Ensuring Good Oral Health in your Child
Tooth decay is one of the most common conditions of children in the United States. Untreated tooth decay can cause infections and pain, which can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning. The good news is tooth decay is preventable.
Teaching your child proper oral hygiene habits at an early age will pay off greatly throughout his/her life.
Steps to good oral health in children:
- Brush twice a day.
- If your child is 2 years of age or older, use a fluoride toothpaste. For children younger than 6 years of age, make sure to watch your child brush their teeth to ensure he/she only uses a pea sized amount and spits the toothpaste out.
- If your child is younger than 2 years old, do not use a fluoride toothpaste unless you have been told to do so by your doctor or dentist.
- Floss daily. Flossing removes plaque from under the gum line and between the teeth that brushing misses. Failing to remove plaque can result in tartar build up and tartar can only be removed by a professional cleaning. You should floss for your child beginning at age 4. By age 8, most children should be able to floss on their own.
- Eating a well-balanced diet that limits the intake of sugary or starchy foods. Sugary and starchy foods produce plaque acids that cause tooth decay.
- Check your child’s drinking water. Your child should be drinking fluoridated drinking water. If your water supply; municipal, well or bottled does not contain fluoride, let your dentist know. Your dentist may prescribe your child fluoride supplements to ensure your child is getting enough fluoride.
- Talk to your dentist about dental sealants. Dental sealants are a plastic like liquid that is dripped onto the biting surface of the teeth. A dental sealant creates a highly effective barrier against decay. It coats the pits and fissures that typically trap food and promote bacterial growth. They are typically applied when your child grows his/her permanent molars around the age of 5 to 7.
What are good brushing techniques?
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush.
- First brush the inside of the tooth.
- Next, clean the outer surface of each tooth. The brush should be angled along the outer gum line.
- Third, use the tip of the brush to clean behind each front tooth, top and bottom.
- Finally, brush the tongue.
- Use a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste (unless your child is under 2, do not use fluoride toothpaste).
Should I be worried about my child’s teeth if he/she sucks their thumb?
Sucking is a natural reflex for children. Sucking on fingers, thumbs, pacifiers is a common habit of infants and young children. Some suck to feel secure and happy, or soothe themselves to help them fall asleep.
Children generally stop sucking between the ages of two and four years old. This is around the time the permanent front teeth get ready to erupt. Sucking is usually not a problem until your child begins to grow his/her permanent teeth.
If your child continues to suck after his/her permanent teeth begin to come in, it can cause problems in the tooth alignment and bite. The frequency and intensity of the sucking have a great factor in whether or not dental problems with arise.
How do I stop my child from sucking?
- Reward your child for not sucking.
- Children usually suck to ease anxiety or stress. Think of other strategies to provide comfort to your child.
- Explain to your child what could happen if they continue to suck.
- Bandage the thumb to remind them not to suck.
- Pediatricians may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the nail to prevent sucking.
- Some dentists may suggest a mouthpiece for nighttime use if the sucking continues to be a problem.