Optimizing Oral Health for Children

[February 3, 2021]

Written by: Dr. Carly Peterschmidt

Whether you have children, are going to have children, or have influence to care for children in any way, it is important to help set youngsters up for a lifetime of oral health. They depend on your care to properly prevent and treat oral disease. The American Dental Association (ADA) has developed a website for the general public, called Mouth Healthy, that has a list of helpful “A-Z Topics” to learn about. I encourage you to visit https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/ to check out the child-specific topics.

The ADA recommends to begin cleaning a baby’s mouth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze or washcloth after feeding. This will help remove sugars and reduce bacterial load to keep the gums healthy and prevent thrush (a fungal infection).

Baby teeth typically start erupting around 6 months of age, usually starting with the two lower front teeth. Most children will have all expected 20 baby teeth by the age of 3. The tooth eruption chart from the ADA is attached to this blog post for your reference to know the timing of when to expect a child to gain or lose their baby teeth.

As soon as teeth start erupting, caregivers should schedule a child’s first dental visit and start brushing a child’s teeth for them twice per day, morning and night, with a fluoridated toothpaste. It is important to only use a small amount of paste, approximately equivalent to the size of a grain of rice. After the age of three, the amount of paste can increase to the size of a pea. Monitoring children to verify that they do not swallow the paste is also important. A caregiver should assess the level of a child’s dexterity to determine when they should start trying to brush their own teeth with supervision. It is typically helpful as a child is learning to have them self-brush in the morning with supervision and the caregiver brush for them in the evening. Until the child can show that they are effective at brushing on their own, they will need direct supervision. Flossing should be initiated once the teeth are touching and the toothbrush cannot get in between the teeth.

There are so many other great topics about feeding & nutrition, decay prevention, pacifiers, teething, thumb sucking, and fluoride that I encourage you to read about on the Mouth Healthy website.

Smile healthy everyone,
Dr. Carly

Source: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/