When should a child first see the dentist and how should you care for their growing teeth? Your child’s oral health depends on a wholesome diet and teaching them good hygiene habits — along with early exams and intervention when there’s an issue.
Infancy and Early Childhood
Our teeth begin to emerge when we’re about six months old. Children in this age group very often develop habits such as thumb sucking, tongue sucking, or pacifier use, which are likely to have an adverse impact on the way in which their jaw or bite develops. It’s a good thing to begin caring for baby teeth early on, brushing gently with a finger brush and no paste when they’re infants, and then graduating to a child-sized brush and a little dab of paste. When they’re old enough to hold the brush, let them imitate your actions, and go over their brushing job with them.
Sugary or starchy snacks are hard on little teeth, and you don’t want your child to develop a painful cavity or lose a baby tooth. Raisins, crackers, or teething biscuits create an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, so limit or eliminate them. The same goes for fruit juice, especially at night, or soft drinks at any time. Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle, and if you’ve nursed, wipe your baby’s teeth before bedtime.
It’s not too soon for that first dentist visit, because you want your child to feel comfortable at the dentist’s office and to learn more about hygiene.
Age Seven to Twelve
Seven is a good age to take your child for their first visit to an orthodontist because some conditions are much more easily addressed at this age than later on. A jaw that is too narrow, for instance, can be corrected without the surgery this problem may incur when the jaw loses its flexibility and the jawbones are knit.
Keep your children on track nutritionally: no sugary drinks and limited sweets. Let them assume more responsibility for their brushing but still check to make sure they’ve done it properly, until the age of eight, because their motor skills may not be quite up to the task. An electric toothbrush is a good investment.
Early to Late Teen Years
Nutrition is a challenge at this busy age when kids are running from school to sports to other activities. Help them avoid junk food by keeping healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, raw almonds, and veggies on hand.
The hormonal changes that these years bring mean that keeping up those good hygiene habits is critical. If your children don’t have an electric toothbrush, get them one. Get a water flosser, too, and make sure they know how to use it properly. Remind them how important their teeth are to their appearance. The desire to look good is probably taking hold about now!
Keep up with regular dental visits and cleanings…