A Pediatrician’s Guide to Children’s Dental Health

It’s important to start good dental health habits with your child–starting with your baby’s first tooth.

Tooth decay, or cavities, is one of the most common chronic diseases in children. But, it’s also one that is largely preventable. We’ll go over what you can do to help prevent cavities and give your kids a foundation for life-long dental health.

Establish Good Dental Health Habits Early

Even a baby’s tiny first teeth can get cavities, so it’s important to start brushing their teeth and creating healthy dental habits as soon as their first tooth appears.

Tips for Healthy Baby Teeth

Brush Their Teeth: Set a habit of brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day. The best time is after breakfast and before bedtime. Use a baby-sized toothbrush and only a bit of fluoride toothpaste–about the size of a grain of rice. Your baby will likely grab the toothbrush, so let them experiment with it. You can also brush your teeth at the same time so they can watch and learn from you.

No Bottles in the Crib: Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk at night or at naptime. If they fall asleep sucking on a bottle, it can cause the milk to puddle in their mouth and encourage cavities. If you’ve built a habit around a bottle in the crib, you can fill the bottle with water starting around 6 months instead. 

No Sweet Drinks: Do not give your baby juice or sugary drinks. Only give them milk and then around 6 months, you can also give them water. 

Tips for Healthy Kids’ Teeth

Tooth Brushing: Starting around age 3, you’ll increase the amount of fluoride toothpaste to a pea-sized amount. You’ll need to help your child brush their teeth when they are young. Expect to continue to supervise toothbrushing until about 10 years old. Make sure they spit after brushing. 

Floss Every Night: Teach your child to floss their teeth every night. Your child can learn to do it themselves using plastic flossers. As they get older, they can move on to using regular floss.

Limit Sugary Snacks and Drinks: Sugar snacks and drinks should be considered a “treat” and not an all-day occurrence. Have your child drink water throughout the day instead of soda or juice to reduce the risk of cavities. 

Making Tooth Brushing Fun

Tooth brushing can be a battle, so here’s some ideas to make it fun: 

Play a Song: Kids should brush their teeth for about 2 minutes, so pick a song your child can listen to as they brush their teeth until the song is over. 

Flavored Toothpaste: If your child isn’t a fan of mint toothpaste, let them pick out a different flavor. You can find fluoride toothpaste in all kinds of flavors–from watermelon to bubblegum.

Fun Toothbrushes: Having a toothbrush with their favorite TV character or a toothbrush that lights up can help get kids excited or feel ownership over their toothbrushing. 

Reward Chart: If your child struggles with not wanting to brush their teeth, you can set up a reward chart where they can earn prizes for building a daily habit. 

Schedule Regular Dentist Visits 

Kids should see a dentist every 6 months for cleanings and for early detection of issues. Babies should visit a dentist for the first time at 12 months old, or within 6 months of getting their first tooth.

Before your appointment, you can prepare your child by explaining what will happen. A child’s visit to the dentist typically includes a cleaning, sometimes x-rays, an exam by the dentist, and a fluoride treatment. Baby visits are simplified and a shortened version of a big-kid visit.

Your dentist won’t just look for cavities but can look for alignment issues with your child’s teeth, tongue ties, gum health, issues from thumb-sucking and pacifier use, and more. 

Getting Dental Care Without Insurance

If your family does not have dental health insurance, don’t let that keep you from taking your kids to the dentist. There are organizations in our area that offer dental care on a sliding fee scale to individuals who are unable to afford treatment. 

Contact Pediatrics West

A healthy mouth and teeth are an important part of children’s wellness. If you have questions about your child’s dental health, you can send your provider at Pediatrics West a message via MyChart or contact our office at (720) 284-3700. 

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