Being responsible for the dental health of your child may seem like an intimidating task – but it doesn't have to be. These simple tricks should put you on the road to success in no time. Here is a quick reference guide for some of the most common questions parents ask about their child’s dental health.
When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), your child’s first dental checkup should be scheduled within six months of their first tooth erupting (or pushing up through the gum), but never later than their first birthday. There are several reasons for scheduling a visit early on:
- Your dentist will examine your child’s mouth to check for healthy teeth and tissue, and can identify any potential problems earlier.
- Your dental provider can discuss strategies with you to stay on top of your child’s oral health. You’ll receive information on teeth cleaning, proper diet, fluoride needs, and appropriate oral care products to use.
- These early visits are usually non-invasive, establish rapport, and lessen anxiety about future dentist visits.
How often should I schedule checkups?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your child to the dentist for a cleaning and oral exam every six months. This schedule allows you to discover and address any issues sooner rather than later. Most dental insurance pays a significant percentage of preventative care and will cover cleanings twice per year. Work with your dentist and your insurance provider to establish a preventative care routine that works best for your child’s and family’s needs.
What about fluoride?
The ADA recommends not using fluoridated toothpaste with your child until they are two-years old (unless otherwise directed by your dentist or pediatrician). However, this doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t brush their teeth during this time. Use a non-fluoride toothpaste and a soft bristled toothbrush for your child’s teeth twice daily as soon as their first tooth appears.
Start flossing as soon as teeth begin touching each other. Once your child turns two, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste during each brushing, and encourage them to spit out, not swallow, any extra toothpaste.
Some cities and towns have fluoride in their water supply. Ask your dentist what levels your local water supply contains, and discuss whether or not additional fluoride supplements would be beneficial for your child. These supplements are prescription only and usually come in drops or chewable tablets.
What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Dental caries (tooth decay) in infants and toddlers is often called baby bottle tooth decay. Despite the fact baby teeth are temporary, they’re still important for chewing, speaking, smiling, and as placeholders for permanent teeth. Decay left untreated can also lead to infection. Baby teeth need to be taken care of just like permanent teeth. Some recommendations for staving off baby bottle tooth decay or early childhood cavities include:
- Establishing good, oral hygiene practices early on (brushing, flossing, routine dental visits, etc.)
- Avoid putting a child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of anything except water.
- Don’t dip a pacifier into anything to sweeten it (sugar water, honey, syrup, etc.)
- Work with your dentist to make sure your child gets the appropriate amount of fluoride.
- Encourage a diet full of fruits and vegetables.
Let your child play an active role in the health of their teeth. Let them choose their toothbrush or toothbrush flavor, and praise them for their dental efforts. Keep them excited and motivated to keep up with their oral health routine.