Dental care for a child starts with the state of the mother’s health during pregnancy since baby teeth begin developing before birth. Pregnant mothers should ensure they eat a nutritious balanced diet, and also take in sufficient minerals and vitamins. It is highly advisable for pregnant mothers to have a full dental examination and get any gum disease or cavities treated.
A child’s teeth (called primary teeth) normally emerge from the gums at the age of around 6 months, though this may vary from child to child. By 3 years, all twenty primary teeth should be visible. These teeth are lost between 6 and 11 years. The first permanent teeth for a child (these are molars) appear at around 6 years old.
Beginning dental visits
At 6 months old, a doctor should assess the probability of the child developing dental problems in future. This may involve examining the mother’s dental condition and history since this will often affect the child’s teeth. If your doctor finds that there is a likelihood of the child developing dental problems, ensure that the child visits a dentist either 6 months after primary teeth appear or one year after birth, whichever happens first. After visiting the dentist, ensure to visit again after every 6 months or as recommended by the dentist
If the baby has dental problems due to disease, injury or other developmental problems, they should be examined by a pediatric dentist immediately. If the problems affect other areas apart from teeth surfaces, a children’s doctor(pediatrician) should examine them.
Children teeth and gums care
Caring for teeth and gums is critical when discussing dental care for children.It is best practice to begin inculcating healthy oral habits before a child’s permanent teeth emerge. You should clean the baby’s gums using gauze or soft cloth to eliminate plaque before primary teeth come in.
Take care when sharing forks spoons and such utensils with the baby. Saliva on those utensils can harbor bacteria that may cause tooth decay. Even kissing the baby may transmit bacteria. Practicing good family oral hygiene can avert tooth decay at early childhood. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums greatly minimizes the risk of carrying bacteria that cause tooth decay to the child.
Do not soothe your child to sleep with a bottle of juice, milk, formula or other sugary products. The acids and sugar contained in such liquids can cause teeth to decay. Also avoid propping up the bottle when it is in the mouth of your baby. Immediately the baby has finished feeding or has fallen asleep, remove the bottle. The baby should be encouraged to start drinking using a cup from the age of around 4 to 6 months.
The child’s fluoride needs should be discussed with your dentist. If extra fluoride is needed the dentist can prescribe a gel, varnish or supplement that can be applied to the child’s teeth. Supplements should be used as directed and kept out of children’s reach. Excess fluoride can stain your child’s teeth and is even toxic.
Feed your child with a nutritious diet so as to develop strong teeth, maintain healthy gums and ward off tooth decay. This means eating vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Avoid high sugar content foods and processed starch like pasta, white bread and pastries.
Avoid giving your child any mouthwashes containing alcohol. If the child is over 6 years old and has cavities, inquire from your dentist if a fluoride-containing mouthwash can help. Ensure the child does not swallow the mouthwash.
Avoid exposing your child to second hand cigarette smoke, which may help cause gum disease, tooth decay among other health problems. As the child grows educate him or her about the risks of second hand smoke and smoking.
Sometimes children engage in rough play which can knock off or break a tooth. Educate yourself about teeth injuries and handling dental emergencies. Finger and thumb sucking should be discouraged and if the child does not stop consult your dentist.
Children brushing and flossing
Begin using a soft toothbrush to clean your child’s teeth as soon as the teeth emerge. Use a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste. When the child is 2 years, begin using a pea-sized toothpaste amount and ensure the child does not swallow the toothpaste.
When your child’s teeth develop and touch each other, you can begin flossing. There are useful plastic flossing tools on the market. Discuss with your dentist about the correct technique of flossing your child’s teeth and the proper way of teaching flossing to your child.
Initially you can brush and floss your child’s teeth until they are big enough to do it on their own. The child can learn brushing his or her teeth from about the age of 3 years. In their fourth year, children should be able to brush their teeth in the morning and at night, but under supervision to ensure thoroughness.
The child should be encouraged to watch you brushing your teeth at the correct angle so as to improve their technique. A good way of teaching is to let them brush in the morning while you do it for them at night, until they perfect the technique.
You can use disclosing tablets to reveal if there is any plaque left on the child’s teeth after brushing. These chewable tablets, sold in many drugstores, color any plaque left on teeth once the child finishes brushing.