With the major winter holidays just around the corner, treats may be in abundance whether you’re at home or visiting family and friends. We all recognize that too many sweet treats are a threat to dental health. Here’s some advice on good dental hygiene for your young ones from your 24/7 Pediatric Care Centers pediatricians and nurse practitioners, the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Association of Pediatric Dentistry.
Cavities in Baby Teeth
Cavities matter, even in baby teeth. Cavities are caused by the bacteria that collect on teeth after sugars are eaten. The longer and more frequently the teeth are exposed to sugars, the more likely cavities will occur. Studies show that one in 10 two-year-olds have one or more cavities. Because cavities in baby teeth can negatively affect permanent teeth, it’s a good idea to start good dental hygiene habits early. Here are the most important steps to take once the first tooth has erupted:
- For babies and toddlers to age 3, the teeth should be brushed gently twice a day with a soft-bristled brush using just a rice-sized dot of fluoride toothpaste. By age three, use a pea-sized dot of toothpaste.
- Clean each tooth thoroughly, top and bottom, back and front. Supervise your toddlers as they brush so they’re sure to reach each surface. Children about age six to eight should be able to brush by themselves.
- Experts agree that by age one year, your young child should see a pediatric or general-care dentist to begin regular checkups.
Cut the Sugar!
Maintaining a balanced diet with few sweet snacks is the best way to ensure healthy teeth. Sticky foods like chewy candies, dried fruit, and gum are the biggest offenders. Sugar-containing beverages also pose risks for your child’s dental health, especially when given in a sippy cup or bottle. Here are some tips for making your child’s diet more tooth-friendly.
- Limit sugary treats to special occasions.
- Make sure your child brushes under your supervision after eating sugary treats.
- Avoid giving your child a bottle containing juice or milk at naptime or bedtime. Substitute plain water.
- Limit the time your child carries around and drinks juice or other sweet beverages in a sippy cup. Substitute plain water for hydration between meals.
It’s never too early to show your child that good dental care is part of the family’s daily routine. Make twice-daily brushing a fun, stress-free experience for your child, and the result will be a lifetime of dental health.
One Final Thought: Thumb Sucking and Your Child’s Teeth
Thumb sucking and finger or pacifier sucking are not unusual in babies. The habit may continue through the toddler years, usually ending by the time the child is four. Experts say there is usually no reason to worry about a sucking habit until around age six – about the time the permanent front teeth come in. After age four, have your dentist reassess the teeth for any changes caused by sucking at each dental visit.
We welcome your questions about dental care issues during your child’s regular checkups. The 24/7 Pediatric Care Centers staff will be happy to advise you about ways to prevent cavities and encourage good dental hygiene.