Oral health resources

Want to really wow the Tooth Fairy? Teeth in tip-top condition will do the trick. These articles can help keep kids' teeth healthy.
 

BABY TOOTH TRUTHS & MYTHS
 

MYTH: Baby teeth don’t matter because they’re going to be replaced by permanent ones anyway.

TRUTH: Unhealthy baby teeth can mean unhealthy permanent teeth since bacteria can be passed down from the top tooth to the one waiting underneath.

MYTH: A baby’s oral health isn’t a big deal until the first tooth appears.

TRUTH: Healthy gums are just as important as healthy teeth – babies’ gums need to be cleaned after every meal.

MYTH: Baby teeth have no effect on permanent teeth.

TRUTH: Baby teeth can have a huge impact on how permanent teeth come in. Among other things, the way they are arranged helps kids speak clearly while providing room for their permanent replacements.

MYTH: Dentist appointments can wait for a few years.

TRUTH: Babies should visit the dentist by their first birthdays for an assessment of growth and development.

Select an age group:

  • INFANTS (0-1)

    Oral health begins at birth

    • You don’t have to wait until you’re writing “Baby’s First Tooth!” in the baby book to set a good oral health example.

      Even before that first tooth peeks out, parents and caregivers should wipe baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth or infant toothbrush after meals. Keeping gums clean will help minimize bacteria and provide a healthy space for when that first pearly white does make its debut.

      Whether your child is still awaiting tooth #1 or is using a full set of chompers, they should never go to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of milk or juice. All-night exposure to sugar – even the natural sugars in milk – can cause severe tooth decay called “baby bottle decay.” It may be a battle to get the cup away from your child, but don’t worry, there’s a simple solution that will keep you both happy: simply substitute water in the cup. Then you can rest easy knowing that baby’s bedtime routine isn’t causing cavities.

      To prevent sharing bacteria with your baby, avoid sharing toothbrushes, bottles and utensils.

      Once the first tooth erupts, use a soft-bristled toothbrush once a day, preferably before bedtime. Use water only, not toothpaste.

      When two of your child’s teeth start touching, it’s time to start flossing!

      Baby’s first dentist appointment should happen within six months of the first tooth appearing, and no later than age 1.

      When your child turns two or is able to spit, he or she can start using fluoride toothpaste. Just a smear of fluoridated toothpaste will do the job. Help your child brush and spit twice a day.

      Though he or she probably wants to do it on his or her own, at least supervise the brushing and flossing routine until your child is seven or eight years old.

      You’re probably familiar with most of the milestones babies achieve before they celebrate their first birthdays: eating solid foods, crawling, walking. What many parents don’t realize is that “first dentist appointment” should be on that one-year checklist.

      Though children should visit the dentist six months after their first tooth erupts or by age 1, most don’t actually go until they’re about 3.5 years old.

      There are many benefits to scheduling a dentist appointment even before your child has put much wear and tear on those new teeth. Medically, it’s a chance for your dentist to make sure everything looks normal and healthy during the early development. Financially, studies have shown that the dental costs for children who have their first visit before age one are 40% lower in the first five years than for those who wait until they’re older. It’s also important for you and your child to develop a good relationship with your dentist and set the scene for a lifetime of good oral health habits.

      Schedule a dentist visit for your child by age 1. Things to expect at the first appointment: a check for early decay; an assessment of your child’s bite; facial growth and dental development; and a look for any problems with your baby’s head, neck, jaw, skin and soft tissues in and around the mouth.

      Your dentist can also show you techniques to effectively brush and floss your wiggly baby’s teeth, discuss diet and determine if any eating habits could lead to early decay, and provide information on trauma prevention as your child goes through the various stages of development.

      A child that has healthy baby teeth is more likely to have healthy adult teeth. Give your child the best chance of having a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime

  • PRESCHOOLERS (2-5)

    Why you should baby those primary teeth

    • Although primary teeth, or baby teeth, are only around for a short period of time, they play a lasting part in your child’s development.

      It’s easy to think that those teeth aren’t as important since permanent counterparts quickly replace them, but decayed baby teeth can cause a host of problems for children.

      Those “temporary” teeth help make adequate space in the mouth for permanent teeth — if some of them are missing because they had to be pulled, it could result in “crowded” permanent teeth. The spacing and structure of primary teeth also help children develop clear speech.

      Missing teeth can make it difficult for children to chew certain foods, possibly causing them to have an aversion to nutritious crunchers such as celery and carrots.

      Healthy baby teeth also kick off good oral health in more ways than one. For starters, taking good care of primary teeth will help your child develop good habits for when the permanent set of 32 eventually come in.

      With this, having a healthy baby tooth can also mean the permanent tooth underneath will be in good condition when it pops out. Conversely, the bacteria from a decaying baby tooth could spread to the healthy permanent tooth underneath.

  • PRE-TEENS (6-12)

    Play it safe with mouthguards

    • When you have an active child, dental calamities aren’t just limited to cavities and canker sores. Skateboarding, basketball, volleyball, biking and a number of other sports can pose a threat to that pretty smile of theirs you’ve worked so hard to keep intact.

      Luckily, you can help prevent sports-related mouth trauma just by making sure your child wears a mouthguard before suiting up for the game (or practice).

      Broken bones or strained muscles heal, but an injured tooth is forever, and young athletes are 60 times more likely to damage teeth when there’s no mouthguard involved. In addition to protecting teeth, mouthguards also provide a barrier between teeth, lips and cheeks, preventing potential lacerations and bruises. It may even be able to prevent a broken jaw!

      You can purchase over-the-counter mouthguards in most sports stores, but it’s best to ask your dentist for a recommendation on custom-made mouthguards. They’re more expensive than the store-bought versions, but they’ll fit your child’s mouth better, making them more secure and comfortable. Just like any other piece of sports equipment, mouthguards will wear out with repeated use and should be replaced when they start to show signs of wear and tear.

      With proper use and care of a mouthguard, you’ll be able to appreciate your child’s grin after a big play — not worry about it.