Today marks International Youth Day! To celebrate, here are 5 dental tips for kids!
1. Use fluoride toothpaste from the start
The American Dental Association recently changed its long-standing guidelines and now recommends that parents use fluoridated toothpaste as soon as a baby gets her first tooth. Just use a tiny grain-of-rice-size smear at first, then go with a dollop the size of a pea starting at age 3. Why? Tooth decay in young kids is an epidemic these days. On average, one in four preschoolers in the United States has already had a cavity and that number grows to 55 percent by the time they’re old enough for kindergarten. Fluoride toothpaste can block cavities by helping to re-mineralize areas of teeth that have been bombarded by bacterial acids.
2. Get to a dentist early and often (enough)
Most adults need a dental checkup and cleaning two times a year. The same goes for kids, but how soon should that start? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says you should take your child to the dentist by his first birthday. In addition to conducting a thorough oral exam, the dentist will obtain a dental history, guide parents on proper brushing habits and cavity prevention and establish how often a child should visit, among other things. If you’re worried about the cost, know that pediatric dental care is now required to be covered by most health-insurance plans, as well as Medicaid. A recent study in Pediatrics found that kids who saw a dentist before age 1 have overall dental costs in their first five years that are 40 percent lower than those of kids who don’t.
3. Clean right away, with the right tools
You can “brush” even before your child’s teeth erupt by using infant tooth and gum wipes once a day. You can delay the bacteria from getting in your child’s mouth by avoiding saliva-sharing behaviors: Don’t share spoons or cups and don’t clean their pacifier with your mouth. Once your child gets at least one tooth, graduate to brushing with a soft-bristled kids’ toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. However, a child younger than 3 won’t know to spit so they may need your assistance. Up until age 6, when their 6-year molars come in, make sure you’re either doing it for them or brushing after they do it themselves because it’s tough for kids to get all the back of their mouths.
4. Use good technique
The most important thing to remember is not to brush back and forth vigorously. That can damage their teeth and gums. Tilt the bristles a bit toward the gums and gently brush in tiny little circles, touching every surface of each tooth. The general recommendation is to brush kids’ teeth for two minutes, 30 seconds in each quadrant of the mouth.
5. Floss daily. This isn’t optional, even for kids
You want to start as soon as the teeth are touching each other. No matter how well you brush your child’s teeth, if they are touching, you’re not going to be able to get all the food or plaque out. Technique is important here too. Those disposable toddler flossers are fine as long as you can still pull the floss firmly against the sides of each tooth.
If you have any questions about your child’s dental care or want to make an appointment, please call our office at (650) 938-8127.