Childrens Dental Health: Tips to Keep Their Pearly Whites Strong & Healthy
Childrens dental health makes us SMILE because we know how important it is for kiddos to have healthy habits when it comes to taking care of their teeth! That’s why the month of February is so special, we get to celebrate National Childrens Dental Health Month. This practice was introduced by the American Dental Association to bring together thousands of dedicated dental professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers and many others.
That’s why we’re going to focus this blog on healthy habits that you can incorporate for your little ones to make sure they have happy smiles throughout their lifetime.
Taking Care of Your Baby’s Oral Health
Childrens dental health starts early, that’s why taking good care of your baby’s mouth and teeth is important. A baby’s first tooth usually comes in at around the age of 6 to 10 months. Healthy baby teeth help children chew food and speak clearly.
Here are some tips for keeping your baby’s mouth and teeth healthy:
Cleaning your baby’s gums and teeth
- Clean your baby’s gums even before you can see the first tooth. Use a clean, damp washcloth to wipe the gums. Do this twice a day, especially after night feeding.
- After your baby’s first tooth comes in, use a baby toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. Put a smear (size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush and brush all sides of your baby’s teeth.
- Brush your baby’s teeth in the morning and before bedtime.
Using bottles and sippy cups
- Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle or sippy cup filled with breast milk, infant formula, fruit juice, or other liquids besides water. Liquids that contain sugar can cause tooth decay.
- Clean the pacifier with soap and water.
- Never clean a pacifier in your mouth before giving it to your baby. Germs that cause tooth decay can pass from your mouth to your baby’s mouth.
- If the pacifier gets worn out or breaks, get a new one.
- Do not dip the pacifier in sweet foods like sugar, honey, or syrup.
- Never put a pacifier on a string or ribbon around your baby’s neck. It could choke your baby.
Understanding Why Baby Teeth Are Important
Baby teeth or primary teeth are a child’s first set of teeth. A baby’s teeth start to come in at 6 to 10 months, and by the time a child is 2½ to 3 years old, all 20 baby teeth will have come into the mouth. Taking care of a child’s baby teeth is important for the childrens dental health and overall health & development.
Baby teeth are important for children to:
- Chew and eat foods: Children with tooth decay are less likely to eat crunchy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Being able to eat these foods promotes good nutrition and a healthy weight. Children need to eat healthy foods every day to grow and be strong.
- Speak clearly: Children who lose baby teeth too early may have trouble making certain sounds. This can make it hard to understand the child. A child may need speech therapy to improve speech problems that may develop because of missing teeth.
- Keep space for adult teeth: Baby teeth hold space for adult teeth growing in the jaw. If a baby tooth is lost too early, other teeth that are already in the mouth will move into the space. It can block out the adult tooth trying to come in and cause crowding. The upper and lower jaws may not meet properly because of the crooked teeth.
- Stay healthy: Tooth decay in baby teeth can lead to infections that can cause fever and pain. If not treated, the infection from tooth decay can spread to other parts of the head and neck and lead to severe swelling.
- Have self-confidence: Children with decayed front teeth tend to not smile or may cover their mouth when talking. Sometimes they stop playing with other children. A healthy smile helps give children the self-confidence needed to have good social experiences.
Healthy Habits for Happy Smiles
Tips for brushing your child’s teeth:
- Brush your child’s teeth after breakfast and before bed.
- Use a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles and fluoride toothpaste.
- For children under age 3, use a small smear of fluoride toothpaste.
- For children ages 3 to 6, use fluoride toothpaste the size of a pea.
- Young children like to do things by themselves. It’s good to let children brush their teeth while an adult watch. But children under age 7 or 8 cannot brush their teeth well yet and an adult will need to brush the child’s teeth.
- Find a position where your child is comfortable, and you can see your child’s teeth while you brush. For example, stand behind your child in front of the mirror.
- Gently brush your child’s teeth using small circles. Brush all surfaces of the teeth, including the insides and outsides.
- After brushing, have your child spit out the remaining toothpaste but not rinse. The small amount of toothpaste that stays in your child’s mouth is good for the teeth.
- If you are having trouble brushing your child’s teeth, use a timer, a counting game, or a song while brushing.
Related Article: Dental Health: Tips for Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Smiles
Choosing Healthy Drinks for Your Child
Many drinks have natural or added sugar. That’s why choosing drinks that will help keep your child healthy is important to childrens dental health. Children who are often given sugary drinks are more likely to have tooth decay (cavities). You might not even know you are giving your child drinks with sugar! We always suggest water or milk are the best drinks for your child.
Healthy Drink Tips:
- Give your child water, it’s important that they are well hydrated.
- Give your child milk at scheduled meal and snack times.
- It is best not to put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup. If you do, the bottle or sippy cup should contain only water, nothing else.
- Give your child cut-up or whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
- If you give your child juice, wait until he is 6 months old. Offer your child no more than 4 to 6 ounces of 100-percent fruit juice each day.
- If your child drinks from a sippy cup, it should contain only water or milk, nothing else. By age 12 to 14 months, most children can drink from a cup.
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Encouraging Your Child to Drink Water
Giving your child water with fluoride is one of the best ways to keep their teeth healthy and strong. A child’s body needs water too to stay hydrated and active.
Tips to drink more water:
- Make drinking water fun for your child. Use bendy, silly, or colored straws. Or let your child choose their favorite cups or water bottles.
- Use water bottles that can be carried anywhere. Refill them with tap water. Most bottled water does not have fluoride.
- Add a lemon, lime, cucumber or orange slice or fresh mint leaves to the water. Or add fruit like blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries.
- Give your child water with ice cubes or crushed ice. Look for ice cube trays in fun shapes like dinosaurs, letters, or animals.
- Be a good role model for your child. Drink water instead of drinks that have sugar, like juice, fruit drinks, soda (pop), or sports drinks.
- Set up a station where your child can get a drink of water when they are thirsty. Keep a non-breakable water pitcher on a low stool or a chair where your child can reach it.
- Read books or show your child videos about drinking water, for example Potter the Otter: A Tale About Waterand Potter the Otter Loves to Drink Water.
Giving Your Child Healthy Snacks
Young children eat small amounts of food because their stomachs are small. In addition to giving your child healthy meals, giving your child a variety of healthy snacks at scheduled times during the day is important to keep your child healthy. Encourage your child to try new foods.
Tips for healthy snacks:
Give your child a variety of healthy snacks, such as:
- Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, or berries
- Give your child cut-up or whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
- Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumbers, or peppers
- Foods made with whole grains, like cereals, crackers, bread, or bagels
- Dairy products like low-fat milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and unsweetened yogurt
- Avoid foods that may cause choking, like popcorn, nuts, seeds, raw carrots, or whole grapes. Cut food into small pieces.
- Give your child water or milk to drink with snacks.
- Do not give your child sweets like candy, cookies, and cake at snack time. And do not give your child sweet drinks like fruit-flavored drinks, pop (soda), and fruit juice at snack time.
Visiting the Dentist with Your Child
We can’t talk about childrens dental health without discussing the need for them to visit the dentist to keep their teeth and mouth healthy. If children have regular dental visits, the dentist and dental hygienist can take care of their teeth and find oral health problems early. Having regular dental visits also teaches children to value good oral health.
During Your Child’s Dental Appointment, the Dental Team will:
- Check your child’s teeth and mouth.
- Talk to you about the best way to take care of your child’s teeth. For example, brushing your child’s teeth after breakfast and before bed.
- Share other ways to help prevent tooth decay (cavities). For example, putting dental sealant on children’s teeth.
Tips for Visiting the Dentist
- Set up a pretend dental chair. Pretend to be the dentist or dental hygienist. Look in your child’s mouth and count her teeth; then talk to her about brushing her teeth.
- Read books or watch videos with your child about visiting the dental clinic. Don’t use books or videos that have words like hurt, pain, shot, drill, afraid, or any other words that might scare your child.
- Let your child bring his favorite toy or blanket to the clinic.
- If you find out that your child will receive a small toy or new toothbrush at the end of the visit, remind your child of this reward.
- Plan a fun activity for after the clinic visit.
- If you don’t like going to the dental clinic, don’t tell your child. That might make your child worry about going too.
Related Article: Avoid Back to School Blues with a Dentist Appointment for Kids
Taking Care of Your Oral Health When You Are Pregnant
Taking good care of your oral health is important for you and your baby. It is safe and important to get oral health care when you are pregnant. Practicing good oral hygiene, eating healthy foods, and getting oral health care will help keep you and your baby healthy.
Tips for keeping your mouth and teeth healthy during pregnancy:
- Eat healthy foods, like whole-grain products; fruits; vegetables; and low-fat milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and unsweetened yogurt. Meats, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and nuts are also good choices.
- Drink water, especially between meals and snacks.
- Eat healthy snacks, like fruits; vegetables; and low-fat milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and unsweetened yogurt.
- Eat fewer sweets like candy, cookies, cake, and dried fruits. Drink fewer sugary drinks like fruit-flavored drinks, pop (soda), and fruit juice. If you eat sweets or drink sugary drinks, have them only at mealtimes.
- Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste twice a day, after breakfast and before bed. Do not rinse after brushing. The small amount of toothpaste that stays in your mouth is good for the teeth.
- Floss once a day before bed.
- Rinse every night with an over-the-counter alcohol-free mouth rinse with fluoride.
- If you vomit, rinse your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water. This helps prevent damage to your teeth.
- Get oral health care. If your last dental visit took place more than 6 months ago or if you have any oral health problems or concerns, schedule a dental appointment as soon as possible.
- Tell your dental team that you are pregnant and your due date. This information will help them provide the best care for you.
Schedule Your Dental Appointment
Of course, these healthy habits during Childrens Dental Health Month are important to incorporated year-round, not just during the month of February. That’s why scheduling dental appointments twice a year is highly recommended. We love our little patients and want them to have healthy, strong smiles that will last them a lifetime.
Contact us today to schedule an initial cosmetic consultation and meet with any of our skilled dentists at one of our three conveniently located dental office locations within the Kansas City area, including Lee’s Summit / Independence, the Country Club Plaza and Downtown Kansas City. The gentle dentists and expert team at Thomas L. Anderson and Associates look forward to working with you to treat your dental emergency, achieve proper oral health and a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime. If you have any questions about your dental insurance benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are happy to review your policy! Please give us a call today to schedule an appointment and become part of our dental family.