Caring For Your Child’s 100-Watt Smile Starts Earlier Than You’d Think

brushing childrens teeth

Trying to get your toddler, preschooler, or even early grade-school child to brush her teeth can sometimes seem as difficult as forcing a cat to eat a vitamin. You’re already dealing with potty training, tantrums, whining, teaching them to tie shoes, button buttons and put their toys away, so sometimes it’s easier to choose your battles and let the oral hygiene slide.

After all, they’re just baby teeth, right? They’re all going to fall out eventually.

Tiny Teeth Aren’t Just For Biting
Baby teeth have several purposes, not least of which is to blaze the way in your child’s mouth for the grown-up teeth to follow. A healthy set of baby teeth allows your child to chew correctly. And because many English vocalizations require the placement of lip or tongue near or against teeth, first teeth are also necessary for the proper development of speech.

Start Good Habits Early
Tiny teeth are as susceptible to decay as adult teeth. Yet certain habits can put your child at risk for a syndrome called “baby bottle tooth decay.” Children who fall asleep at night while sucking on a bottle of formula or juice are bathing their teeth in sugar that the natural bacteria in the mouth devour, creating acids that corrode enamel. Dipping a pacifier in sugar or some other sweet substance produces the same effect. The brittle, weakened teeth can cause pain, infection, or even the need for extractions, setting your child up for a lifetime of dental phobia.

Who’s Afraid Of The Big, Bad Dentist?
Because good habits start early, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends that you take your child to see a dentist by his very first birthday. This initial visit is mostly about answering the parent’s questions, checking for any anomalies in growth, gauging the possible need for fluoride, and easing the child into the idea of letting a stranger in a white coat peer deep into his mouth.

Further visits should be scheduled every six months to keep track of erupting baby teeth and, later, the emergence of the permanent teeth. By the age of seven, depending on what your dentist sees in the X-rays, your pediatric dentist may suggest seeing an orthodontist. Many orthodontic issues, recognized early, can be more easily addressed while the child’s mouth and jaw are still growing.

Keeping up with preventative dental appointments and teaching your child healthy oral hygiene, even as a toddler, ensures that he’ll preserve that smile for a lifetime.

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