However, you may not always know how to build the foundations for a lifetime of health for your child. When you educate yourself on the connection between children’s oral care and overall health, you can proactively address poor health by implementing an oral care plan from the first months of your child’s life.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents should schedule a dental visit for their child once their first tooth erupts, typically within the first year of life. Babies use their first teeth for breastfeeding purposes, and can develop dental issues as early as their first year.
Related: 3 toothpastes to use with caution (or avoid completely)
As they grow older, early childhood caries (ECC) can develop, which is a rapid form of tooth decay and is also the most common chronic childhood disease.
According to the CDC, about 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5–11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth, and about 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12–19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Tooth decay can lead to distraction in school, poor self-esteem, and possibly lead to behavioral impacts.
Your child’s dental providers are a part of their medical care team. Certified in orthodontics and pediatric dentistry myself, I understand the critical role that dental and health-care providers play in the lives of patients. From my years of experience in the field, I have outlined a few essential tips that families should be aware of as it relates to oral care:
Establish a dental home—or home base—for your child’s oral health. It is recommended that a children’s first visit be at the eruption of the first baby tooth, but no later than age one. Get your child started early at a consistent care provider of choice that will help instill values in them at an early age.
Begin dental habits in early infancy. Begin early oral care habits in infancy by rubbing the gums with a washcloth after feeding.
Use an age-appropriate, soft bristle toothbrush as soon as their first tooth appears. Gently but thoroughly, brush teeth in a circular direction. Explain step by step what you are doing and why.
Use kid-friendly terms to describe oral care issues you are trying to prevent. If you’re trying to teach your children about tooth decay, try using the term “sugar bugs.” There are many books on the market about a first visit to the dentist.
In addition to educating your children on the importance of oral care, you can also proactively fight dental issues that may lead to more detrimental health issues down the line. If your community doesn’t have fluoridated water, it’s even more important to use fluoride products under the direction of a dentist or doctor. These can include toothpastes, rinses, supplements, varnishes (an in-office treatment) and sealants. When applied to chewing surfaces of children’s back teeth, sealants can prevent up to 80% of cavities. Lastly, encouraging healthy diets and eliminating sugary drinks and snacks effectively reduce the risk of dental caries.
A great dental health-care provider will help you give your child the best start. Dental hygienists are an especially great source of knowledge on disease prevention. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us! It’s what we are here for.