Love to see your child’s smile? Keep it shiny and white by teaching him or her good dental health habits starting as early as possible. Children should visit the dentist when they start to teethe, or around their first birthday.
“This time is a great time to establish a dental home for your child,” says Dr. Saumitra Saravana with Pearl Family Dental in Fredericksburg. “A healthy mouth is a lifelong endeavor and it starts from the time the child is an infant. Parents can get useful tips on how and when to clean the baby’s teeth, what diets to avoid, questions on toothpaste, tips on how to deal with fussy children and what feeding habits are best from a teeth perspective.”
Moms and dads should first start by setting a good example and visiting a dentist routinely themselves.
“The second most important thing, more than proper hygiene, is diet,” says Saravana.
“Sticky foods and acidic foods and drinks are not good for teeth. Sticky sweet foods get retained in the grooves of the teeth, causing lots of cavities. So, if the child has these, then make it a point to make sure they are brushed off thoroughly before the child goes to bed. See that your children also have enough fluoride in their diet.”
Proper brushing and flossing is, of course, also key. Saravana recommends a toothpaste with fluoride once a child is old enough to spit out the paste and not swallow it. Too much fluoride is not good for toddlers.
“Electric brushes are typically more effective than manual brushing,” says Saravana. “However, flossing is probably as important or more important to keeping your teeth and gums disease free.”
Some toothbrushes come with timers, even set to music, so that children know exactly how long to brush. Since children do not have the motor skills to effectively brush their teeth until they are around the ages of 7 or 8, Saravana suggests parents assist their children with the teeth brushing.
“We typically tell our parents that when their children can tie a shoelace properly they have the motor skills to angle their toothbrush into all the nooks and crannies in their mouth,” Saravana says. “After that, even though they have the skill set to brush properly, they might not choose to do so. So, in my family, we all brush together at night. This is the most important time to brush so that all the food that is stuck to the teeth does not remain stuck to the teeth during the entire night.”
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to speak with a dentist. When choosing a dentist, Saravana also recommends visiting first to get a feel for the office.
“They do not need to make an appointment, just have a tour of the office and then decide if the office is a good fit for their family,” Saravana says. “See if the office is clean, if the patients who are there are happy, if the staff there is treating them well. Trust your gut. Your dentist can be a vital resource in keeping your child healthy.”