Caring for young children’s teeth is an important part of keeping their bodies healthy—and it’s never too early to get started!
Strong first or baby teeth set the stage for strong permanent teeth, and help children play, learn, and grow. In honor of Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month, here are some tips to keep your little one’s teeth healthy.
Did You Know?
Children without access to dental care suffer from tooth decay, gum disease, pain and missing permanent teeth. Studies show that children in underserved areas suffer even more, with twice as much tooth decay as their more affluent counterparts. Tooth decay is the number one chronic illness in children – five times more prevalent than asthma.
When Should Dental Care Start?
Proper dental care begins even before a baby’s first tooth appears. Remember that just because you can’t see the teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth a baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.
Running a damp washcloth over a baby’s gums following feedings can prevent buildup of damaging bacteria. Once a child has a few teeth showing, parents can brush them with a soft child’s toothbrush or rub them with gauze at the end of the day.
Even babies can have problems with dental decay when parents do not practice good feeding habits. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle in his or her mouth may be convenient in the short term — but it can harm the baby’s teeth. When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby’s teeth for hours, they may eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as baby bottle tooth decay. Severe cases result in cavities and the need to pull all the front teeth until the permanent ones grow in.
The American Dental Association recommends that a child’s first visit to the dentist take place by his or her first birthday. At this visit, the dentist will explain proper brushing and flossing techniques (you need to floss once your baby has two teeth that touch) and conduct a modified exam while your baby sits on your lap.
Such visits can help in the early detection of potential problems. And, they help kids become accustomed to visiting the dentist so they’ll have less fear about going as they grow older!
Looking for a dentist? HealthNet has five dental centers around Indianapolis. Click here to find the HealthNet dental center closest to you!