Children’s Dental Health
Matthew Norman, DDS and Michelle Phillips, RDH
February is Children’s Dental Health Month. It is important for both parents and children to value the care of the child’s teeth from the beginning. Good oral home care begins very early on, even before the first tooth comes in.
Your child’s first dental visit should occur by the time they have their first birthday. The primary reason for a visit to the dentist at this young age is to assess the child’s mouth for possible abnormalities and to check for the presence of any erupted baby teeth. Most importantly, this visit provides the parent with an opportunity to answer any questions they may have regarding caring for their child’s mouth and teeth.
While your child is an infant, you will want to wet a washcloth and rub it along the baby’s gums to keep their mouth clean. Your child’s first dental cleaning is typically around age 3.
Caring for your child’s teeth is no different than your caring for your own. They should brush their teeth twice a day and floss once a day. Keep in mind that children do not have the manual dexterity to effectively clean their teeth on their own, and will need your help. A child should not brush alone until the age of 7 and floss alone until the age of 9. And when applying toothpaste, simply use a “pea” sized amount to ensure they are getting a healthy amount of fluoride.
After a child begins to get his/her teeth, be sure to use a fluoride-free toothpaste until they can effectively spit the toothpaste out, generally at age 3-4. Once a child can successfully spit out toothpaste, it is important to provide them with one that does contain fluoride. Fluoride is very beneficial to your child’s dental health. There are two types of fluoride: systemic and topical. The fluoride found in the toothpaste, or fluoride treatments at the dental office are considered topical – this only helps strengthen the teeth that are currently present in the mouth. Systemic fluoride, such as that found in city water or fluoride tablets/drops, is ingested into the body and helps to strengthen the permanent teeth that are currently developing underneath the gums. Both types of fluoride are very beneficial and needed for optimum dental health.
Around the age of 6, children begin erupting their permanent teeth. The first teeth that typically erupt are the permanent first molars in the back of the jaw and the two middle front teeth. The permanent first molar teeth are typically referred to as the 6-year molars, because of the age they commonly erupt. Once these permanent molars fully erupt, we may discuss placing dental sealants. A dental sealant is a completely non-invasive procedure that helps further protect these molars from developing cavities (see Example above). Naturally, these permanent molars have deep pits and grooves and are a common place for tooth decay to occur. The dental sealant liquid is placed into the grooves of the tooth and hardened it with a curing light. After the sealant is hardened, it is bonded to the tooth and provides a smooth surface across the top of the tooth to help prevent cavities.
Below is a tooth eruption chart with the approximate age that babies with begin to get their primary teeth, as well as the estimated age in which they will lose the baby tooth and begin to erupt the permanent teeth.
If you have a child in need of a dentist, or have any dental-related questions about your child, feel free to call Norman Dental at 336-282-2120.