Every child should be proud to smile. Healthy teeth are important for appearance and your child’s developing self-esteem.
First teeth or “baby teeth” are vital in helping your children eat and speak properly. First teeth hold the space for permanent teeth and help guide them into the correct position. The future health of your child’s permanent teeth will depend on the dental care and cleaning habits that you started with their first teeth.
Health Unit Dental Services for Children:
- Dental Screening and Preventive Clinics – Dental staff screen the teeth of students in elementary schools each year. If dental decay is found, we notify parents so that the child can be taken for treatment.
- Dental Programs for Children and Youth – Dental programs for low-income families in Perth County.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Child’s Teeth
- Children need help brushing their teeth until they are about six or seven years old when they can do a good job of using a toothbrush themselves.
- Start taking your children to the dentist at age one to detect early problems and ensure good dental habits. Dental visits should occur at least once per year.
- Two for two: Children should brush their teeth at least twice per day for two minutes each time. It’s important not to miss the bedtime brushing!
- Regularly check that your children are using good brushing techniques. Lift their lip to check the health of teeth and gums.
- Praise their brushing efforts. Make it a fun activity.
- Children learn by example: be sure your child sees you brushing and flossing your teeth everyday.
Toothpaste and mouth rinse recommendations for children
- Use a non-fluoride toothpaste or no toothpaste at all until your child is three years of age, unless a dental professional advises otherwise
- Beginning at age three, use a fluoride toothpaste two times a day
- Use only a green pea-sized amount of toothpaste
- Teach your child not to swallow toothpaste but to spit out excess toothpaste and rinse well after brushing
- Never give fluoridated mouthwash or mouth rinses to children under six years of age, as they may swallow it
- Talk to your dental professional before using fluoridated mouthwash
- Do not use fluoride supplements (drop or tablets) unless specifically recommended by your dental professional
- A fluoride treatment, such as fluoride varnish, will not contribute to dental fluorosis.
Snacks for Healthy Teeth
Teeth – like the rest of the body – need a well-balanced diet. Make sure snacks are healthy and fun. Sugary and sticky snacks can cause cavities, especially if they are eaten often and teeth are not brushed afterwards.
If you can’t brush after eating a snack try to:
- swish and rinse your mouth with water
- chew a piece of sugar-free gum
- eat a piece of cheddar cheese to help protect your teeth from cavities.
What is Early Childhood Tooth Decay?
Early childhood tooth decay can be very painful for your child, but the good news is that you can prevent it.
The decay (cavities) usually start in the upper front teeth of infants and young children. The cavities appear soon after the child’s teeth come in, sometimes as early as nine months of age. Early childhood tooth decay often requires special and expensive dental treatment.
Cavities occur when sugary foods or liquids stay on the teeth for long periods of time. Any liquid other than water, will contain sugar, including 100% fruit juice and milk. Bacteria in the mouth forms a film on the teeth called plaque. Each time sugar is introduced into the mouth, the plaque mixes with the sugar to form an acid. This acid causes cavities.
What can I do to prevent Early childhood tooth decay?
- Clean baby’s mouth as soon as teeth appear (four to six months). Use a clean washcloth or a baby toothbrush softened with warm water after breastfeeding and meal times.
- Limit the use of sippy cups. If you use a sippy cup, use it only for milk at meals and water at other times. By 12-15 months of age, your child should be drinking from a regular cup.
- If your child is thirsty between mealtimes or at bedtime, plain water is the preferred drink. Do not allow your child to fall asleep while drinking any liquid other than water.
- If you have chosen to use a soother, do not dip them in sugar, honey or any sweetened substance.
- Give foods that are healthy, low in sugar and do not stick to your baby’s teeth. Avoid snacks such as raisins or sticky fruit snacks that stay on the teeth for a long period of time.
- Lift your baby’s upper lip regularly to check the teeth and gums. If you see any chalky, white or brown spots, see your dentist as soon as possible.
- Set a good example. Be sure your child sees you brushing and flossing your teeth every day
- The first set of teeth are important for proper speech development, appearance and holding the space of permanent teeth. Keep your child happy with healthy teeth and a healthy smile!