3 Keys to Your Child's Oral Health

3 Keys to Your Child's Oral Health

By the time children turn 3 years old, 28% have one or more cavities. That number nearly doubles by the age of 5. 

You can't blame children at that age because they haven't reached a developmental stage where they can easily manipulate a toothbrush and coordinate the many steps of dental hygiene.

Parents should stay with their child every time they brush their teeth until at least age 6. This gives you the opportunity to teach, encourage, and do a quick follow-up brush after they finish.

If you have questions or concerns about your child's dental health, don't hesitate to call Benjamin C. Wang, DMD, and the team at Centerport Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry. In the meantime, here are three tips for protecting your child’s dental health.

Begin dental care before baby teeth appear

When they're born, babies have 20 primary teeth and some are already fully developed, just waiting to grow through their gums. Those teeth are at risk of decay as soon as they come in.

You can pave the way for healthy teeth by cleaning your baby's gums with a clean, damp washcloth. This clears away bacteria that attaches to new teeth as they erupt.

When their baby teeth grow in, start brushing them twice daily with an infant toothbrush and a tiny dot of fluoride toothpaste that's approved for children.

Don't be tempted to ignore baby teeth just because they're temporary. Babies need their first teeth to learn to speak properly and chew their food. Healthy baby teeth also protect the space their adult teeth need to grow in properly.

Schedule your child's first visit by their first birthday

Children should have their first dental visit when their first tooth comes in, which is around 6 months. But bring them in no later than their first birthday.

Their first visit is a low-stress event designed to introduce them to the team and the office, and to generally talk about the importance of taking care of their teeth. Your child's first visit is also a great time for you to ask any questions or get tips about their dental health.

If your child is comfortable, we perform a quick visual exam of their teeth and mouth. If we see any concerns, we talk with you about it. But in most cases, children can wait and have their first full exam when they get older.

Children usually have all their baby teeth by the age of 3. That's when they should have a complete dental checkup (if they haven't already had one).

Teach your child how to brush, but keep it fun

When teaching your child how to brush, it's important to be aware of their developmental abilities and avoid pushing them before they have the dexterity to manipulate a toothbrush. 

Though you should start teaching brushing techniques around the age of 3, most children won't be able to properly control the toothbrush and coordinate the mechanics until ages 6-9.

Regardless of age, your child is only ready to brush on their own when they have the dexterity, can remember to brush twice daily, and can spit out the toothpaste. 

Even as they become more proficient, you should supervise them until at least the age of 6. That way you can be sure they don't swallow toothpaste and can determine if they’re doing a good job on their own.

Nothing motivates children to get into the tooth-brushing habit more than making it fun. This could be as simple as using a toothbrush with their favorite character on it and a flavor of toothpaste they enjoy. 

But you can also get more creative. For example, teach them how long they should brush (two minutes) by singing a few lines of their favorite song.

Bringing your child in for a checkup every six months gives us the chance to catch any problems early. During their checkups, we also talk with you about other dental health issues, such as whether they need fluoride treatments or sealants to prevent cavities.

If it’s time to schedule a dental checkup for your child, call the Centerport Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry office in Portland, Oregon, or book an appointment online today.

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