One of the first most visible signs of your child growing up is when the little white edges of a new tooth peak through their pink gums. You might even feel a sharp object in their mouth and be surprised to see the tooth “magically” appear.
The primary teeth can appear as early as four months of age to one year. The teeth will systematically appear starting in the front of the child’s mouth and then proceed to the larger molars in the back of the mouth. Parents should start cleansing the teeth as soon as they appear. This can be done by wiping the teeth everyday with a clean, damp cloth. When more teeth come in, a small soft toothbrush can be used. What you are trying to prevent is plaque buildup. Plaque is a clear, thin, sticky film of bacteria that lives on teeth and gums. The germs in the plaque slowly eat away at the teeth and gums. If the teeth are not brushed regularly this plaque builds up and calcifies on the teeth. The only way for it to be removed is by a dentist or dental hygienist. If not removed, the plaque causes tooth decay, gum disease and eventually tooth loss.
At about the age of two, parents should start using a small dab of fluoridated tooth paste. Brushing should be done lightly with a back and forth motion, especially at the gum line. Brushing the tongue should be done too. To make it fun, create a song so that they will continue brushing for at least two minutes. Children’s songs such as “Wheels on the Bus” or “One, Two, Buckle my Shoe” can provide entertainment as well as cleaning. There are also children’s products on the market that help with brushing. Some of the toothpaste makers are creating a musical cap for their toothpaste. After the parent puts a dab of toothpaste on the brush, a song plays for the allotted time to brush. When the song ends, the children know they can stop. Toothbrushes are also being made which start playing music when the brush touches the teeth and then for approximately two minutes. The song stops when the time is up. How fancy can things get! By creating this fun, positive habit with your child, you will be giving your child the smile of a lifetime.
An important habit that parents can teach children is to brush their teeth twice daily. Good oral hygiene has benefits that will last them a lifetime. Teeth brushing along with flossing, good nutrition and regular visits to the dentist is a good recipe for prevention. For further information the following resources can be used:
• Northern Kentucky District Health Department, Healthy Start Program: 859/363-2076
• Northern Kentucky District Health Department, Dental Health Program: 859/363-2090
• Local dentists in your community
Dental caries is the most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States. It is 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever. Despite advances in oral health, dental and oral diseases continue to plague children. Factors contributing to an oral health decline include lack of access to care, inadequate availability of preventive measures such as water fluoridation and dental sealants, and lack of knowledge of the importance of oral health.
Pediatricians and other child health professionals can have a major impact on oral health outcomes for children because of the opportunities provided by early intervention such as counseling families, identifying high-risk children, initiating timely dental referrals, and administration of appropriate fluoride modalities.
Visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry website at www.aapd.org for frequently asked questions and also for help finding a pediatric dentist.