How to Protect Your Child’s Oral Health
Protecting Your Child’s Teeth and Gums from Disease
When you come to Pediatric Dentistry of Brandon, we always spend some time with your child and you, talking about ways to improve home oral hygiene and why this is important. We also recognize your child’s efforts and celebrate improvements. This helps establish a sense of self-responsibility for oral health early and sets up your child for a lifetime of better oral and even systemic (whole body) health.
As a parent, you play a crucial role. When your child is an infant, clean her or his gums with a clean, damp cloth after each feeding. As soon as the first teeth come in, begin brushing them with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and water. If you are considering using toothpaste before your child’s second birthday, ask us first.
To avoid baby bottle tooth decay and teeth misalignment due to sucking, try to wean your child off of the breast and bottle by one year of age, and monitor excessive sucking of pacifiers, fingers and thumbs. Never put your child down to sleep with a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened liquid as a pacifier.
Help a young child brush at night, the most important time to brush, due to lower salivary flow and higher susceptibility to cavities. Each night, let your child brush their teeth first to develop the skill and build self-confidence, and then you can follow up with brushing more to ensure that all plaque is removed. Usually by age 5 or so, the child can learn to brush his or her own teeth with parental oversight. Brushing twice a day or after each meal and snack is even better! But always brush before bedtime.
When it comes to flossing, we will demonstrate how to do this appropriately depending on the age of your child. The best way to teach a child how to brush and floss is to lead by good example. Allowing your child to watch you brush and floss your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene.
While any fluoride toothpaste is safe to use in small amounts and recommended by us, some parents find their child is more enthusiastic when given a choice of toothpaste flavors and a choice of toothbrushes. We recommend using a soft bristle hand-held brush or electronic toothbrush of the appropriate size for your child. Ask us more about electronic toothbrushes when you visit.
In general, young children should not use mouthwash because they may swallow the product. At the appropriate time in your child’s development, we will recommend an alcohol-free, antimicrobial oral rinse that is safe and appropriate for your child.
Protecting Your Child’s Teeth from Injury
Premature tooth loss does increase the risk of future dental problems. And, no child or parent wants to go through the trauma of the child losing a tooth early or requiring a substantial dental restoration.
Make sure your children are always strapped securely in their car seat, or when older, in a seat belt when your vehicle is moving.
If your child plays contact sports, make sure he or she has an appropriate mouth guard. We can make a custom one here in our office that fits your child best and will protect your child’s teeth optimally for the sports season. These are quite affordable and a good investment.
In Florida, we see numerous cracked or loose teeth and lip laceration injuries as a result of water sports accidents. If your children go boating or partake in other water sports, caution them about hitting their teeth and lips on hard surfaces. Take safety measures, and if they are on the water often, we recommend investing in a sports mouth guard.