Many parents often wonder, “What should I do to care for my toddler’s teeth?” The truth is, many dentists recommend at-home dental care should start way before a toddler sprouts their first pearly white! Amazingly, teeth are actually formed in the womb during the second trimester of pregnancy and reside in the jaw and gums where they await their big debut. Proper cleaning and examination of an infant’s mouth can start any time after birth to develop good, lifelong oral health during all stages of development.
One of the first steps in cleaning your infant’s gums is to gently rub a clean washcloth along the top and bottom gum line. This process can easily be done during your nightly bath time routine. You may find that when your infant is teething, they will look forward to this routine as it often soothes achy and swollen gums. Wiping an infant’s gums physically removes any harmful bacteria build up and creates a feeling of trust.
Once you notice that your infant‘s first tooth has appeared, you should contact a Pediatric Dentist to schedule an appointment; Pediatric Dentists specialize in early childhood and adolescent tooth and gum care. One of the benefits of a Pediatric Dental office is that they are incredibly kid friendly. This helps because, many times, going to the dentist can feel intimidating, even for adults. They can have specialized cordless equipment that resembles animals or other fun objects, a playroom with movies on display screens and of course toys! Depending on the age of your child and how many teeth have surfaced, the initial visit will typically include a simple polish of existing teeth surfaces, floss, fluoride treatment (if child is of appropriate age) and examination. The dentist will give general guidelines and instructions for continued oral hygiene.
After a toddler has sprouted their first tooth, you can begin brushing with a pediatric toothbrush and training toothpaste (fluoride free). This will create excitement for the child and also get them accustomed to the sensation of a toothbrush on their gums and teeth. Around 2 years of age, a child can usually cognitively understand instruction and can begin to spit out regular fluoride toothpaste. Under close supervision and assistance of an adult, an extremely small amount, no larger than the size of a pea, can be applied to the pediatric toothbrush during their tooth brushing routine.
Did you know that early childhood cavities are one of the leading diseases among children? The good news is, there are some simple steps you can take to help prevent childhood cavities and tooth decay. Remember these tips when caring for your infant and toddlers teeth:
- Begin gum and tooth care early at infant stage
- Schedule your child’s Pediatric Dental visit for twice per year
- Follow good oral hygiene instructions early to develop positive dental habits
- Avoid putting an infant or toddler to sleep with a bottle. The sugar in milk or juice can eat away enamel, which can cause a condition called “bottle mouth” resulting in pits and discoloration in teeth.
- Follow healthy eating habits and limit sugary food and drink choices. If sugar is consumed, encourage your toddler to drink water and brush their teeth after consumption.
With a few small steps taken early in your child’s life, healthy teeth can have a lifelong benefit. For more information regarding Pediatric Tooth Care, visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry website.
Do you like the idea of working with children? Does becoming a Dental Assistant interest you? If so, then a career in Pediatric Dentistry might be for you! Arizona College offers a Dental Assisting program that could help you achieve your goal of working with children in a dental setting. With two conveniently located campuses in Glendale and Mesa, AZ, you can find a campus near you to begin your future today!
Information in this blog post is accurate as of December 3, 2014.