- July 6, 2023
- Posted by: Sarah Wakefield
- Category: Blog
Family Dental Care
Parents today have access to an abundance of information when it comes to raising healthy infants and children. However, dental care can often be overlooked as health providers may put a greater emphasis on overall health, vaccines, and general growth and development. With the access we have to information, it is sometimes surprising that parents are often left knowing very little about what to expect when it comes to their child’s teeth, development, and prevention of dental issues. This month, we will be shedding some light on the most common questions dental providers receive from new parents.
When To Bring Your Infant for Their First Dental Appointment
The Canadian Dental Association recommends that infants are assessed by a dentist within 6 months of their first tooth erupting or by the age of one. Parents are often surprised that dentists will see their infants so young and may not know what to expect. Typically, this will involve a “lap exam” where the parent holds their infant while the dentist checks the mouth, tissues, and teeth for anything abnormal. This is also an opportunity for the dentist and parent to converse about optimal home care and habits. This is all done at the pace of the child, as this is also a time for the child to become familiar with the dentist.
Frequency of Visits for Children
Once your infant has had their first visit, they should be seen regularly by a dentist. On average, an infant or child should be seen every 6 months for a checkup by the dentist as well as a cleaning by a dental professional. Even if your child is not having any dental issues, this is a great opportunity for the child to become familiar with the new environment and allows them to establish a comfort level with the dentist and team. For many children, invasive dental procedures can be avoided by going regularly and being monitored carefully.
Brushing Information for Different Ages
Even before your infant has their first tooth break through, it is recommended to have them become familiar with the future habit of caring for their teeth and gums. Parents can wet a soft brush or damp washcloth and wipe their infant’s teeth and gums. It is important to avoid the use of toothpaste at this age. It is ideal to have your infant laying on their back in a comfortable position to allow for easier access when wiping their gums. Your infant may not like this at first, but before long they will become accustomed to it!
By the age of two, parents and toddlers should be in the habit of brushing twice a day for 2 minutes using a fluoride toothpaste. The amount of toothpaste should be no larger than a grain of rice. Using a timer or a fun song while brushing can help to pass the time and create a distraction. Be sure to purchase a soft toothbrush and clean all surfaces of the teeth, front and back, with slow circles. The back teeth by the cheek can be tricky to get to, so take your time. As soon as your child’s teeth come to fit more closely together, it is also important to start flossing. This can be anywhere between 3 and 6 years of age. Remember, the earlier these habits are started, the easier it is to maintain as your child grows.
As per the Canadian Dental Association, children under the age of 3 should have their teeth brushed by an adult due to lacking the proper coordination. Children between the ages of 3 and 6 should be carefully monitored and assisted by an adult. This is to reduce the risk of skipping areas and to ensure they are only using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and spitting it out afterwards. Don’t forget to change out toothbrushes every 3 to 4 months, or after your child has been sick!
Habits For Better Dental Hygiene in Infants and Children
Brushing and flossing are sometimes not enough for the total prevention of cavities in young children. Food and drinks can also impact the amount of bacteria that builds up and causes tooth decay. Encourage your child to drink water and avoid giving juice as a drink option when packing school lunches. Acidic drinks can also break down tooth enamel, leaving children at risk for cavities.
Sending your infant or young child to bed with formula, milk, or juice may lead to early childhood tooth decay. It is important to break these habits early, between the ages of one and two. However, if unable to break the habit, formula, milk, or juice should be replaced with water.
Teething and Children’s Dental Development
It is important to remember that there is a wide range of when infants experience teething and their first teeth coming through. The bottom front teeth are typically the first teeth to appear, generally occurring between the ages of 6-10 months old. Children typically get their top front teeth between 7-12 months. During this time, teething can be painful. Parents can use a combination of massaging the sore gums with a clean finger or providing a cool teething ring for the infant to chew on. If needed, parents can consult with a pharmacist for over-the-counter pain medication. It is important to remember to not use any type of painkillers that are directly applied to the gums as they will be swallowed. While this can be a difficult time for your infant, as soon as the tooth pops through the gums, you will notice relief from symptoms.
At the age of six or seven, children will get their first adult molar on the bottom and begin losing their bottom and top front teeth. Because these new adult molars come in behind their last primary molars and there is no baby tooth to fall out, it is important to be consistently looking in the back of your child’s mouth. As these come in, it is important you start to work with your child to clean these new molars carefully to keep them clean and prevent decay. Now that your child has a permanent tooth, it needs to last a lifetime!
There are many priorities when it comes to taking care of infants and children, and dental health and care should be one of these priorities. Parents should work to set up a regular oral health routine both at home and with a family dentist. Remember, research shows that children who start going to the dentist from a young age are less likely to develop a fear of the dentist later in life, so give your child a solid foundation that will benefit them all through life!