Being a parent is tough! There are so many things that you are expected to know and learn if you want your child to grow up healthy, kind, and intelligent, and who doesn’t want those things for their kids?
You have many, many things to teach your little ones and many experiences to share with them, but there is one area that must not be ignored: dental health! Some parents get caught up in the idea that their children will get a second set of teeth so the first one doesn’t matter, and then these kids grow up with no idea how to care for their teeth!
We want to stop that cycle for our patients right now by explaining the importance of oral health care for kids and how you can help your little one grow up to be an advocate for his own smile!
Let’s begin with the importance of beginning early and work our way to your child becoming an independent patient!
Baby Teeth Are Important
We began talking about baby teeth at the beginning of this blog because baby teeth are some of the most underestimated teeth out there. Parents might give a half-hearted attempt to take care of these teeth with the expectation that baby teeth will simply fall out and reveal healthy adult teeth.
The problem with this theory is that the baby teeth actually set the stage for adult teeth. Baby teeth can develop cavities, infection, and require dental work. If baby teeth come out early, the adult teeth won’t know where to go when the time comes. If baby teeth are unhealthy, the adult teeth will also be unhealthy!
Setting a Routine at an Early Age
It’s extremely important to begin a dental hygiene routine as early as possible. You should begin brushing your baby’s gums (with a soft cloth) around three or four months old. This habit develops into actual brushing and flossing as the months go by, but that initial routine is just as much for you and it is for your baby.
Just as you will set a nap schedule, eating schedule, and maybe even a play schedule for your little one, you will also be teaching health routines along the way. You do this through your own behavior as well as through the expectations you set for your child.
When your baby’s teeth begin to show up, you will want to begin a daily routine or brushing and flossing (when the teeth begin to touch). You might be the one doing the brushing, but your baby is learning that this is an important activity that we do every day. The routine has begun!
The First Appointment
The first appointment is the beginning of another healthy routine for your child. We recommend that you bring your baby in about six months after the first tooth arrives. The appointment itself is nothing to worry about because we are really just trying to set a pattern of expectation for your baby.
We will count the teeth, talk with you about oral health habits, and help your child get to know us so that as the years go on, our dental office will be a familiar, safe place! The first appointment allows us to set that tone early so that your child never feels fear when they walk in our door!
Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits
The food and drinks you put in front of your child are important for many reasons. They determine the health of your baby’s body, brain, immune system, etc. It also determines your baby’s dental health!
There are many items marketed for babies that just aren’t good for the teeth, which is why we want to spend just a moment focused on how the drinks and food you provide for your baby can affect that beautiful smile that you love so much!
Avoiding Sugary Drinks
Juice is popular for babies and toddlers. You might have even heard someone tell you to give the baby half juice and half water to cut back on sugar intake. Let us make something clear; even if you cut the juice in half, it is still way more sugar than any small child needs to consume! We place fillings in the mouths of toddlers all the time, and sugar intake in seemingly “healthy” drinks is often a culprit!
Eating a Balanced Diet
Your baby needs to eat a balanced diet in order to grow, but also to create strong, healthy teeth. As you chew, your saliva is already breaking down minerals and nutrients that go directly into your teeth. We know that getting a toddler to eat healthy foods can be challenging, but we encourage you to accept the challenge and help your little one eat a balanced diet as much as possible!
Raising an Independent Patient
Ultimately, the baby/toddler years are going to be a small fraction of the time we spend treating your child. These years are the foundation for future health at which point your child will be an independent patient who makes his own decisions! How do you help that process occur in a healthy and productive way?
It begins around late elementary school. All of a sudden, your child will have serious opinions about his appearance. Clothes might suddenly matter, he might request a new haircut, and if we do our job to create a solid dental foundation, he will have an opinion about what he wants to see happen for his smile!
Don’t dismiss your child’s wishes. When he decides he wants to look into an option, like orthodontics, help him explore those options! It doesn’t mean you have to follow every whim of your child, but by allowing him some freedom to have an opinion, you are preparing him to be a good decision maker as an adult.
We want your child to feel comfortable here at the dental office. Early appointments and maintaining routine dental cleanings are two ways that you can set an expectation of peace and calm at the dental office. Your child will have no reason to feel afraid, which will make the rest of your experience all the easier!
Set Up an Appointment Today!
How is your child doing on this path to a healthy adult smile? If you haven’t started these things yet, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time!
Begin by contacting us today by phone or through the website. We would love to hear from you so that we can learn more about your child’s smile. We can’t wait to see you both at your child’s next dental exam!