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Teeth- Caring for Your Kids Teeth

A Lifetime of Healthy Teeth and Gums

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Updated March 14, 2012

Teeth- Caring for Your Kids Teeth
Photo © A.D.A.M.

Getting Started

Knowing how to care for your kids teeth properly now will help ensure they continue to have healthy teeth and gums as they grow into adults. If you are looking for dental information for kids, these basic guidelines will assist you in making dental care a simple part your child's daily routine.

Infants and Toddlers

Infants require daily oral hygiene, because the tissues in the mouth require cleansing to prevent irritation and infection. Thrush is a treatable fungal infection caused by Candida (yeast) that often appears in areas of the mouth that may have torn tissue, due to the constant sucking of a pacifier, bottle, or during breastfeeding. The tiny tears remain moist, and if not removed, the yeast can cause this painful condition.

The "Baby" Teeth

Babies can begin teething at 3 months old, however it is more common for babies to begin teething around 6 to 7 months old. The first teeth that will appear are usually the lower incisors or front teeth. By the age of 3, children should have their complete set of 20 "pearly whites." It is never too early to begin a regular brushing routine with your child.

As the teeth grow, use a toothbrush that is designed for your child's age, as indicated on the package. Avoid using toothpaste that contains fluoride until your child is old enough to understand that swallowing the toothpaste should be avoided. You may decide to use a tooth-cleansing paste, such as Baby Orajel Tooth and Gum Cleanser that is designed for young children and is safe if swallowed. Follow the manufacturer's recommended age for use.

Use the correct brushing and flossing method, when caring for your child's teeth. Most children like to show their independence by doing tasks, such as brushing their teeth, on their own. Allow your kids brush their teeth themselves, either before or after you have completely removed all of the plaque. You should, however, brush your child's teeth twice a day until he is able to brush his own teeth correctly, around the age of six. When you are confident your child is capable of brushing alone, buy an egg timer or use a stop watch and time your child's brushing for the recommended two minutes. When complete, always do a final inspection. Remember to applaud your child on a job well done, and if you do notice any teeth that have been missed, visually show your child the area and demonstrate how he should remove the plaque or food.

A Visit from the Tooth Fairy

It seems just like yesterday: Your child's first tooth appeared, then, just like that, they start to wiggle and fall out.

The permanent teeth usually begin growing in -- called erupting -- when a child is six, although every child is different and may get teeth earlier or later then the norm.

The 32 adult teeth are typically fully erupted between 17 to 25 years old. As the teeth progressively erupt, ensure your child is brushing away any food or plaque that is visible on the tooth. It may be slightly uncomfortable when brushing newly erupted teeth because they are so close to the gumline. But any plaque build-up will not only increase the chances of decay, the gum tissue will become red and inflamed causing pain and inflammation.

Independence

Once your child begins brushing on their own and they have passed your inspection time and again you may, unintentionally, overlook their brushing habits. If you notice any signs of gingivitis, or you can visibly see plaque, encourage the proper brushing and flossing technique for the recommended two minutes. Discuss any concerns you have with your dentist or dental hygienist at their recommended cleaning and check-up appointment. The hygienist will go over brushing and flossing with your child if there are any areas of concern, and will offer tips and suggestions for your child to keep in mind when brushing at home.

Nutrition

Oral health for children goes beyond brushing and flossing. Proper nutrition is essential to help prevent cavities. A diet that is high in sugary foods and beverages greatly increases the rate of tooth decay from plaque build-up in children. Offer your child a diet that contains fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables, proteins, dairy and grains. Limit treats and junk food to once a week.

The transition between "baby" teeth and the permanent teeth is not as difficult as teething, although your child may struggle in the eating department. If your child is having problems either because of sore gums or simply because he can't bite into the food, offer softer food choices and try to cut hard food into bite-sized pieces, to be chewed with the molars, or back teeth.

Visit the Dentist

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child should be seen by a dentist when their first tooth appears. The dental staff love to see children in the office and will often offer a "friendly" visit for first-time patients. Children are shown around the office and get to know the dental instruments, have a ride in the dental chair and, if ready, a cleaning and check-up.

Healthy Teeth Last a Lifetime

Even though your child will one day lose his primary teeth, it is important to care for them as if they are the last teeth your child will have. The primary teeth are essential for everyday function, such as eating and speech development. Early Childhood Carries, also known as tooth decay, is a preventable condition that causes painful teeth and gums and may affect your child's self-esteem.

By following these guidelines, your child will grow up with healthy teeth and gums and the knowledge of how to continue caring for his teeth as adults.

Sources:

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. "Dental Care for Your Baby"

The American Dental Association. Oral Health Topics - "Early Childhood Tooth Decay (Baby Bottle Tooth Decay)"

The American Dental Association. Oral Health Topics - "Teething".

The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association. Oral Health Matters for You and Your Baby

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Brush Up on Healthy Teeth"

University of Maryland Medical Center. "Oral Health Brushing and Toothpaste"

Vincent Iannelli, M.D., About.com Guide to Pediatrics "Thrush- An Oral Yeast Infection"

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