Oral Health at the Infant and Toddler Stages
It can be hard enough to adjust to regular life with a newborn. Figuring out sleeping schedules, diets, and the coveted personal time are more than enough tasks to keep you occupied 24/7. Now throw teething, brushing, and oral health into the mix and we may delve into overwhelming territory. Let’s help keep your kid’s dental care simple!
No worries – we’re here to simplify things for you!
Let’s start with a few facts:
Babies are born with all 20 of their baby teeth below their gums and there is a wide range of when the first tooth will appear. But that first tooth typically pokes through between ages 6 to 12 months.
Most children will have all 20 of their baby teeth erupted by age 3.
Signs of teething include
Drooling, fussiness, and sleeplessness (tell me about it…). These are all normal occurrences and you shouldn’t be concerned.
What’s not normal when a baby is teething:
Fever, diarrhea, rashes. If you notice any of these issues cropping up, please give your pediatrician a call.
Baby teeth are important because they help children chew, speak, and smile. They also hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.
When a baby tooth is lost too early, permanent teeth can drift into empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when they come in. This can lead to crooked or crowded teeth… In this case, we recommend throwing up the orthodontic bat signal.
Children may suck on thumbs, fingers, or pacifiers
Most children stop between the ages of 2 and 4, and we want this habit to stop before the first permanent teeth come in (usually around ages 5 or 6) because it can cause problems with your child’s tooth alignment and bite.
Healthy dental care habits for your little one
Baby teeth can get decay as soon as they appear so it’s important to start healthy habits right away, so it’s important to begin to brush your child’s teeth as soon as they appear.
Kids 0-3: brush twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste (that’s about the size of a grain of rice)
Kids 3-6: Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste
Until a child is 6 or 7, you should supervise your child’s brushing. It is okay to let them brush on their own but always go over the teeth to check them (to make sure they got all the sugar bugs off).
As soon as 2 teeth touch, it is time to start flossing
Floss picks are a great option for kids. String floss is great, too, don’t get us wrong. But we’ll typically recommend the floss picks until about age 6 because they’re easier for your child to hold and use.
What’s the deal with fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in all water sources. It helps prevent decay and repair weak enamel for kids of all ages (even older ‘adult’ kids).
Kids who do not drink fluoridated water or use fluoride toothpaste are at an increased risk of tooth decay… and we don’t want that.
Your child’s first dental visit
We want to see your child for their first dental visit by the age of 3. Talk with your child ahead of time and make it a positive and exciting event! (Even consider a reward for a job well done).
Don’t project any dental fears you may have on your child. This first visit will be very important for your child’s ongoing dental care. We’ll take the visit at their own pace and make sure we promote a positive experience. Kid’s dental care is a marathon, not a sprint.
If your child is visiting our office around age 3, we’ll probably stick with an educational cleaning and exam with one of our doctors. We’ll typically hold off on X-rays at this first visit unless we see a clinical reason to take them.
Dental sealants and your kiddo
When your child’s adult molars come in (2 sets – one around age 6 and the other around age 12), we will likely recommend dental sealants.
Molars have grooves in them where leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria hide. A sealant is a thin coating made from plastic that fills in the grooves and “seals” off the chewing surfaces of molars. Sealants can reduce the risk of decay in molars by nearly 80%!
It’s an easy and painless way to prevent decay (Fillings, Crowns, and Root Canals?!? Oh My)!
How foods impact your kid’s dental care
Almost all foods, including milk and vegetables, have some type of sugar in them. And sugar can lead to decay. Are we giving you clearance to avoid milk and vegetables?!?!?
We all naturally have bacteria in our mouths. When we eat or drink things that have sugar, the bacteria “eat” this sugar and produce acid. The acid is what creates decay or cavities in the teeth.
Healthy dental habits with your child’s food
To help control the amount of sugar your child consumes, try to read food labels and choose foods and beverages low in added sugars. But naturally occurring sugars (like those in milk and fruit) are less worrisome.
Dr. Monica recommends drinks be limited to water and milk in most cases. Milk with meals and water in between. Try to save juices for special occasions.
Babies should never take a bottle or sippy cup to bed.
Another pro tip: skip the pop. One can of pop has the amount of sugar recommended for THREE FULL DAYS for a child (that’s crazy).
Skip sticky snacks like fruit snacks or even raisins
They stick to the teeth for long periods of time and promote those decay-forming acids. Also – crackers and chips break down into sugar and get stuck on the tops of your teeth for long periods of time.
Enough with the bad – how about some good habits to stick with
Some good foods to eat are milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt. These are low in sugar and have protein and calcium that help strengthen teeth.
Something to remember – proteins like meat, fish, and eggs help strengthen your teeth and prevent decay!
Fruits and vegetables have lots of water and fiber to balance the sugars they also have (so yes moms… we’re still recommending fruits and veggies).
Nuts are low in carbs so they won’t activate those acid-producing bacteria.
One final tip to help the whole family improve their dental health
You can follow the same guidelines as your child to set a great example! You’ll be an awesome role model for your kid’s dental care and you’ll all improve together! Sounds great to us.
And as always – MFD is here with any other questions or to help set up your kiddo’s first dental visit.
Way to go parents!!