February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so it’s a good time to stop and examine the progress of your child’s dental health.
From the time a baby’s first teeth erupt until the appearance of their wisdom teeth, keeping a child’s dental care on track will affect not only their smile and oral health but ultimately, their overall health.
So, what are a child’s important dental milestones? And what should parents be doing to keep their child’s dental development moving in the right direction?
Baby’s first tooth
Healthy baby teeth are important since they serve as placeholders for permanent teeth. Ensuring your child will have a healthy, straight smile as an adult starts with these first teeth. A baby’s first tooth should break through the gums between six months and a year old and they should have a full set of teeth by the time they are three years old.
Teething is a normal part of this dental stage along with the fussiness and drooling from gum irritation that comes along with it. You can help ease sore gums by gently rubbing them with a clean finger or using a teething ring – just make sure it’s made of non-toxic materials.
*Helpful tip: Here are some great suggestions from other parents about how they helped their child deal with teething soreness.
As soon as a child’s first tooth appears, decay becomes an issue. You will need to clean their teeth twice a day using a child-sized toothbrush and just a dab of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. By the time all of your child’s baby teeth have arrived, you should be using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. You will need to continue to help your child with their brushing routine until you feel they are able to brush and floss correctly on their own.
First visit to the dentist
The American Dental Association recommends that your child’s first visit to the dentist should be six months after their first tooth appears. A dental exam at this age can make sure that baby teeth are erupting successfully and that there are no issues. Also, your dentist and dental team can give you helpful pointers on keeping your child’s baby teeth healthy and can answer any questions you have about their oral care.
These early developmental years are a good time to get your child into a habit of regular dental visits. Make sure to choose a dental team who understands children’s dentistry and who make your child feel comfortable.
*Helpful tip: Make your child’s appointment for the morning, before they are tired or hungry. Speak about their upcoming visit in a positive way.
When they are ready to start school, it’s a good time to talk to your dentist about sealants. While proper brushing and flossing are vital in protecting against cavities, sealants can provide an extra layer of protection against decay-causing bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sealants can reduce the risk of tooth decay by nearly 80% in molars.
Dental needs of pre-teens and teenagers
The pre-teen and teenage years are a time of tremendous growth for a child and their dental needs also grow and change.
During the pre-teen years when your child has a mixed dentition – made up of baby teeth and permanent teeth – your dentist will be making sure that the permanent teeth have plenty of space for healthy development. If there is any tooth crowding, orthodontic treatment may be recommended. There are many different options available today for effective orthodontic treatment so you and your child will need to talk to your dentist about which option would be the best for you.
As a teen, your child may become involved in school sports. Since they have all of their permanent teeth by this time, it’s important to protect those teeth from damage. Your dentist can create a sports guard or mouthguard that is custom-fitted to your child’s teeth, ensuring maximum comfort and protection.
During this stage in your child’s dental life, your dentist will also be monitoring the eruption of wisdom teeth. Many teens do not have adequate space in their jaw for these “third molars.” If that is the case, it might be recommended to have the wisdom teeth removed to prevent problems down the line, such as infection, pain, or crowding.
On the right track
Knowing about these milestones and their importance in your child’s development will help your child make a successful transition to caring responsibly for their dental health as an adult. A lifetime of great dental health is a priceless inheritance to pass on to your child!
So, take the opportunity this month to check up on your child’s dental progress and make sure they are on the right track to optimum oral health.