Parents have many responsibilities, and taking care of their child’s teeth until the child is old enough to do it properly is one of these sole responsibilities. Many parents are unaware of how early they should begin oral care at home, and they are often shocked to learn that their child has a cavity at their very first dental visit. The truth is, once a child’s teeth begin to erupt inside the mouth, the teeth need to be cared for just like adult teeth.
Tooth decay is the single leading chronic childhood illness in America, yet it is entirely preventable. Parents must care for their child’s teeth diligently and daily in order to prevent damage done to their child’s smile. Plaque builds up on the teeth each day. This sticky, white substance is caused by a chemical reaction between oral bacteria and the particles that are left behind in the mouth after eating and drinking anything other than water. As soon as an infant’s teeth erupt, they are constantly assaulted by plaque. The diet of a baby is milk (whether breast milk or formula) and soft foods. The sugars in these foods stick to the surfaces of the teeth, causing millions of acid-producing bacteria to spread throughout the mouth.
While it may seem silly, it is important to begin brushing your child’s teeth twice a day the moment that they break through the gum line. Until the child is old enough to refrain from swallowing toothpaste, a toothbrush and water should be used to brush away plaque buildup and particles from the teeth. Once a child is old enough, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste should be used to clean the teeth in the morning and before bed. It is also important that the child never be allowed to fall asleep with a bottle of milk or at the breast once teeth have erupted. A child who falls asleep with teeth coated in milk are extremely susceptible to developing infant cavities.
As a child grows and matures s/he should be taught how to properly care for her/his teeth. Parents are the best sources of a good example for their children! Parents who floss daily and brush their teeth well each day help their child to see that oral health care is important. Children can also be encouraged to brush properly with fun apps from Disney® and other child-friendly sources that set times and have engaging directions to follow.
Dr. Wayne G. Suway understands that proper oral health care begins at home. By encouraging your young child to care about his/her oral health, you are promoting a lifetime of success.