Just because a child’s baby teeth will eventually fall out on their own doesn't mean that parents should neglect the health of these important first steps in their child’s developing oral health. A child’s baby teeth act as a placeholder for when his or her permanent teeth begin to form. If a child loses his baby teeth at too young an age, his permanent teeth could form crowded, misaligned, or crooked. A child can also develop a speech impediment and trouble eating should she lose her teeth at too young an age.
Just as with permanent teeth, baby teeth are susceptible to harmful bacteria that grows in the mouth. Whenever your child eats or drinks sugary liquids, this bacteria, known as plaque, produces acids that slowly erode away at the enamel of your child’s teeth, eventually leading to decay and cavities. To prevent this from occurring, parents need to start cleaning their child’s teeth as soon as they erupt through the gum line.
Taking Care of Your Child’s Teeth
Since children don’t possess the coordination to properly brush and floss their teeth until reaching the age of six or seven, parents must take the time to thoroughly clean their child’s teeth daily. Here are a few helpful tips on how to care for your child’s teeth:
Use a soft washcloth to clean in and around your child’s baby teeth as they first begin to emerge through the gum line. Some dentist recommend waiting to use a toothbrush until your child has develop four teeth in a row, while others suggest waiting until a child has turned two or three years of age.
When selecting a toothbrush for your child, make sure to pick a child-sized brush that features a head small enough to fit comfortably into your child’s mouth. If your child fusses when using the brush, try soaking it in warm water for a few minutes to soften up the bristles.
The majority of dentists recommend that parents wait until a child turns two before using toothpaste when brushing his teeth. Prior to this age, children tend to swallow most to the toothpaste used during brushing. Ingesting too much fluoride can cause tooth discoloration in permanent teeth. Parents should also consult the label of any toothpaste they purchase for their child to ensure she’s old enough to safely use the product on.
Make sure to brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day; once in the morning after breakfast and once right before bedtime. You need to spend at least two minutes at a time brushing your child’s teeth, and pay special attention to the back molars, as this is where cavities most frequently develop in kids.
Buy your child a new toothbrush every three months. If the brush has started showing signs of wearing out, such as frayed or broken bristles, you should replace the toothbrush sooner.
Begin flossing your child’s baby teeth daily once he has developed two teeth that touch. You may consider using floss sticks or picks instead of the traditional string of floss for convenience.
Consult with your dentist to ensure your child is receiving enough fluoride. While most water supplies in the U.S. have fluoride added to them, you shouldn't automatically assume this provides your child enough protection.
Schedule regular appointments to have your child visit the dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends parents schedule their child’s first dental appointment by the age of one. This allows your dentist the opportunity to observe the development of your child’s teeth, while also helping your child become comfortable with visiting the dentist’s office.
A freelance writer, Timothy Lemke learned about proper oral care for kids from Dr. Kurt Tingey, a Vancouver WA dentist .