February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Every year, the American Dental Association hosts health fairs, essay contests and classroom presentation to help educate both adults and children about the importance of practicing good oral hygiene. In observation of NCDHM, Dr. Devang Shah is here to offer his tips and advice on how to care for your child’s teeth and prevent long-term dental health problems to keep them smiling brightly.
Taking Care Of Your Baby’s Teeth
You should start thinking about your baby’s dental health as soon as they’re born. Many parents think that they don’t need to worry about oral hygiene until their baby’s teeth begin to come in, but this mistake can be detrimental to long-term health.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Your little one’s future teeth may be at risk if you put them to bed with a bottle. Bottles of milk, formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks are filled with sugar. If your baby falls asleep while drinking sugary liquids, their gums and teeth will experience an acid bath that can lead to tooth decay.
If the decay is severe enough, your child may need their teeth extracted, which can lead to speech and eating problems. And if the jaw can’t develop healthily around baby teeth, their future permanent teeth may be at risk.
Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay early by wiping your infant’s gums with a clean gauze pad or cloth. Remove plaque and food particles after meals, as debris left in the mouth can harm the gums and emerging teeth. Once their teeth begin to come in, brush them gently with a child-sized toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
Don’t give your infant sodas or sugary juices. Always opt for milk and formula when possible. Make sure that they finish their bottle before naptime and bedtime so that you can brush their teeth or gums prior to falling asleep.
If your infant cannot sleep without a bottle, fill it with water when it is safe to do so.
Taking Care Of Your Toddler’s Teeth
Toddler age is a great time to begin teaching your child how to take care of their own teeth. Developing healthy oral hygiene habits at a young age is important in ensuring that they maintain a good dental health routine throughout their adult life.
Let your child imitate the way you brush your teeth and educate them about the importance of keeping their teeth healthy. Toddlers like to mimic the world around them, so if you practice good brushing and flossing habits, it’s more likely that they will, too. Examine their teeth after they brush and remove any additional particles they miss. Eventually, they will know what to look for and be able to do it themselves.
If your toddler still sucks on their thumb or uses a pacifier by the time their permanent teeth begin to grow in, you should take action. Try to limit the pacifier use and eventually take it away completely. Weaning children off of pacifiers and thumb sucking can be difficult, and if your child is having trouble, talk to their dentist or doctor for tips on how to help them stop.
How To Prevent Your Child’s Teeth From Developing Cavities
There are many things that you can do to prevent your child’s teeth from developing cavities:
- Help them brush their teeth and teach them to brush and floss after meals, at least twice per day.
- Limit a number of sweets, candy and other sugar-filled foods that your child consumes.
- Choose sugar-free medications, gum and cough drops in place of their cavity-causing counterparts.
- Cook healthy meals at home. Make sure to include calcium-rich foods like milk, broccoli and almonds.
- Keep soda, juice and sugary drinks out of the house and encourage your child to choose water and milk at restaurants.
- Visit the dentist before your child turns 1, and then regularly throughout childhood.
What To Do If Your Child Has A Dental Emergency
Accidents happen. When your child gets hurt on the playground or the soccer field, you may feel like panicking. Don’t! There are always steps to take to prevent their dental injury from bearing long-term effects. But knowing the proper ways to handle dental emergencies can be the difference between losing and saving a permanent tooth.
Here are some ways to address common childhood dental emergencies:
- Knocked-out tooth: Keep the dislodged tooth moist at all times. If possible, place the tooth in the socket without touching the root. If this is too painful for your child, place the tooth between their gum and cheek or in a cup of milk. Call your dentist right away! You need to take immediate action in order to save the tooth.
- Cracked tooth: Rinse your child’s mouth with warm water immediately to clean the area. Press a cold compress on their fact to minimize swelling and pain. Call the dentist as soon as possible.
- Toothache: Clean our your child’s mouth with warm water. Use dental floss to remove any food caught between the teeth. If the pain persists, make an appointment for a checkup.
- Injured cheek or lip: If your child injures their cheeks or lips after falling, apply direct pressure to the area with a clean cloth. In case of swelling, use ice. If the bleeding does not stop, take your child to the Emergency Room.
- Dental concussion: A dental concussion occurs when a tooth receives a hard bang or knock but has not been dislodged. Unless the tooth becomes discolored, dental concussions do not require emergency treatment.
- Fractured jaw: If your child injures their jaw, we recommend heading to the Emergency Room. Encourage them to keep their jaw still. The Emergency Room staff will determine whether or not further dental treatment is needed.
Help Us Care For Your Child’s Teeth
In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, we would like to welcome you and your children to Dental Smiles at Dacula. As a father of two daughters, Dr. Shah understands that your child’s health is of utmost importance to you and would like to reassure you that he is here to keep them healthy and strong. Make an appointment with our office today to get the whole family started on a lifetime of healthy habits.