June 22


A Parent’s Guide to Caring For Their Children’s Teeth

A Parent’s Guide to Caring for their Children’s Teeth

Becoming a parent is overwhelming in so many ways.  It’s exciting, nerve-wracking, rewarding, and exhausting all at once.  No matter how many books you read or how much advice you’re given, you’re never quite prepared for the journey of parenthood. Between feeding baby, changing diapers, and cleaning up, baby’s dental health may be overlooked.

When Should I Start Brushing Baby’s Teeth?

Babies typically have their first tooth erupt around the age of 6 months, although this can vary considerably.  As soon as the first tooth erupts into the mouth, you should start caring for it by introducing an infant toothbrush to clean the tooth daily.  For infants, we’d recommend using a toothbrush wetted with water; toothpaste can be introduced when your child knows to spit it out rather than swallow it.  Your baby may not like having their tooth/teeth brushed at first, so singing songs or interacting with them while your brushing can help get them used to it.  If your child is very young when their first tooth erupts and cannot tolerate the toothbrush, using a wet washcloth to gently wipe the teeth and gums can help prevent cavities until they’re ready for the toothbrush.

As your child grows, they should be brushing their teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time.  For children up to age of 3, a very tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste -the size of a grain of rice - is recommended.  Older kids need a pea-size dab of toothpaste. 

When Can Kids Brush Their Teeth By Themselves?

Brushing all of your teeth effectively requires some concentration and coordination; we recommend helping to brush your children’s teeth until they are 8 years old.  One simple way to implement this at bedtime is to let them brush first, and then brush for them to make sure no areas have been missed.  You can demonstrate how to hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush the area where the gums meet the teeth using small circles.  It’s common for children to brush the easily accessible front teeth and neglect other areas of the mouth.  Reminding them of easy-to-miss areas like the inside surfaces of the teeth and the back of the molars will make them for effective brushers and set them up for a lifetime of good oral hygiene.

How Do I Floss My Child’s Teeth?  When Should I Start?

As soon as your child has two teeth that contact, bacteria, food, and plaque will start accumulating between the teeth – it’s time to introduce daily flossing.  Floss their teeth using 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Cut off about 18 inches of floss.

Step 2: Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and/or middle finger on each hand until you have about 2 inches of floss between your hands.

Step 3: Gently slide the floss between the teeth.  Hug the floss against the tooth in a C-shape, carefully sliding it under the gum line.  Make sure to floss every in-between surface of the teeth.

Proper flossing, like toothbrushing, takes practice.  We recommend helping your child to floss until they’re 8 years old. 

How Do Babies Get Cavities?

The number one cause of tooth decay in babies is called ‘Baby Bottle Tooth Decay’, and it caused by long-term exposure of a child’s teeth to sweetened liquids or those containing natural sugars – like milk, formula, and fruit juice. Bacteria in the mouth feed on these sugars and form acids that attack the teeth and cause cavities.  Giving an infant a sugary beverage before they sleep is especially harmful due to the decrease in saliva flow.  Pacifiers dipped in sugar can also cause tooth decay.  Infants should have their teeth and gums brushed or wiped with a clean washcloth before naptime and bedtime to protect against tooth decay.

What Foods Cause Cavities in Children?

As you introduce solid foods into your child’s diet, it is helpful to know which foods can contribute to tooth decay.  The first category is sticky foods.  This includes chips, crackers, granola bars, raisins, and other foods that tend to get stuck in the chewing surfaces of our teeth.  Because these foods are not easily washed off the tooth surface, bacteria can feast on them for a prolonged period of time, producing acids that attack the enamel.

Another category of foods that cause cavities are acidic and sugary drinks, including orange juice and soda.  As the teeth are bathed in these beverages, the pH of the enamel is lowered, making it easier for bacterial acids to demineralize the tooth structure and form a cavity.  For this reason, water is the most tooth-friendly thirst quencher and should the main source of hydration for children (other than infants). 

Most of us have heard that sugars in candy and cakes can cause tooth decay.  The truth is, bread and other starchy foods also cause cavities because after you chew bread, your saliva breaks the starch down into sugars.  These sugar molecules combine with saliva and bacteria present in the mouth to form plaque.  It is the acidic byproducts of the plaque that causes the enamel to dissolve and form cavities.

So what can your child eat to keep their teeth healthy?  For the most part, foods that are good for your body are good for your teeth.  This includes crunchy, high fiber fruits and vegetables (apples, celery, carrots), green leafy vegetables, dairy products, and eggs.

When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist?

Your child should have a screening appointment with the dentist by their first birthday, and at least every year after that.  Once they have most of their baby teeth, your child should come in twice a year for their exams and cleanings.  These appointments are critical in finding any areas of tooth decay that may be developing.  Your dentist will also screen for any developmental concerns, such as a tongue-tie that can hindSave worker speech and facial development.  They will ensure that the baby teeth and permanent teeth are present and erupting properly. 

In addition, the dentist and their team can assess how your child’s home care and recommend customized  tips for brushing and flossing.  They’ll also be glad to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding your child’s teeth. 

At Smile Studios in Redmond, we specialize in family dentistry. Please contact our dental office to bring your little one to establish a foundation for good oral hygiene and care.  

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