Keeping your children’s primary or baby teeth healthy can be a challenge. Even though these teeth eventually fall out, they still play an important role in ensuring your child gets the right kinds of foods and nutrients to keep them healthy. They also help with speech development and guiding permanent teeth into place.
The challenge of keeping these teeth clean starts even before they first pop out of a baby’s gums. Diseases such as ECC (early childhood caries) can appear at an early age if we’re not careful. Gum disease and tooth decay can be devastating for kids at any age. As parents, it’s important that we focus on the health of our child’s teeth and teach them good habits that will make a difference down the road.
Here are some ideas of what we can do to promote healthy teeth at different stages of our children’s lives:
For Babies –
It’s a good idea to clean your baby’s gums regularly with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze. You don’t need to use toothpaste at this point. Gently rub the cloth over the baby’s gums to keep them clean and to get your baby used to the daily routine of cleaning their mouth.
Once their small teeth begin to appear, you can start using a toothbrush. Be sure to use a very soft toothbrush that is small enough to fit inside your child’s mouth. You can decide if you want to use toothpaste at this point. If you do, be sure to only use a very small amount. Once two teeth begin to touch, you’ll know it’s time to start flossing.
When They Reach Age 2 –
Now you definitely want to start using a small amount of toothpaste when you brush your child’s teeth. Most children tend to swallow toothpaste rather than spitting it out. Too much toothpaste can cause upset stomachs or cosmetic issues with the teeth.
This is also a good age to begin to teach them how to use the toothbrush on their own. It’s fine to let them have a turn with the toothbrush, but it’s a good idea to go back over their teeth and gums once yourself. Be sure to brush their tongue to remove bacteria that can cause bad breath.
Turning 8 –
Dentists agree that children are usually able to do a good job of brushing their teeth on their own when they hit the age of 8. You can encourage them by making sure they are able to reach the sink. Give them a step stool or bench to stand on so they can reach to rinse. Fun toothbrushes with their favorite cartoon characters and flavored toothpaste can make brushing time more enjoyable for your children.
It’s important to make brushing teeth part of morning and bedtime routines. Teach your children the importance of clean teeth and help them to avoid foods that can cause tooth decay.
Permanent Teeth –
Children will begin to lose their baby teeth around the age of 6 or 7. These will soon be replaced by permanent teeth. By the time a child is age 13, most of their permanent teeth will be in place. This includes new molars and sometimes wisdom teeth with new crevices and grooves.
Hopefully, they’ve learned some good brushing and flossing habits by this point. Parents continue to play an important role by making sure their kids are brushing twice a day. You can also help by monitoring what kinds of foods are in the house, including after school snacks. Too much sugar can lead to problems.