When it comes to building a dental health foundation, there’s no better time than your son or daughter’s childhood days. It’s here that the necessary habits are formed and kept. Aside from a milestone time, however, it also has its own set of unique oral issues. How, then, do you balance the two when it comes to oral health for babies and kids?
For one, you take note of what these oral issues are. Because your kids’ teeth are at that development stage, most of these matters relate to their growth. And if left untreated, these ailments can also impact how their permanent teeth mature.
What, then, can you do to tend to the oral health of your babies and kids? Here are some key things you might want to consider:
Oral Health for Babies
When they are babies, your children have virtually no cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths. However, you might transmit them to your kids if you’re not careful.
According to a report by NBC News, parents may risk spreading Streptococcus mutans to their babies via saliva. This is especially true if they have active tooth decay. If you clean your baby’s pacifier with your mouth or share utensils with your kids, you might have transferred some to your child’s mouth.
This transmission becomes particularly problematic once your baby’s teeth come in. Because baby teeth have much less enamel than permanent teeth do, they become more vulnerable to these bacterial attacks. These attacks may even produce early-onset caries, which can lead to a slew of future complications.
But these problems aren’t inevitable. You can combat this with the right preventive measures:
- Don’t share oral implements with your kid. While parent-to-child saliva transfer is unavoidable, there are ways to delay that spread of germs. As much as possible, keep your child’s utensils separate from yours. If you do need to clean them, use water, not your mouth. And if you can avoid kissing your kid on the mouth, limit that as much as possible.
- Have your child’s teeth checked once their first teeth erupt. Your child’s pediatric dentist can pinpoint the early signs of decay. To mitigate your child’s risk of developing caries, then, that initial dental check-up is a crucial stage.
The first few months of your child’s dental development is crucial for several things. For one, the enamel of their primary teeth is thinner than their adult-sized permanent set. Young, erupted teeth are then quite vulnerable to bacterial attacks and are more likely to decay than the regular set. For another, poorly kept primary teeth are more liable to fall off earlier, which can cause developmental problems in the future. To ensure a healthy mouth, taking care of your teeth from start to finish is a crucial aspect.
- While they’re still babies, you can wipe their gums with a soft, wet cloth to help accustom them to the feeling. Aside from cleaning off any leftover sugars, this motion can also soothe your baby before and during the teething period.
- From there, you can graduate to a small toothbrush once their teeth come out. The toothbrush and technique used are equally important, as they can both affect your baby’s brushing experience.
Oral Health for Kids
Let them get used to the sensation of brushing their teeth
While your child is still young, each new impression is a unique experience for them. As such, they may react strongly to it when you first start brushing their teeth. Whether that response is a good one depends on how you introduce it to them.
- The real habit-making starts once they’re old enough to hold a toothbrush. If they’re already used to the sensation, chances are they’ll be eager to take the reins themselves once the time comes. Enforce this enthusiasm by joining your child while they brush and making it a routine for both of you.
When Should Kids Begin Using Toothpaste?
Oral health for kids is quite different than that of teens and adults.
Newborns and children in the early stages of infancy don’t need as much fluoride. Fluoride usually works with other minerals to strengthen your teeth’s defenses. That said, there seems to be little need for fluoride in infants or children without teeth.
At 18 months of age, however, children typically have all their teeth. This fact makes the need for fluoride all the more necessary. It’s also at this age where they begin to develop the fine motor skills needed for toothbrushing. Some kids, however, may still not have the control necessary for this movement at that stage. It’s up to the parents, then, to help their kiddos brush their teeth until they’re able to do so themselves.
If the teeth develop earlier, you may opt to add toothpaste to their regimen, even if they aren’t 18 months old yet. But how much toothpaste do you need to use?
Use a smear of toothpaste when they’re younger and a pea-sized amount as they grow
The amount of fluoride toothpaste you use for your child varies. Before teething, you only need to maintain the cleanliness of your child’s gums. At this age, they don’t need toothpaste. However, once the first teeth buds begin to develop, it might be time to start talking about toothpaste use.
For the first few emergent teeth, professionals recommend that you add a small smear of toothpaste. Make sure that it is enough to thinly veil the teeth, as too much might give your child fluorosis. Make sure you teach your child to spit out the toothpaste after. But do not rinse their mouth with water. Doing so will significantly reduce the fluoride left on their teeth.
When they are three years old, their teeth are usually developed enough to graduate to higher levels of fluoride. At this age, you no longer need to buy special low-fluoride toothpaste for the young ones. Instead, make sure that they only use a pea-sized amount when they brush to regulate the fluoride content. Once they’re a bit older, they can add more toothpaste to their teeth.
Get Them into a Flossing Groove
It can get a little more difficult to get your children to floss than it is to get them to brush their teeth. For some kids, it might feel a little intrusive, even uncomfortable, to an extent. The key, then, is to start them off once they’ve got two teeth next to each other.
As with brushing, you’ll be taking over during the first few months while your child is still developing the needed motor skills to floss by themselves. Here, you might want to consider a thin, waxed floss that can easily slip between your child’s teeth. Remember to be gentle when you move the floss, and encourage your child to do the same once they’re old enough.
Potential malocclusion (bad bite)
Malocclusion or misaligned teeth can stem from different causes. In children, this problem can arise from bad habits or an early loss of baby teeth. If not remedied early, your child could develop complications that make it hard to maintain their oral health or do daily tasks properly.
But as with bacterial transmission, there are ways to stop malocclusion in its tracks:
- Take your child to the dentist for any bad habits that could affect their oral development. Thumb-sucking or extended pacifier use after age four is usually the main culprits in this. Mouth-breathing is also a potential cause.
- Use space maintainers for prematurely lost baby teeth. Malocclusion can sometimes occur in the case of lost baby teeth. When a milk tooth or teeth are lost before they should, permanent teeth may crowd the area and cause misalignments. In this case, your child’s pediatric dentist may prescribe a space maintainer to prevent this.