Your Child’s Smile Starts with Healthy Teeth

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It’s never too early to start taking care of your child’s teeth. Baby teeth are not just important for a pretty smile, they are essential for speech, chewing food properly, and laying the foundation for permanent adult teeth. Keeping your child’s teeth and gums healthy is equally as important as the rest of their overall health.

Did you know it’s recommended to start brushing your baby’s gums before their first tooth erupts?  Prior to writing this RN Remedies® blog post, I did not! In preparation for sharing some helpful dental hygiene tips with you, I was fortunate enough to speak with Jose Polido, DDS, chief of pediatric dentistry in the Division of Dentistry and Orthodontics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Continue reading for dental hygiene tips to consider during pregnancy, your child’s infancy and childhood.

Healthy Teeth during Pregnancy

According to Dr. Polido, good dental health begins during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant and take good care of your teeth, you will be less likely to pass cavity-producing bacteria on to your baby.

Healthy Teeth for Infants and Toddlers

Your Child’s Smile Starts with Healthy TeethCavity-producing bacteria can easily be passed from you to your baby by the exchange of saliva, so it’s best if you don’t put your baby’s spoon or pacifier in your mouth. Bacteria lead to dental plaque, the cause of cavities and gum disease. Other tips to promote healthy include,

  • Use a soft cloth or gauze to clean your baby’s gums in the first few weeks after birth. It will get your baby used to having their teeth and gums stimulated and prevent plaque from sitting on your baby’s gums.
  • Use a small toothbrush with soft bristles to clean your infant’s first teeth. Use toothpaste to effectively remove plaque from your child’s teeth. Dr. Polido recommends toothpaste formulated for young children, especially since children tend to swallow toothpaste.
  • Flossing! If your infant has at least two teeth next to each other, flossing will help remove food and plaque that gets stuck between their teeth.
  • Do not allow a bottle of milk or juice to accompany your infant to bed. If your infant drinks fluids in bed and falls asleep, sugar will sit on their teeth and cause tooth decay.
  • Encourage your toddler to practice brushing their teeth twice per day (morning and before bed), and then follow up with a toothbrush and do a thorough brushing of their teeth yourself. If your child resists having their teeth brushed, try to do it when they are distracted by their favorite cartoon. Continue reading for tips on how to properly brush your child’s teeth!

If your child is on the autism spectrum or has other developmental delays, they may not cope well with early morning or evening brushing. Dr. Polido recommends picking a time of day that is best for your child and stick with it. Be persistent.

Cleaning Your Child’s Teeth 

Simply teaching your child the importance of caring for their teeth early on in life will develop good habits for a lifetime. When brushing your child’s teeth ensure to clean the entire surface area of the tooth and not just the fronts that are readily exposed when they open their mouth. Here are some tips to help the teeth brushing process:

  • Lift your child’s upper and lower lips to brush at the gum line which is a very common place where young children develop cavities and decay. Don’t forget to clean away any food particles that may be sitting in the space between your child’s cheeks and teeth.
  • Look for white staining on your child’s top and bottom front teeth, particularly near the gum line, which may be a sign of a cavity.
  • Try to limit sugary food and drink. Your child’s diet has a strong impact on their risk of developing cavities.
  • Your child’s first trip to the dentist should occur by their first birthday, or when the first tooth erupts. Children who are used to having their teeth brushed at an early age are more likely to cooperate and not be fearful during their first trip to the dentist.

“There is no set rule on how often your child should be seen by the dentist. While a dental visit every 6 months is a good rule of thumb for most children, the frequency of their dental appointments depends upon their individual risk factors such as underlying medical conditions, prior history of cavities, tooth decay, diet and mother/primary caregiver’s history of cavities,” shares Dr. Polido.

Ask your child’s dentist about the recommended frequency of your child’s routine follow up. Taking good care of your child’s teeth helps lower the risk of developing cavities and gum disease. I hope that this article encourages you to jump up and brush your child’s teeth! I know I’m about to go pick up my toothbrush and floss this moment.

Many thanks to Jose Polido, DDS, chief of the Division of Dentistry and Orthodontics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for providing insightful tips for this RN Remedies blog post.