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Early Dental Care Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle

Early Dental Care Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle

Early Dental Care Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
Dr. Jones
June 25, 2024

According to ADA.org statistics, only 66% of children on private dental insurance saw a dentist in 2021. Only 47% of children on Medicaid went to the dentist. How do the children of Tennessee rank in terms of dental visits?

  • Medicaid – 48%
  • Private Insurance – 65%

Between 2005 and 2017, tooth extractions were the leading restorative dental care treatment among children ages 5 to 14. If you look at the breakdown of where money is spent, it varies between age groups.

  • Infant to 6 – Basic and preventative
  • 7 to 12 – Orthodontia and preventative
  • Ages 13 to 18 – Orthodontia, preventative, and basic

Dental care is not only important for oral health, but it’s also important for a child’s emotional and physical health. Before a first tooth erupts through the gums, start establishing dental hygiene habits to set a child up for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Tips for Dental Habits From Infancy Through Toddlerhood

Many parents don’t realize the first dental visit should happen when the first tooth comes through the gums or by a child’s first birthday. Dr. Jody Jones has several tips to help keep teeth healthy through toddlerhood.

Wipe Your Baby’s Gums With a Soft Cloth

Your infant may not have teeth yet, but it’s good to take a soft washcloth and gently wipe the gums. During teething, your infant may be uncomfortable. Ask a dentist and your pediatrician for advice on helping ease the discomfort. 

Schedule a First Dental Visit

Once a tooth peeks out of the gums, schedule your child’s first dental visit. The younger your baby is, the easier it is to adjust to a cleaning and exam. If your child reaches 12 months and doesn’t have a tooth yet, schedule the first visit now to help the child get used to a dental visit before the fear of strangers increases. Ask for advice on what toothpaste is best for your baby’s teeth.

Use a Gentle Brush

When a tooth is showing, don’t move to an adult’s toothpaste yet. A toddler is going to swallow toothpaste. Instead, get a formula for children that has a smaller amount of fluoride and use a tiny amount. Be patient and don’t get frustrated and scold a child who won’t sit still. You don’t want it to become a negative experience.

No Bedtime Bottles in Toddlerhood

NCHS found that 18% of children ages 2 to 5 had at least one cavity and half of those were untreated. Between the ages of 6 to 11, it increased to 45% had one cavity and 15% were untreated. One of the leading causes of cavities in young children is a baby bottle filled with something more than formula. Once a baby can use a sippy cup, make the switch. Don’t delay it.

A baby shouldn’t have a bottle of milk or juice in order to go to bed. It increases the risk of early childhood caries (ECC), which you may know as baby bottle tooth decay.

Weaning a child off pacifiers and bottles is ideal by the age of two. The sooner you do it, the better it is for the new teeth.

Introduce Cups of Water

If your child is old enough for water, introduce it often to help flush foods out of the mouth and away from the teeth. Give milk or juice with the meal, but offer water between meals. Remember that juice has natural sugars, so it needs to be offered in moderation and not from a bottle.

Tips for Dental Habits From Four and Up

As your child progresses from toddlerhood, these tips help keep the teeth and gums healthy.

Help With Brushing Until Your Child Can Brush Correctly

Once a child can hold a pencil and write, it’s okay for that child to start brushing his or her teeth with your supervision. Until then, help position the brush and ensure that each tooth is covered.  Always make sure the brush is small enough for little hands and mouths.

Keep Using Fluoride

Fluoride toothpaste is still important. Most children’s toothpaste comes in flavors other than mint or cinnamon, so your child may prefer it. Just make sure whatever brand you get has fluoride. People in a city like Nashville will likely be on city water. If you have a well, ask your dentist about fluoride pills to make sure your child gets enough fluoride for strong teeth.

Introduce Dental Floss

It’s a good time to introduce your child to dental floss. Help with the back teeth and let your child attempt the front teeth. A water flosser can be fun for children to use, especially if they like spraying water from toys. Look for a child-friendly water flosser like Waterpik’s Water Flosser for Kids. 

Learn Healthy Snack Habits

Once your child has teeth and can chew and tear foods properly, it’s time to focus on healthy snacks. Dried fruits may seem like good choices, but they stick to the grooves on teeth. They should be limited. Crunchy raw fruits and vegetables like celery, cucumbers, carrots, and apples are better snacks. 

While cupcakes, cookies, candy, and ice cream may appeal to children, they contribute to cavities. They need to be saved for special occasions. After any snack, especially sugary ones, water is important. Encourage a love of water.

Use a Mouthguard

If your child is interested in sports, ask about the best mouthguard for your child’s age.  You want to protect the teeth, especially if they’re permanent teeth. 

Keep Up With Regular Dental Checkups

Every six months, your child should have another dental exam. Regular cleanings and exams are important for catching cavities and other oral health issues as early as possible. That’s when they’re less costly to take care of. 

You also want to get to cavities before the cavity impacts the root and increases the risk of infection and painful abscesses. If money is a problem, talk to your child’s dentist about it. It’s better to be upfront and reach a solution that helps everyone than to keep your child from getting necessary care.

Jody Jones DDS welcomes patients of all ages. If your child is ready for a first dental visit or you need a dentist in Nashville, Dr. Jones and his staff are happy to arrange a get-to-know-you visit for you and your child. Our goal is to make sure every patient, no matter the age, who walks in our door is comfortable and at ease.