A baby’s first tooth is something that most parents will always remember! From the way it changes that cute smile to the teething issues it causes, the eruption of a tooth is a pretty big deal. Yet, with all of the other things parents and caregivers must do to care for a baby or toddler, those tiny teeth are often neglected … sometimes with painful results. Today Willows Pediatrics wants to remind you to brush your child’s teeth.
Believe it or not, dentists across the nation report that they are seeing more preschoolers at all income levels with 6 to 10 cavities or more! And recently the Centers for Disease Control found that the number of preschoolers requiring extensive dental work has increased for the first time in forty years. Several factors may be at work here.
The first is too much snacking and the over-consumption of sugary snacks and drinks such as juices or sodas. Parents shouldn’t allow their child to snack or graze constantly. In addition, they should avoid gummy or sticky snacks—even fruit snacks—that can get lodged in the teeth and should be careful when giving their babies and toddlers juice – even watered down juice – in a bottle or a sippy cup, particularly as a means to help the child fall asleep. Dr. Stanley Alexander, chair of pediatric dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston noted that bedtime drinks are “especially problematic since children’s enamel is thin to begin with, and the mouth’s natural cleaning processes are less active when people sleep.” The same problem occurs when a child falls asleep while breastfeeding. Breast milk contains natural sugars that can erode teeth.
The second factor is a lack of daily dental care. Parents just simply aren’t brushing their children’s teeth twice a day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s never too early to start brushing your baby’s teeth:
Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a slight “smear” of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For the 2-5 year old, dispense a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s tooth brushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively.
Moreover, by the time your child is one year old, he or she should have taken a trip to the dentist. Dr. Jennifer Epstein of Kids First Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics in Fairfield says that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children establish a “dental home” no later than 12 months of age. The purpose of this is to create an ongoing relationship between the dentist and the patient that is inclusive of all aspects of oral health care in a family-centered way.
According to Dr. Epstein, “The 1 year old visit is an opportunity for new parents to familiarize themselves and their child with a dental office.” She notes that topics typically addressed at the first visit include tooth brushing technique and use of toothpaste (fluoride free), eruption of primary or “baby” teeth, and habits such as thumb sucking and pacifiers. Moreover, the dental hygienist and pediatric dentist also like to use this first visit to discuss a healthy diet. “Infant and child tooth decay is still a prevalent problem in our society,” she says, “so the earlier the discussion about good food choices and limited juice consumption begins, the better the chance children will have of avoiding cavities.”
We hope that all of our patients will take this advice and remember to care for those little pearly whites! Of course, if you have any questions about your child’s oral health, we are more than happy to answer them. We want all of our patients at Willows Pediatrics to have a lifetime of smiles!
Image by MomPOM/Jenn via Flickr.com