after birth: using a clean, damp washcloth to wipe the gums—do not use toothpaste until your child has teeth. Once teeth have begun to appear, use a very soft bristled child-size toothbrush with a smear of toothpaste twice a day; if teeth are touching, then make sure you also gently floss on a daily basis.
After the age of 3, you can increase the amount of toothpaste used, to pea-size while reminding them to try not to swallow. They still need to be supervised but by the age of 4-5, they should be getting a good grasp of brushing correctly—in a circular motion for 2 minutes, twice a day.
Now the fun part—when most children consider this their leap into ‘big kid world’ and the tooth fairy makes her glittery debut—losing the baby teeth.
Around the age of 6, a child’s baby teeth loosen as their roots begin to dissolve, making way for the ‘adult’ teeth to settle in permanently. As exciting as this milestone is, you have to make sure the tooth isn’t to be yanked out if it’s not ready; this could lead to infection. However, you can help its progress by wiggling it. Sometimes, it can take months before a loose tooth falls out, other times it can be as simple as it coming out by being stuck in food—it might even be swallowed! But rest assured, there is no harm if that happens
Right when you thought your child’s teething stage was over, here it comes again—thankfully less painful and dramatic. Be prepared for some complaints of pain in the back of the mouth and even up the jaw line; these are the six-year molars poking through that are now replacing baby teeth. Have some fruit popsicles and ice cold water handy to help ease the discomfort. Child Ibuprofen is also safe.
As your child gets into the pre-teen and teenager years, they begin to take greater pride in their appearance, but they seem to miscalculate the work it entails to maintain a healthy smile. Add in their new found independence and social lives and they’re just too busy to be giving extra attention to their teeth. But did you know that dental decay is the most common chronic disease in young people between the ages of 5 and 17?
And although thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the grooves to remove food and plaque.
Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are a plastic material usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often and protect these vulnerable areas by ‘sealing out’ plaque and food. They are very easy to be applied: your dental professional just paints them onto the tooth enamel where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. They can last for up to several years.
Make sure to schedule regular dental checkups to ensure the sealants don’t need to be reapplied and that no other dental issues are arising.