Primary (baby) teeth should be brushed from the moment they first erupt into the mouth using a soft toothbrush and a smear or lentil-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste if your child is not spitting and a pea-sized amount if they can. Use a non-fluoridated toothpaste or only water for independent tots who insist on brushing on their own, but end up sucking on the brush. Soaking the brush in warm water will soften the bristles even more for those with sensitive mouths!
Every time your child eats or drinks something the environment of his/her mouth becomes more acidic (a drop in pH). It takes approximately 20 minutes for saliva to do its job to bring the pH back to neutral. That’s why it’s ideal to brush after every feeding; but at least twice a day (after breakfast and before bed) is recommended. It’s especially important to brush before naps and bedtime, because the flow of saliva is reduced during sleep.
We also recommend brushing after giving medications (swallowed or inhaled) because they are often acidic by nature and sugars are added to help them go down.
The set of baby teeth (20 in total) have usually worked their way into your child’s mouth by 2½. As the molars drift towards each other, they eventually contact and it’s at that point where plaque gets trapped between them.Even brushing won’t budge pesky plaque, but parent-assisted flossing on a daily basis will keep contact points spotless and popcorn kernels out. Ask your dentist for tips on how to best floss little teeth in little mouths.
A higher level of muscle dexterity is needed to floss and brush all the surfaces of every tooth well. Tying a shoe lace and writing in cursive are movements that use some of the same muscles used to reach way back and around all the teeth. Little hands that can perform both these tasks well can remove plaque and sparkle teeth on their own. Children are usually at this stage of development around the age of 8. Until then, grab the brush and share the job!
Every child is different. This is true even when it comes to growing and losing teeth. Loosing teeth (exfoliation) usually starts with the lower front teeth. The average age for a child to start losing their primary (baby) teeth is 6 years old, but some children get their first loose tooth as early as 4 and some as late at 8. Around the same time, the permanent first molars begin to come into the mouth (erupt) behind the last baby molar, and while some children may feel “teething” pains, others never even notice!
Transitioning your child from a bottle to a drinking cup can be difficult and sippy cups can save the day – not to mention your clothes, carpeting, upholstery, etc.
To save your child’s teeth from developing decay, fill sippy cups with only water unless it’s mealtime. Any other liquids, especially sugary drinks with low pH levels like sports drinks and fruit juices, can contribute to cavity formation (see #7) when used for extended periods of time.
Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease – more common than even asthma or seasonal allergies!
The low-down: Teeth get covered with plaque every time we eat or drink anything. When bacteria in the plaque break down food into sugars (including starches like pretzels, bread and pasta), the teeth face an acid-attack that leeches minerals out of teeth weakening their structure. The first sign of this weakening can be chalky-white spots on the enamel. If this process continues, the enamel breaks and the lesion is called caries (a.k.a.: “a cavity”). If left without repair, the cavity continues to get larger and can lead to pain and swelling.
Keep your child’s smile healthy and happy by helping with regular brushing and flossing, minimizing juices and sticky foods, and a trip to the dentist!
Keep the frequency and duration of acid-attack in check with healthy eating and drinking. This means not allowing children to go to sleep with bottles or sippy cups with any liquid other than water (yes, even milk can cause tooth decay); brushing after meals and snacks; avoiding sticky foods; and limiting how much and how long your child consumes sweets.
A child’s first dental visit should be a pleasant, non-threatening introduction to the dental setting. We believe it’s just as important to take infants, toddlers, and older children to a dentist for well-care visits as it is to take them to the pediatrician. While the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children be taken for their first dental visit soon after the first tooth erupts, but no later than the first birthday, it’s never too late to give your child the opportunity to love getting teeth checked and cleaned.
Set a good example for your child! Brush your own teeth twice a day and floss once a day. Be positive about dental visits and visit your dentist regularly. Also, be aware that the habits of your child’s primary care-taker can significantly impact his/her risk for tooth decay as oral bacteria are transferred from care-taker to child at eruption of the first tooth. A healthy mouth will have less problem bacteria to transfer.