Get Off to a Good Start with Your Child’s Oral Health
If you’re a parent, you know the feeling of watching your child accomplish major milestones in their development: you remember when they said their first word (hopefully it was your name!), when they first started to crawl (they were into everything!), and when they got their first teeth (oh, those long and sleepless nights!). The minute the first tooth breaks through the gum line, your baby can begin to get cavities. And since we know that brushing is the best way to prevent tooth decay, it’s important to start brushing those tiny pearly whites the minute you can see them.
It’s not always easy to get a toothbrush into an infant’s or toddler’s mouth without a serious wrestling match. But as with all new things, when it comes to children, the sooner you introduce them to the feel of a toothbrush in their mouth, the less nervous they are likely to be about the brushing process. When my children got their first teeth, I let them chew on a toothbrush so they could get used to the way bristles felt against their gums and teeth. And it also helped with teething pain. It seemed to make brushing less scary to them.
Besides brushing, you can help promote good oral health at home by not giving your child milk- or juice-filled sippy cups and bottles after their first birthday. This is especially important if your child falls asleep with it in his or her mouth. The sucking reflex is strong—especially while kids are teething. If you’re met with a battle, stay strong: Your child’s teeth will be much healthier from winning that struggle.
According to the American Dental Association, as soon as you see that first tooth peek through the gums, make an appointment to take your child to the dentist—no later than his or her first birthday. (Need help finding one? Use this handy tool.) At this visit, the dentist will check to make sure your child doesn’t have any cavities and will begin a lifelong good habit of dental care and health. It’s important to treat a cavity as soon as it’s discovered. Children with tooth decay sometimes can’t eat normally because it’s so painful to chew. This means they might not get the vitamins and minerals they need, which then could lead to weight loss and stunted growth.
As a parent, you know how tough it can be to get your kids to brush their teeth. But by making them brush at least twice a day, you’re teaching them good habits and ultimately improving their health throughout their lifetime.
Filed under: Prevention
Bob Lewando is a periodontist and works with the Florida Blue Dental Program. He has an interest in the connection between oral and overall health and has tried to develop dental plans for patients that will try to keep them healthy. Bob enjoys outdoor activity such as hiking, bicycling, or attempting to garden.