JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLIINA –
February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Developing good habits early in life and teaching children to care for their teeth is essential to ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles.
A child's primary teeth, sometimes called "baby teeth," are as important as permanent adult teeth. Primary teeth typically begin to appear when an infant is between the age of six months and one year. The teeth continue to fill in, usually in pairs; one on each side of the upper or lower jaw. By the time the child is two and a half to three years of age all 20 teeth (10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw) have come in. The complete set of primary teeth remains in the mouth until age to six or seven.
At approximately six to seven years old, children begin losing some of their baby teeth and their adult teeth start appearing. While this process may not be completed until age 12 or longer, it is valuable to remember both sets of teeth are important and should be well taken care of. Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak, aid in the proper growth and development of the jaws as well as contributing to an attractive smile.
By following the tips listed below, you can help develop habits early to ensure your child’s healthy teeth last a lifetime:
Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth at birth - After each feeding; wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth. When your child’s teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a soft toothbrush and water. Because flossing removes food particles and plaque between teeth that brushing misses, you should floss for your children beginning as soon as the teeth are in contact with one another, possibly as early as age tow and a half. Since most small children do not have the dexterity to brush and floss effectively, you must brush and floss for them until they are seven to eight years of age. Unless it is advised by your child’s dentist, do not use fluoridated toothpaste until age two or three (when a child can spit out well).
Within in six months of the eruption of your child’s first tooth, schedule the first dental visit (usually by age 12-18 months). The dentist can check for problems such as dental decay and provide oral health information based on your child’s stage of development.
Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. If your child is thirsty between meals, use only water in the bottle or cup. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup containing anything other than water. Night time breast-feeding should be avoided after the first tooth erupts.
If the local water supply does not contain fluoride (a substance that helps prevent tooth decay), ask your dentist how your child can get the right amount of fluoride.
Only allow your child to chew sugarless gum or gum made with Xylitol. Avoid lollipops and other sweet, sticky candy or similar foods.
If your child plays sports, make sure he or she ALWAYS wears a mouth guard.
Remember, children tend to mimic their parents, so demonstrate good oral hygiene habits by brushing and flossing every day.