Dental Tips for Children
- Think “Clean not Green.” Teeth should be clean so there is no leftover food on them for the bacteria (bugs) that live in your mouth to eat. Bacteria cause decafy by eating sugary leftovers and turning them into acid. The acid rots the teeth and makes holes (cavities). Clean teeth have no sugar leftovers on them and therefore don’t decay. Clean teeth = no cavities.
- Brush your teeth twice a day. An adult should help at least one of those times until the child has the skills and dexterity to do the job well by him or herself.
- Floss every day. Even baby teeth benefit from being clean, and nothing cleans between teeth as well as dental floss.
- Sealants prevent decay. A sealant is a hard plastic that is bonded into the grooves of the biting surfaces of back permanent teeth. The teeth should be sealed as soon as possible after they come in.
- Fluoride really does make teeth harder and less likely to decay. Use a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride prescriptions (drops or tablets to chew daily) come in different strengths and are advantageous for most kids. Even when the water supply is fluoridated, some additional fluoride is usually still a great idea since most kids don’t drink very much tap water. School programs like “Swish and spit” are also a good thing. For kids with a higher decay rate, extra fluoride rinses should also help.
- Orthodontia (braces) should be started early if possible. By starting early, there is less likelihood that permanent teeth will have to be removed. Early ortho also usually results in being done with the braces at an earlier age. Let your regular dentist take x-rays to check for missing permanent teeth (preferably by age 6). If baby teeth must be removed early due to decay, make sure to have a space maintainer put in to help keep the teeth from drifting.
- Never put a baby to bed with a bottle of any liquid other than water. Milk and juices have acids and sugar in them, and they can quickly rot a baby’s teeth if they are in contact with these liquids all night long. Water is safe.
- Teeth are not tools; they are for eating. Don’t use them as package openers, wire strippers, nut-crackers, or pliers. Protect them. Wear a mouth guard if playing sports. Do not do piercings in the mouth – they can permanently chip, break, and ruin teeth.
- Get regular professional cleanings from a hygienist or dentist (usually at least once every six months).
- See the dentist. The first trip should be as early as age 1. Most dentists prefer to wait until age 2 or 3 unless there are any problems or possible problems. Plan on a check-up about twice a year for most kids. These routine checkups give your dentist the best chance to diagnose any problems early, and make specific recommendations for each child. Remember — prevention and early treatment are the best medicine.
Dr. Marty Zase, past-president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, cites some pretty troubling statistics. The National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety recorded over five million teeth knocked out last year during youth sporting events, with 80 percent of those injuries on the front teeth. In other words, that’s a lot of missing—noticeable—teeth.
“Kids should be wearing mouthguards during competitive sports,” says Dr. Zase. “If they were, most of these lost teeth would still be in place where they belong.”
“Most dental injuries in sports are completely preventable with the use of a mouthguard (typically rubber or plastic that fits over the teeth like a glove fits over a hand).”