Tooth decay is the number one chronic disease in young children. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that tooth decay is five times more common than asthma, and seven times more common than respiratory allergies. (Learn more about pediatric health in our Health Resources section). Luckily for kids, kids doctors and parents alike, tooth decay is also a highly preventable disease. With a little education and proactivity, we can go a long way in making sure our little ones have healthy teeth and gums.
By the time a child is one year of age, they will have gotten their first tooth. While it won’t be until they’re about three years old that they will have their first full set of teeth, the American Dental Association recommends that a child have their first dental visit no later than their first birthday.
Dentists, as well as your local pediatric clinic, can provide guidance on how to care for baby’s first teeth, including twice daily brushing from the time their first tooth appears until they are old enough to do it on their own. A small, soft-bristled brush used with a gentle back-and-forth motion is recommended for early brushing. Additionally, pediatric specialists warn that giving babies bottles and sippy-cups during the night when saliva production is low can cause tooth decay.
Through the ages of 3 to 5 years old, parents should assist in and closely supervise twice daily brushing, instilling in children proper techniques, and the importance of brushing all surfaces and doing a thorough job. Around the age of five, children will possess sufficient motor skills and enough practice to begin brushing on their own.
Throughout these phases, things like offering your child different-colored toothbrushes, fun toothpaste flavors, and even an electric toothbrush for the older ones, can help make the routine more fun. Additionally, consistency and positive reinforcement are both crucial in turning oral health into a good habit at an early age.
Finally, remember to schedule regular check-ups and appointments with both your pediatrician and your child’s dentist. As always, your family doctor at Woodburn Pediatric Clinic is happy to offer you tips and techniques on how to keep your kid smiling. We even offer a fluoride varnish free of charge for our patients! If your child is a new patient, we welcome you to learn more about our practice or speak with one of our healthcare providers to join our fluoride varnish program today.