Dental hygiene habits start early. As soon as your child begins to cut their first teeth—which can happen as early as 4 months of age, though 6-8 months is more common—you will want to make sure you are providing the necessary care to ensure strong, healthy teeth through childhood and adulthood. In those early months, this may be as simple as wiping your baby’s teeth with a wet washcloth to remove plaque. As your child approaches his or her first birthday, it is time to make their first appointment.
Healthy teeth start with a good diet. Children need a variety of foods from all food groups to ensure proper nutrition, which impacts tooth formation as well. Just as with adults, children who consume too much sugar, and who do not have good oral hygiene at home will suffer from more cavities than their peers.
Another major factor is tooth brushing. Just as with adults, children need to brush their teeth twice per day based on American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines. Children are not mature enough to be responsible for their own teeth brushing routine until adolescence. It is imperative that a parent or care giver oversee all brushing in the younger years.
The first appointment in the dental office should be fun. The most important thing is to make children feel comfortable, and hopefully to enjoy the experience, so they want to come back. Depending on the individual child’s age, the dentist may complete a visual check of the teeth, count how many are in place, and talk with the child and parent about teeth care.
Depending on your child’s age, your dentist or hygienist may talk to you about fluoride treatments and tooth sealants. Fluoride is a proven cavity-preventative element, but we know that too little or too much can be detrimental. Without enough fluoride, teeth do not form as strong as they should. Too much fluoride in the preschool years, though, can cause fluorosis, which causes discoloration in permanent teeth.
Tooth sealants are generally applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, which is where most pediatric cavities are found. Sealants are a physical barrier against food particles, sugar, plaque, and acids—all of which are harmful to teeth.
As the parent, you know your child best. If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s teeth, diet, or habits that you feel may impact her oral health, we encourage you to discuss them at the appointment. We can offer advice and guidance regarding pacifier and bottle use, thumb sucking, and food choices. Our goal is to set up all our patients for success, from the very beginning.