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Proper oral hygiene is an integral part of a child’s overall health and development, and parents should be aware of the do’s and don’ts of taking care of their child’s teeth. Remember, it’s important to establish proper dental care and a routine at an early age. Parents should be aware of general information about baby teeth and how to properly care for them, to proper techniques when feeding, tooth brushing and flossing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association all recommend a dental visit for children by 1 year of age.
Diana Maniev, M.D., NorthShore Department of Pediatrics, offers these guidelines:
Tooth Facts and Primary Teeth:
By age 3, there are usually 20 primary teeth, also called baby teeth. You may notice gapping between each of the teeth, which is normal and important because it allows enough room for the bigger, permanent teeth. When a child loses their baby teeth, it’s normal for their permanent teeth to have wavy edges when they erupt, which smooth out with normal wear and tear.
Parents should start brushing teeth twice a day upon the first tooth eruption, which is usually between 4 and 15 months of age. Premature and low birth weight babies can have delayed primary tooth eruption and enamel defects, putting them at a higher risk for decay.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to implement oral hygiene following feedings. Although breast milk alone is not cariogenic, it can become cariogenic when combined with other carbohydrate sources. Make sure to stop night feedings when teeth erupt. If you’re bottle-feeding, bottles should only be used with formula, breast milk or water.
Once the infant can sit unsupported (around 6 months of age,) introduce a sippy cup. Try to eliminate the bottle by 1 year of age. Like the bottle, other sugar-containing drinks should be avoided. Also, don’t put a baby to bed with a bottle at bedtime, and bottles should not be propped with infants in cribs or car seats. Infants should be held when bottle-fed. Children who drink bottles while lying down may be more prone to ear infections.
Up until the age of 6, parents should help children brush their teeth twice daily with a toothpaste containing fluoride. Before age 3, use an amount similar to a grain of rice. After age 3, a pea-sized amount is appropriate. Always supervise and use a soft toothbrush.
Advice to Parents:
Flossing is an essential part of the tooth-cleaning process. It removes food particles and plaque between teeth that brushing misses.
Advice to Parents:
Remember, start early to establish a routine. If you have any questions please let your child’s physician know.