Like any parent, you worry about your child’s health. Remember their oral health as well. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends you take your child to the dentist by his or her first birthday. While it may seem a bit early for your child to receive dental treatment, it’s important to remember baby teeth are essentially place-holders for the adult teeth soon to come.
A lifetime of happy smiles starts at year one. Schedule your baby’s one-year dental appointment today, and give your child a healthy start.
2-5 years of age
- Brushing teeth: When your child is between the ages of 2-5, you should brush your preschooler’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste once after breakfast and once at night right before bedtime. The last thing your child’s teeth should touch before going to bed and for the rest of the night is the toothpaste from their brush. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, and smear it into the bristles with your finger to minimize the chance of swallowing the toothpaste. Brush your preschooler’s teeth for approximately two minutes each time. Teach your child to “spit out” the toothpaste as soon as possible but don’t rinse after brushing which allows a little fluoride left behind to strengthen teeth overnight.
- Proper toothpaste: For very young children (ages 2-3), avoid sweet-tasting children’s toothpaste your child may be more apt to swallow, instead use a pea-sized amount of adult toothpaste.
- Supervision during teeth brushing: Young children should always be supervised while brushing and should be taught to spit out rather than to swallow toothpaste. You should brush your child’s teeth until they are 7-8 years old because your child lacks the manual dexterity to do so properly by themselves until that age. Brushing should last for approximately two minutes. Once you have observed your child can properly brush on his/her own, let them brush independently.
- Flossing: Flossing should begin when and where teeth are touching. Molars usually begin touching at ages 3-5. At this point, food and plaque can easily get trapped between the teeth, leading to cavities.
6-11 years of age
It’s tooth fairy time. At around age six, your child will begin to lose primary teeth in the front, while also gaining permanent teeth in the front and back. Once the teeth start to touch (could be around ages 3-5), you should floss your child’s teeth (flossers work well). Children typically don’t brush along the gum line or by the back teeth, so pay special attention to these problem areas. However, almost 90% of cavities in permanent molars occur in the grooves; consequently, dental sealants are a great way to protect the permanent molars and the other teeth at risk of getting decay. Sealants are a white coating placed over the grooves of the teeth to prevent plaque from causing cavities.
Until your child is 7-8 years old, you should assist him/her while brushing because children often lack the motor skills to do it properly. Observe your child’s technique, assisting when necessary, until he/she can effectively brush without supervision. Brush your teeth at the same time to help teach your child to brush by mimicking you. Although a regular children’s brush is perfectly fine for cleaning teeth, sometimes a children’s electric brush can make the experience more fun for your child, increasing motivation to brush. Tooth brushing should occur twice a day once in the morning after breakfast and right before bedtime. Brushing after snacks is ideal, too. At age six and above, brushing should take two minutes each time.
When brushing your teeth and your child’s teeth, place the toothbrush at a 45˚ angle towards the gum-line, using small, circular strokes. Brush the front of the teeth, behind the teeth and on the chewing surfaces. Don’t forget to brush the tongue to remove potential bad breath bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. Take two full minutes to brush properly.
Alternatively, you can teach your child to use a sonic toothbrush. These brushes use sonic waves to kill bacteria while cleaning the teeth. They are especially good for a child in braces or prone to decay.
During the ages of 6-11 and older, children become more active with sports, and dental injuries are very common. Ask about mouth guards to protect your child’s teeth during sports.
12-18 years or age
By 12-13 years of age, all of your child’s baby teeth are usually gone, and all of the permanent (adult) teeth have arrived except for the third molars (wisdom teeth), which most often arrive by age 21. As teens grow more independent and have further control of their diet and habits, it is common to see an increase in cavities. Soda, candy and lack of consistent or effective brushing and flossing are typically the culprit. Also during this time, self–awareness becomes more prominent, and your teen may notice if they have discolored or crooked teeth. Talk with our team regarding options for braces and whitening.
Additionally, we take a panoramic X-ray (radiograph) of your child’s jaws to check the development of third molars (wisdom teeth), and, when indicated, will refer your child to an oral surgeon for removal. Be sure to let our office know if your child is experiencing pain from their wisdom teeth.
Unfortunately, substance abuse may also begin during these ages (90% of adult smokers began smoking before age 19), monitor your child for signs of tobacco or alcohol use. Finally, eating disorders are also common and can damage the teeth…in addition to causing many other serious issues. Please talk with our office regarding assistance with any of these common issues of adolescence.