Oh say, can you see?

Oh, say, can you see my great teeth? When I was a kid, Dr. Dave, my dad, often sang the Star Spangled Banner while he helped us brush our teeth. The song takes about 2 minutes to sing – plenty of time to reach every baby tooth in the mouth.

I grew to love the Land of the Free and teeth free of cavities! One of the best ways to ensure your child’s dental health is to limit the amount of sugar they eat.

Gummy and chewy types of sugary snacks often cause the most damage because they stick to the surfaces of the teeth, especially in the grooves and pits of molars. Over time cause decalcification and breakdown of enamel on the teeth – cavities!

Gummy vitamins are one of the most common culprits. If your children do eat these kinds of snacks, make sure they brush their teeth as soon as possible after eating.

At around age 2, it is okay for your child to begin using a “smear” of fluoride-containing toothpaste – just be sure to teach her to spit out the toothpaste to avoid over-consumption of fluoride. Like adults, children need to brush their teeth twice a day.

By age 3, most children are able to brush their own teeth, but you should continue to “help” the child and monitor for proper cleaning until the child is truly proficient. We usually recommend children start flossing their teeth once their teeth begin to touch in between. This often happens around age 6, when their first permanent molars come in. Using bubble gum or peppermint flavored floss can help make this a good experience for them.

Visits to the dentist usually start when a child is 12 months old. Just like adults, children should visit the dentist every six months for regular cleanings and check-ups. We love kids, and it’s very important to us that they feel safe and comfortable in our dental chairs. And because our office is so home-like and our staff is so gentle and caring, children tend to be at ease here. In addition to singing songs, we have prizes for good behavior!

Like everything associated with parenting, setting a good example early is most important. You don’t have to be a dentist’s kid to set a good example. Take care of your own teeth and make it fun for your children to do the same!

Baby Teeth: The First 12 Months

Good oral care for kids actually begins during pregnancy, as baby teeth begin to form before birth. A mom’s healthy pregnancy, including a well-balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals, can be the starting point for a child’s health, including healthy teeth.

After a baby is born, oral care should start before any teeth come in!  Gently wiping the gums with a washcloth after a feeding is a good idea. This will protect the mouth from harmful bacteria, and can help protect the teeth when they begin breaking through (around 6 months old.)

Other tips for babies include:

  • Avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle filled with milk, formula, or juice – the sugars and acids are notorious for causing baby tooth decay
  • Gently brush baby teeth as soon as they appear, and make tooth brushing a regular part of your morning and bedtime routines
  • Keep your child away from secondhand smoke, as it can contribute to the development of tooth decay, gum disease, and other health problems
  • If you (as a parent) have active tooth decay or gum disease, avoid sharing spoons, forks or other utensils with your child since harmful bacteria from a parent’s mouth is easily transferred this way
  • Using toothpaste is not necessary until about age 2.

Your child should visit the dentist for the first time around 12 months of age. During a child’s first visit to our office, we’ll do a gentle evaluation of your baby’s dental development, existing baby teeth, and oral tissues. We’ll also sing songs, give plenty of praise and let them know from the very beginning that visiting the dentist can actually be fun!