Information Source on Pediatric Dentistry

Start Cleaning your Child's Teeth Early

Early care for your children’s teeth will protect their smile and their health.

As soon as your child's first tooth appears, begin cleaning by wiping with a clean, damp cloth every day. When more teeth come in, change to small, soft toothbrush. Begin using toothpaste with fluoride when child is 2-years old. Use toothpaste with fluoride earlier if your child’s doctor or dentist recommends it.

Use the Right Amount of Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride is important for fighting cavities. But if children younger than 6 years old swallow too much fluoride, their permanent teeth may have white spots. To keep this from happening, use only a small amount of toothpaste, which is about the size of a pea. Teach your child to spit out the toothpaste and to rinse well with water after brushing.

Supervise your Child's Brushing of Teeth

Brush your child’s teeth twice a day until your child has the skill to handle the toothbrush alone. Then continue to closely watch brushing to make sure the child is doing a thorough job and using only a small amount of toothpaste.

Talk to your Child’s Doctor or Dentist of their Teeth

Check with the doctor or dentist about your child’s specific fluoride needs. After age 2, most children get the right amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities if they drink water that contains fluoride and brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
Parents of children older than 6 months should ask about the need for a fluoride supplement if drinking water does not have enough fluoride.

Do not let a child younger than 6 years old use a fluoride mouth rinse unless the child’s doctor or dentist recommends it.

Importance of Baby Teeth

Keeping child's baby teeth healthy is important because these teeth keep the proper spacing and alignment for the permanent teeth. Baby teeth also are used for chewing, speaking and jaw development. Plus, attractive teeth are important in building self-confidence and self-esteem.

The Process of Decay

The most common chronic infectious disease among children is tooth decay, which forms cavities.

Healthy eating habits are very important in the prevention of tooth decay. Start your child on a healthy eating program early in life to avoid eating foods with high levels of sugar, starches, carbohydrates and acidic foods or beverages.

When we eat these items, the natural bacteria in the mouth changes. The bacteria start to produce acids that attack the outer layer of the teeth called enamel. Each attack lasts about 20 minutes. Frequent and long contact with this acid can cause the enamel to break down, which is the beginning of a cavity. 

To stop the cavities, children should not be allowed to continuously sip, suck or nibble on foods or beverages other than water. Furthermore, once teeth are in the mouth, babies should not be put to sleep with bottles. 

Store bought milk, breast milk, baby formula, juice and soda can all cause cavities. All of these have simple sugar or acid in them that break down the enamel of a tooth, making a cavity. 

Parents should take pacifiers away when the child stops sucking food and starts eating solids like baby foods. Sucking on a pacifier after that can lead to an "open bite," which is when the front top and bottom teeth never touch, even when chewing with the back teeth. This means the child is not ever able to chew with their front teeth. 

The child's teeth actually grow around the pacifier if it is in the mouth for too many years. The same thing can happen to kids who suck their thumb too long.

Clean Teeth

Plaque is the yellow or white, sticky bacteria that forms on teeth and causes cavities. The only way to stop cavities is to remove the plaque bacteria every day with a toothbrush and dental floss. 

Adults should help in brushing teeth and flossing to help prevent cavities. Kids can brush and floss their own teeth after they develop the coordination to actually brush and floss well enough to get rid of all of the plaque bacteria. This is normally around the age of 10. 

Kids should also really understand why cleaning their teeth is important and really care about their teeth if they want them to be cavity-free. 

Teeth should be cleaned at least twice a day. The best time to brush is right after each meal or snack. 

Fluoride can reverse the start of a cavity by strengthening the enamel. If the cavity acid eats through the enamel, a dentist must drill out the decay and place a filling to close the hole. A fluoride mouth rinse can be used as directed for children 6 years and older.

Healthy Gums

To keep the gums healthy and the teeth clean, always aim the toothbrush bristles gently toward the gums at a slight angle, then brush in a circular motion for about five seconds on each surface of each tooth. 

Bacteria at the gum line can cause gum disease such as gingivitis. People get this when they don't brush and floss well enough and leave the plaque bacteria on the gum tissue. The gum tissue becomes red, tender, swollen and bleeds easily. 

Since the bristles of a brush cannot reach in between the teeth, flossing should begin once the teeth are in contact. Children should be able to floss by themselves around the age of 10.

Dental Appointments

A baby's first dental check-up can be done at anytime, even before the first teeth come in, to make sure everything is normal and healthy. If not then, children should be seen sometime after seeing the first baby teeth come through the gums (no later than six months after seeing the teeth). 

Dentists highly recommend sealants to prevent cavities on permanent teeth. Sealants seal up a tooth to keep bacteria out. A hard, tooth-colored coating is placed in the deep grooves of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Sealants are usually applied around the age of 8. 

Keep in mind that decay is continuous. If left untreated, it will reach the nerve of the tooth. Once this happens, the nerve gets diseased and then must be removed, which requires a root canal. Untreated tooth decay can cause abscesses and infections which can lead to serious health problems.

Remember, parents guide their children into having a healthy mouth and gums. Spend time teaching your child the importance of taking care of their teeth and gums.