For many parents, their child’s oral health is one big question mark. When should I schedule my child’s first dental checkup? Should my toddler be flossing? These questions and others like them can quickly overwhelm you if you don’t know where to turn.
Our team of dentists at Rifkin Dental in Carmel and Yorktown Heights, New York, are excited to include pediatric dentistry on our list of services and help parents like you make informed decisions. Here, we walk through some children’s oral health basics to help you get started.
Some fast facts
If you need a bit of convincing to prioritize your child’s oral health, consider these statistics: Cavities (we call them caries in the pediatric dentistry world) are the most common chronic disease in children in the United States. Studies show that over half of 6-8-year-olds have had a cavity in at least one of their baby teeth, and over half of teens 12-19 have had a cavity in at least one of their permanent teeth.
Untreated cavities are painful and often lead to infections that can snowball into other problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children with poor oral health tend to miss more school and even receive lower grades.
Caring for your child’s teeth
With stats like those, you can see why we’ve made pediatric dentistry a focus of our comprehensive services. But it’s not all bad news, and cavities are preventable when you’re proactive.
You can support your child’s oral health by brushing their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and making sure they get dental sealants when they visit us for a cleaning. You may need to help your child if they’re younger than six years old — watch them brush and check that they’re using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
If you’ve got a toddler, try having them recline in your lap so you can access their back teeth. Help them practice spitting and not swallowing when you’re done.
Remember that once your child’s teeth are touching, it’s time to add flossing to the routine. Sugar and debris from the day’s meals can get stuck in their teeth and lead to cavities.
Diet and nutrition also play a key role in their oral health. Do your best to limit the amount of candy and sugary foods they eat, as sugar sticks to their teeth and attracts bacteria.
What about babies?
Babies also need some help with their oral hygiene routine. Wipe their gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth after their first feeding in the morning and before you put them down for the night. Doing so wipes away bacteria and sugars that can cause cavities if left to fester on their gums.
Once your baby’s teeth start to come in, switch from a cloth to a soft-bristled brush and brush their teeth twice daily with plain water. You should also consider scheduling their first dentist visit before they turn one.
What if my child hates brushing their teeth?
Does your kid throw a fit when it’s time to brush their teeth? You’re not alone. Many parents struggle to wrangle their kids long enough to get the brush in their mouth. So, we’ve got some tips for our youngest (and more impatient) patients:
- Start a routine to make brushing and flossing second nature
- Reward good oral hygiene habits
- Set timers and make it a competition
- Distract them with videos or stories
- Get brushes with their favorite characters on them
- Get tasty toothpaste
- Focus on proper technique
Though morning and evening are standard oral hygiene times, you may find that it's easier to let your child choose when they want to brush their teeth or to schedule it during other parts of the day. Remember that something is better than nothing, so do your best to at least get two brushing sessions every day.
Kids also love to watch their parents and copy their actions — that means you’re a key player in their oral health journey. Set an example by sticking to your own routine.
If you’re looking for more information about pediatric oral health, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment for your child, call our location most convenient to you or use our online booking tool to contact our friendly staff.