Dental Health for Children – When Should It Begin?

Some people believe that dental health for children begins when they have a mouth full of teeth. Others actually believe that it can wait until the child begins preschool or school.

Many of the habits that we practice as adults stem from our childhood, and dental hygiene is no different. Poor dental hygiene in adults has been linked to a host of health problems, including heart disease. Fostering good dental health for children in the very early years of development will help to ensure that your child will enjoy many years of healthy teeth, but will also enjoy additional health benefits as well.

When Should Dental Care Begin in Children?

Believe it or not, oral hygiene should begin before the first tooth even appears. Dental specialists now recommend that babies’ mouths be gently wiped along the gums with a soft, damp, washcloth after each feeding. This makes a surprising difference in the amount of bacteria in the mouth and will help to encourage healthy gums which will provide a great foundation for healthy teeth later.

From the time the first tooth appears, and for the rest of the child’s life, regular teeth cleaning should be a normal daily routine. Special toothbrushes for infants and toddlers are available anywhere regular toothbrushes are sold, and should be used routinely after eating and before bedtime.

Should I Give My Child Fluoride Tablets?

This is a very personal issue and should only be considered after discussing with your child’s dentist. Some cities and other municipalities include fluoride in their drinking water supply, but many do not. There have been health concerns cited by some health professionals about the possible side effects of adding fluoride to a child’ diet.

Fluoride has been shown to be extremely effective in fighting cavities, and should definitely be an ingredient that is included in the toothpaste of choice. Additionally, dental hygienists regularly apply intensive fluoride treatments during regular cleaning appointments. If there is a family history of certain dental problems, a dentist may recommend adding fluoride tablets. It is just very important for parents to be aware, informed, and advised.

Are There Factors That Make My Child More Susceptible to Cavities?

There are a number of possible contributing causes of increased cavities in children. Some of these risks include:

*Premature birth with very low birth weight

*Other healthcare problems, such as digestive problems

*White spots or brown discolorations on teeth

*Infrequent or no visits to the dentist

Are There any Foods That Make My Child More At Risk for Cavities?

In a word – yes. The following foods should be avoided or limited:

*Sugary foods, such as candy, cakes, pies, pastries, etc.

*Sticky foods, such as caramels and taffy

*Sodas and other sugary drinks

Summing It Up

Just as you would not postpone your child’s first medical check-up, you should be just as diligent with your child’s dental health. Neglecting the dental health of children can lead to problems as the child grows into adulthood.

Additional steps to protect the dental health of children include:

*Never put a baby to bed with a bottle in his/her mouth

*Never put anything in a baby bottle except formula, water, or juice

*Keep babies’ mouths clean

Healthy mouths can be a great first step towards having healthy babies!