Dental Health Overview
Pediatric dentists recommend regular dental care to begin by one year of age, with a dental check-up at least twice each consecutive year for most children. Some children may need more frequent evaluations and care. In accordance with this recommendation, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has provided the following dental checklist for infants and toddlers:
Birth to six months of age:
- Clean the infant's mouth with gauze after feedings and at bedtime.
- Consult your child's pediatrician, or pediatric dentist, regarding fluoride supplements.
- Regulate feeding habits (bottle-feeding and breastfeeding), never put a baby to bed with a bottle and practice oral cleansing first thing in the morning.
Six to 12 months of age:
- During this time, the first tooth should appear. Consult a pediatric dentist for an examination.
- Brush teeth after each feeding and at bedtime with a small, soft-bristled brush.
- As the child begins to walk, stay alert for potential dental and/or facial injuries.
Twelve to 24 months of age:
- Follow the schedule of dental examinations and cleanings, as recommended by your child's pediatric dentist. Generally, dental examinations and cleanings are recommended every six months for children and adults.
As the child approaches three years of age, one can consider using fluoridated toothpaste only if the child is able to expectorate properly. If not, continue to use non-fluoridated toothpaste. Consult your child’s pediatric dentist regarding the appropriate time for your toddler to begin using toothpaste.
Facts about deciduous (primary or baby) teeth:
Proper care of a child’s deciduous teeth (also known as “baby” teeth or primary teeth) is very important. These teeth hold space for future permanent teeth, aid in speech development, and assist in nutritional intake and self esteem.
- If a baby tooth decays or is removed too early without proper space maintenance, the space necessary for the permanent teeth is lost and can only be regained through orthodontic treatment.
- Infected baby teeth can cause the permanent teeth to develop improperly resulting in stains, pits, and weaker teeth.
- Most children begin losing their baby teeth around the ages of five or six, with usually the front teeth first. They continue to lose baby teeth until the age of 12 or 13 when all of the permanent teeth finally come through, except for the third molars (wisdom teeth).
Diet and dental care for children:
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends the following to ensure your child eats correctly to maintain a healthy body and teeth:
- Ask your child's pediatric dentist to help you assess your child's diet.
- Shop smart. Do not routinely stock your pantry with sugary or starchy snacks.
- Buy "fun foods" just for special times.
- Limit the number of snacks and choose nutritious snacks.
- Provide a balanced diet, and save foods with sugar or starch for mealtimes.
- Do not put your young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice.
- If your child chews gum or drinks soda, choose those without sugar. However, soft drinks or sodas should be eliminated completely in children who are at a high risk for dental cavities.
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