Because children have temporary teeth, there’s often a view that those teeth don’t need to be looked after as fully as adult teeth. That’s certainly not the case. Setting up a good oral hygiene routine for children is paramount to future oral health care.
During the younger years, your children will pick up habits. Getting into the habits of brushing teeth twice a day and flossing regularly is going to be the best thing for their adult years. Even younger children can floss and gain the benefit of that routine.
At the same time, the oral routine now will help to protect more than the temporary teeth. You’re protecting the gums and the jawbones, helping to ensure healthy adult teeth when they grow through. This is more than just helping to get a white smile, but a way to keep the whole mouth healthy and prepared for the years in the future.
What do you need to do to protect your children’s teeth? Here’s your complete guide for children under seven.
Take Control Right Away
From the very first day, you want to look after your baby’s mouth. Even without teeth, you need to get into the habit of protecting the gums. Use a damp cloth to run across the gums and remove the buildup of acid and sugars from the milk your baby is drinking. Even breast milk and formula milk can cause a decline of the gums.
When the first teeth start to break through, you can continue using cloth for a while. However, from around six months, you’ll want to move onto the toothbrush. This is when the teeth will become used more often to break down solid food, so there’s more chance of plaque buildup.
As your children get older, they will want to brush their teeth. It’s important to keep brushing for the first round and then let them take over afterward. Their motor skills aren’t that great when they’re younger, which can lead to some problems with getting to the back of teeth and into the back of the mouth. However, do let them take over after you’ve done the first round, as this helps them practice getting into all the teeth for when they get older.
You’ll want to show techniques to your children. Help them learn how to put a small amount of toothpaste on their toothbrush and move with an up-and-down technique to get into the gums. They need to learn not to brush so hard that they cut their gums, but hard enough to get the plaque from the teeth.
Try to make brushing the teeth a game, especially for younger children. They don’t understand the need to keep their teeth healthy and will likely only come to regret their decisions not to look after their teeth when they’re older. It’s important to set up a good routine now.
When Babies Are Teething
Babies will usually start to cut teeth from between six and eight months. However, some can be much older. The steps you take to help through the teething stage can help or hinder the oral health.
If you’ve used teething powders to help dull the pain, this is the time to stop. The powders sit on the gums, rather than getting rinsed away, so they create a film on the gums. This can lead to bacteria growth around the mouth and affect the growth of the teeth.
While you should avoid putting anything frozen on the gums, you can use something cool to help with numbing the pain and easing any inflammation. A cool washcloth is often highly recommended. You can put it in the fridge, so it’s ready for you when you need it.
Teething rings are excellent options. Rubber is one of the best options since it won’t break down in the mouth. You can also get the gel teething rings that you put in the fridge. This makes them cold, and they’re reusable and easy to carry around. You’ll find that babies put a lot of stuff in their mouths to help deal with teething and because this is where most of their receptors are right now, so you want something that offers more benefits.
Soft foods for babies on solid food is important. Applesauce and yogurt can be highly beneficial but look for the sugar-free versions to protect the health of the gums.
Your doctor or dentist will have other ideas for extreme cases. However, most babies will be able to deal with this temporary stage. You may have a couple of sleepless nights now and then.
Frequency and the Right Toothpaste
Children don’t need the adult toothpaste. In fact, adult toothpaste can be damaging to their teeth. You want to look for a child-friendly toothpaste. This has a lower amount of fluoride to get still rid of the plaque but without causing fluoride excess within the teeth. Too much fluoride can lead to white spots forming on the teeth. Your child will likely get fluoride from their drinking water.
You only need to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. More is not better in this case!
Make sure your child learns to brush their teeth twice a day. More than this may be recommended by the dentist depending on the oral health or any family history of problems, but twice a day is enough to get rid of the plaque buildup and prevent it turning into tartar.
Flossing is also important; and the part that many parents forget or don’t realize. Children should start flossing at the age of four years old. This should be done daily, but dentists will be happy if you do it every other day to start with. Getting your child into the routine is important, but it can be uncomfortable for some.
You can get floss sticks that you hold. While they don’t last if a roll of floss, they are easier for small hands to handle and you can supervise your child as they do it on their own.
Flossing will help to get into the teeth and under the gum line. This is where most of the plaque will build up and turns into tartar if left alone. The tartar can’t be removed without a dentist’s help and is the most problematic for the health of the teeth, the gums, and the bones.
You don’t need mouthwash for children under seven. In fact, mouthwash isn’t recommended for adults anymore. The mouthwash removes the left behind toothpaste, so can get rid of all the good that happens afterward. You will also usually end up with an antibacterial mouthwash, which can add to the overuse of antibiotics and the rise of antibacterial-resistant bacteria.
The First Trip to the Dentist
As soon as your baby has cut their first tooth, you want to book the first trip to the dentist. This is the point that the gums and teeth need checking on regularly. If your baby hasn’t cut any teeth by the age of one, book a dentist appointment anyway. This can give your baby the chance to check for any signs of teeth coming through and may allow for some x-rays, depending on your dentist’s thoughts.
Children and adults should see the dentist every six months. However, once a year is better than nothing! Going every six months will help to avoid a buildup of tartar that can cause problems for the gums in the future.
Make sure you see a dentist who is used to having children in the office. A good pediatric dentist will understand your baby’s refusal to open their mouth and allow for their teeth to be checked. They’ll also explain what’s happening and show all the tools being used. Many pediatric dentists can also check the parent’s teeth, so the baby or child understands more of what the tools do and can work with the child on their parents’ laps to deal with nerves easily.
As children get older, pediatric dentists will be ready for questions and be able to explain things in more detail. They’ll work to avoid fear of the dentist, especially if you have one.
The first visit is known as the “well-baby” visit. This is a look at the gums, but also a chance for parents to ask all their questions. Dentists will also find out more about the use of pacifiers or the sucking of thumbs, which can affect the way the teeth grow in. The dentist will also chat about dental hygiene tips and the use of bottles and sippy cups.
Dealing with Teeth Grinding
Children can grind their teeth, and many do it in their sleep. They have no control over this and don’t even realize they’re doing it! You may not realize yourself unless you hear it, or your child starts complaining of routine problems linked to grinding. Routine checkups with the dentist will show signs of the grinding and your dentist will chat about the options.
Other children can clench their jaw. Again, it’s not something all will realize they’re doing.
Some of the most common symptoms of grinding or clenching include:
- Earaches and headaches
- Painful jaw and face
- Pain when chewing
- Worn down teeth or chips in the teeth
- Sensitivity to temperatures
Your dentist will talk about the use of mouth guards for your children. While this doesn’t get to the bottom of why your child is grinding their teeth, it does help to avoid the symptoms and side effects.
When Children Start Losing Their Teeth
From around the age of six, your child will start getting their big teeth in. This is a huge mile step for children, as many love to show off the gaps in their teeth. Some children can lose their teeth later and others earlier. The earliest in a healthy mouth is usually around the age of five. Your dentist will talk to you about tooth loss if you’re worried about it.
Earlier losses can happen due to trauma. For example, your child may have knocked their tooth out after falling over in the playground. Most of the time the dentist won’t be worried about this, if there is no infection or other health problems. Dentists also don’t worry too much if the baby teeth gray or blacken due to a dead nerve after trauma. This is only likely to affect the baby tooth and may cause an earlier loss. Your dentist will chat with you about this, so it’s still worth taking your child for an extra check up if trauma happens.
Children have 20 baby teeth in their mouth. They’ll eventually get 32 when all their big teeth come in. Not all 32 will necessarily come through. The back four is known as the wisdom teeth and may always stay underneath the gum line. A lot of people have their wisdom teeth extracted due to overcrowding in the mouth or because they grow through at bad angles.
The baby teeth are usually lost in the order they come in. The bottom front two teeth are usually the first to come in, so usually, the first two to go. The big teeth will then grow through in their place. By the time your child is 13, you will usually find all their baby teeth have gone, but every child is different. Your dentist will check on the growth of the adult teeth to determine if there’s a problem.
Most of the time, the big teeth will only come through when the child’s baby teeth have fallen out, creating a spot for them. The big teeth push the baby teeth out of the way. However, there are times that the big teeth grow through behind or in front of the baby teeth. Your dentist will be able to chat about extraction of the baby teeth if this happens, as it usually means the baby teeth won’t fall out naturally and can cause problems for the big teeth growing through and lead to braces in the future.
Your dentist won’t usually suggest braces before the teenage years. There’s no point straightening out the teeth that are going to fall out! However, some partial braces can be set for the adult teeth coming through while the baby teeth at the back remain. This is often because the big teeth have grown through at the wrong angle and can minimize the need for full braces later.
Is Your Ready for Your Child’s Teeth?
Looking after your child’s teeth is essential. This is the time to set up a routine that they can follow into their adult years. Help them avoid the fear of the dentist and get the beautiful smile that is often noted in photos and from celebrities. It all starts from when children are babies.
Don’t worry too much if your child doesn’t cut their first tooth at six months. All babies are different, and factors such as developmental delays or disabilities can make teeth cutting take longer. Speak to your dentist if there is anything you’re worried about, as they will have seen it all! They will also know the best way to settle children in the chair.