Good dental hygiene habits should begin before your child’s first tooth appears.
How do I care for my child’s teeth?
Wiping your baby’s gums with a soft damp cloth after feedings helps to prevent the buildup of bacteria. When teeth appear, start using a soft children’s toothbrush twice a day.
Once your child is preschool-age, start using fluoride toothpaste. Don’t cover the brush with toothpaste; a pea-sized amount is just right.
What are cavities?
Cavities are holes that are formed when bacteria (germs) in your mouth use the sugar in food to make acid. This acid eats away at the teeth. Cavities are common in children. Good tooth care can keep cavities from happening in your child.
Is my child at risk for cavities?
Your child might be at risk for cavities if he or she eats a lot of sugary foods (raisins, cookies and candy) and drinks a lot of sweet liquids (fruit juice, fruit punch, soda and sweetened drinks). Your child also might develop cavities if he or she has any of the following risk factors:
• Was born early (prematurely) or weighed very little at birth (low birth weight)
• Has ongoing special health care needs
• Has white spots or brown areas on any teeth
• Does not go to the dentist often
Can I prevent cavities?
Everyone in your family should take good care of their teeth. Family members with lots of cavities can pass the cavity-causing bacteria to babies and children. Utensils should not be shared. Teeth should be brushed at least twice a day and adults should floss once a day. Everyone should see the dentist twice a year. Have your doctor or dentist show you the right way to brush your child’s teeth.
Does diet affect my child’s teeth?
Yes. Avoiding sweets, sticky foods and between-meal snacks is good advice. To avoid cavities, limit sweet snacks and drinks between meals. Have meals and snacks at regular times. Teeth-friendly snacks include foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Baby bottles can create additional problems with your child’s dental health.
Is thumb-sucking bad for my child?
It is normal for children to suck their thumbs, their fingers or a pacifier. Most children give up this habit on their own by age four, with no harm done to their teeth. If your child still has a sucking habit after age four, consult with your dentist.
When should my child start seeing a dentist?
The American Dental Association recommends that parents take their child to a dentist no later than his or her first birthday.
Make regular dental visits part of your health care routine because proper oral hygiene can prevent overall health issues as your child gets older. Your dentist and primary care physician can provide assistance with any questions.
Dr. Zainab Al-Obosi is a family physician at Madison Health Primary Care of London. To make an appointment, call 740-845-7500. The practice is currently accepting new patients, including adults and children.