Helpful Dental Articles from Lancaster, CA
Your Child’s Teeth Helpful Tips For Parents And Caregivers
ADA American Dental Association® America’s leading advocate for oral health
To give your child a healthy start in life, it’s important to take care of his or her teeth and gums. Children who have good oral care at home and regular dental visits can reach adulthood without suffering from tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Children learn healthy habits from their parents and caregivers. You can help your child learn healthy habits by cleaning their teeth daily, taking them to the dentist regularly, and giving them healthy foods. Teaching children good oral care is a great way to set healthy habits for life.
This brochure will give you simple steps to help your child have a lifelong healthy smile. It has five parts:
- Take Care of Yourself Before the Baby Arrives
- Dental Care Basics for Your Child
- Special Tips for the Growing Years: Birth to Age Six
- Special Tips for the Transition Years: Ages Six to I2
- Handling Dental Emergencies (page to clip and save)
Take Care of Yourself Before The Baby Arrives
Eat a Healthy Diet
What you eat during pregnancy affects the growth of your unborn child — including his or her teeth. Your baby’s teeth begin to develop during the second trimester of pregnancy. So it is important that you receive enough nutrients, especially calcium, protein, phosphorous, and vitamins A, C, and D.
It is a myth that calcium is lost from the mother’s teeth during pregnancy. The calcium your baby needs is provided by your diet, not by your teeth. So be sure to get enough calcium in your diet. You can do this by having at least three servings of dairy products per day. Or, your OB-GYN may recommend that you take calcium pills.
During pregnancy, many women feel hungry between meals. While this is normal, frequent snacking on sugary foods can lead to tooth decay. Choose healthy foods when you need a between—meal snack. For tips on how to eat a balanced diet, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
Keep Your Own Teeth and Gums Healthy
A mother’s decay-causing bacteria can be passed to her child, so it is important to have a healthy mouth before your child is born. Tell your dentist if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant soon. Continue to see your dentist regularly while you are pregnant for oral exams and teeth cleanings. It is generally safe to have dental treatment during this time.
Pregnancy hormones can make your gums more sensitive to plaque (sounds like PLAK), the sticky film of bacteria on your teeth. Your gums may become red, tender, and likely to bleed easily when you brush your teeth. This condition is an early form of gum disease called gingivitis (jin—ja—VlE-tis).
While gingivitis is very common in pregnant women, it can lead to more serious diseases of the gums and bone that hold your teeth in place. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings during your pregnancy to help you avoid these problems.
If you brush your teeth twice a day and use floss or another between-the—teeth cleaner daily, you can reduce your chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease.
Dental Care Basics For Your Child
Cavities are caused by tooth decay, a disease that damages and breaks down teeth. Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain, loss of teeth, and loss of self-confidence. Children with tooth pain cannot eat or sleep properly and may miss days of school. Even worse, an abscess (pus-filled sac) from a cavity can cause serious or even life-threatening infections when left untreated.
Good news: Tooth decay can be prevented with good oral care. It is simpler and less costly to prevent tooth decay than to repair a decayed tooth. Keep reading to learn how daily cleanings, healthy eating habits, and the right amount of decay-fighting fluoride can help keep your child’s teeth decay-free.
Cleaning Your Child’s Teeth
Cleaning your child’s teeth is an important step to prevent cavities. Brushing and flossing remove plaque (sounds like PLAK), the sticky film of bacteria on your teeth. Teeth should be brushed twice a day: morning and night, for two minutes each time. Teeth should be flossed once a day.
How to Brush
It’s important that an adult brush a child’s teeth until he or she has the skills to do it properly themselves. If your child cannot tie their own shoes, they are probably not ready to brush by themselves. You should continue to supervise your children when they are brushing. When teaching your child how to brush, you may wish to stand behind him and hold the brush. This can help your child learn the right way to brush. (For tips on cleaning a baby’s teeth, see p.12)
By around age 10 or 11, most children should be able to brush their teeth without supervision. If you’re not sure if your child is ready, talk to your dentist. When your child is skilled enough to do proper brushing watch to make sure he or she is not “rushing the brushing” and use a fluoride toothpaste. Do not let your child eat or swallow the toothpaste.
- For children under three years old, use no more than a smear or grain-of-rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- For children three to six years old, use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Place the toothbrush against the gum, at the gum line.
- Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes. Brush the outer surface of each tooth. Use the same strokes for the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria
Make choosing a toothbrush a fun activity for you and your child. Find a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles. Let your child pick the color and design. You can also ask your dentist if there is a powered toothbrush that is right for your child.
How to Floss
Flossing is an important part of cleaning teeth. Flossing once a day removes plaque from between the teeth, where toothbrush bristles can’t reach.
Begin using floss or floss aid when your child has two teeth that touch. Flossing is not easy for children to do by themselves. The American Dental Association recommends that you floss your child’s teeth until he or she can do it alone, around age 10 or 11. Sometimes children as young as five can use floss aids. When your child is ready to floss — with your supervision — show him or her how to hold the floss and gently clean between the teeth.
- Sometimes children as young as five can use floss aids.
- Use about a foot and a half of floss. Wind most of it around the pointer fingers of both hands. Hold the floss between the thumbs and pointer fingers. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth.
- Curve the floss into a C-shape and guide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently rub the floss against the side of the tooth.
- Repeat these steps for the rest of the teeth. As you move from tooth to tooth, unwind the clean floss with one finger and take up the used floss with the finger on the opposite hand. Don’t forget the back side of the last tooth in each corner of the mouth.
As children get older and start taking care of their own teeth, make sure they brush and floss well each day. Look for oral care products that have the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance. The Seal tells you that these products meet the ADA’s standards for safety and effectiveness.
Diet and Your Child’s Teeth
What and how often we eat can affect our teeth. Bacteria in the mouth, on the teeth, use the sugar in foods and drinks to make acid that attacks the teeth. Each time we eat or drink, that acid can attack the teeth for 20 minutes or longer. Over time tooth decay can develop and a cavity can form. Cavities must be treated by a dentist to avoid infection and pain.
Try to limit between-meal snacks for your child. Snacking often means more acid attacks and a higher risk for tooth decay. If your child is thirsty or needs a snack, avoid cookies, candy, and other sweet or sticky foods. Instead, offer water or healthy foods, such as fruit, carrot sticks, or cheese. Save sweets for mealtime, when the mouth makes more saliva to help rinse out food particles.
For good dental and overall health, be sure your child eats a mix of foods from the major food groups. For more information about a healthy diet, see www.choosemyplate.gov.
Try to limit between-meal snacks for your child. Snacking often means more acid attacks and a higher risk of tooth decay.
Fluoride, Nature’s Cavity Fighter
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral in most water sources. It helps make teeth strong and protects teeth from decay. Children who drink tap water that has the recommended level of fluoride are less likely to get cavities than children who do not drink fluoridated water. If you are not sure your tap water has fluoride, ask your dentist.
Children can get added protection from fluoride if they get it from more than one source. Fluoride can be found in anticavity toothpastes, mouthrinses and treatments applied in the dental office. Talk to the dentist about your child’s fluoride needs. Be sure to let the dentist know if you use bottled water or a water treatment system at home.
Regular dental visits are essential for healthy smiles. During a dental visit, the dentist will check your child’s mouth for gum and tooth health (no decay). Tooth alignment and growth patterns will be monitored to watch for problems with your child’s bite. Your dentist can also tell you if your child’s teeth are being brushed and flossed properly.
How often should a child see a dentist? Children’s needs differ, and your dentist is best able to suggest a schedule of visits for your child. How often visits are needed depends on things like your child’s eating habits, how well the teeth are cleaned, past treatment needs and water fluoridation in your area.
Having your child visit the dentist for regular cleanings, fluoride treatments, and sealants to prevent tooth decay can save money and reduce the need for further dental treatment.
Special Tips For The Growing Years: Birth To Age Six
Baby’s First Teeth
Your child’s baby teeth help your child chew and speak normally. They also hold space in the jaws for the adult teeth that come in later. Starting infants with good mouth care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.
A baby’s teeth start to come in when the baby is about six months old. By age three, most children have a full set of 20 baby teeth. Spaces between baby teeth are normal. Baby teeth will later fall out as your child develops and grows. This makes room for adult teeth, which begin to come in around age six.
The chart on the next page gives the names of baby teeth. It also shows when each tooth usually comes in and falls out. However, not all children get the same teeth at the same times. Your child’s teeth may come in earlier or later than shown here.
Baby’s First Teeth
As teeth begin to come in, some babies may have sore or tender gums. To help your baby feel better, you can:
- Gently rub your child’s gums with a clean wet gauze, your finger, or a small cool spoon
- Give him a clean, chilled teething ring — don’t dip it in sugar, syrup, honey or other foods
- Talk to your child’s dentist or pediatrician if he or she is still cranky and uncomfortable
Do not use gels or creams with local anesthetics (like benzocaine or lidocaine) to soothe sore gums in young children. These products have caused serious reactions in a small number of children. This includes over-the—counter products such as Anbesol®, Hurricaine@, Orajel®, BabyOrajel®, and Orabase® and in some prescription products. Details are available on the Food and Drug Administration website.
Prevent Tooth Decay in Baby Teeth
Tooth decay can begin as soon as a baby’s teeth come in. Untreated decay in baby teeth can lead to cavities and cause pain or infection. To help keep your child’s teeth healthy, follow these tips:
- Clean your child’s teeth every day, two times a day.
- If your child uses a pacifier, do NOT dip it in sugar, honey or other foods.
- Do not put paciﬁers or spoons in your mouth before giving it to the child. Decay-causing bacteria in your mouth can be passed to your child.
- Do not let your child frequently sip sugary liquids (including juice drinks). Limit sugary liquids and sweets to mealtimes.
- Infants should not be put to bed or allowed to fall asleep with a bottle or training cup that contains milk, formula, fruit juices, or any liquids with sugar.
- After your child’s first tooth comes in, he or she should not be allowed to breastfeed constantly or fall asleep while breastfeeding.
- Avoid giving your child sugary, chewy, sticky foods. Instead give him healthy snacks. You can find ideas at: www.choosemyplate.gov.
Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth
Cleaning your baby’s teeth is an important step to prevent cavities. Begin cleaning the baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This removes plaque and bits of food that can harm new teeth.
As soon as the first tooth appears, start brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day (morning and night). Use a soft—bristled, child-sized toothbrush and smear or grain-of-rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Position your child so you can see into the mouth easily. You might want to sit, resting his or her head in your lap. (See the brushing tips on p.5.)
Begin flossing your child’s teeth when she has two teeth that touch. (See the flossing tips on p.6.)
- After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This removes plaque and bits of food that can harm new teeth.
- As soon as the first tooth appears, start brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day (morning and night).
Age One Dental Visit
Talk to your dentist about planning your child’s first dental visit. It’s helpful to have the first visit after the baby’s first tooth appears, but no later than the first birthday. This first visit is a “well-baby checkup” for your child’s teeth. It’s best to meet the dentist when your child is not having dental problems — don’t wait until an emergency comes up.
At this first visit, the dentist and staff will:
- Review your child’s health history
- Do a complete oral exam to check growth and development, oral hygiene, and injuries, cavities, or other problems
- Tell you if your child is at risk for tooth decay
- Clean the teeth and show you how to properly clean your child’s teeth at home
- Find out whether your child is getting the right amount of fluoride
- Discuss teething, pacifier use, or finger/thumb sucking habits
- Talk with you about common dental injuries and what to do if one happens
- Discuss treatment if needed and schedule the next check-up
Many infants and young children like to suck on thumbs, fingers and pacifiers. Sucking is a natural reflex and necessary for feeding. However, sucking habits can cause problems with tooth alignment and the proper growth of the mouth.
Children should stop using pacifiers by age two and sucking their fingers or thumbs by age four. If this does not happen, try to get them to stop.
Thumb sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth.
Here are a few tips to consider:
- Instead of scolding your child for sucking, praise him or her for not sucking.
- Remember that children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or seeking comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and comfort your child.
- Reward your child when he or she avoids sucking during difficult times, such as being separated from you.
- Your child’s dentist can encourage your child to stop sucking and explain what could happen to their teeth if he or she does not stop.
- If these methods do not work, remind your child of the habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock over the hand at night.
- f the sucking continues, talk to your child’s dentist or pediatrician. He or she may recommend other ways to discourage sucking.
Special Tips For The Transition Years Ages Six to 12
Changes to Expect in Your Child’s Smile
As children’s bodies grow, their jaws and faces change, too. Over time, their baby teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth.
At about age five or six, children begin to lose their front teeth. Between ages six and 12, they will usually lose all 20 baby teeth. By the time they are 12 to 14 years old, most children have all of their adult teeth except their wisdom teeth.
The first adult teeth usually come in between ages six and seven. Your child will have a mix of baby and adult teeth for a while. The smile might look a little uneven, with some big teeth, some small teeth, and even some missing teeth. But don’t worry. Smiles often even out once all the adult teeth are in place.
The chart on the next page gives the names of adult teeth. It also shows when each tooth usually comes in. Not all children get the same teeth at the same times. Your child’s teeth may come in earlier or later than shown here.
Baby’s First Teeth
Protect Teeth with Sealants
A sealant is a material that is applied to the teeth where decay occurs most often — the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These teeth have pits and grooves that are hard to clean, because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into them. The sealant forms a barrier and protects the tooth from plaque, acid attacks and decay.
Sealing a tooth is fast and painless. Sealants can last several years before they need to be reapplied. Ask your dentist if sealants will help your child.
- Even a toothbrush bristle is too big to reach inside a groove in the tooth (magnified).
- Tooth surface before a sealant is applied.
- Tooth surface protected by a sealant.
Holding Space Open for Permanent Teeth
Sometimes a baby tooth is last before the adult tooth beneath it is ready to come in. If a baby tooth is lost too early, nearby teeth can shift into the vacant space. When the adult tooth is ready to come into the space, there may not be enough room. The new tooth may be unable to come in. or it may emerge crooked or in the wrong place.
If your child loses a tooth early, the dentist may recommend a space maintainer. This is a plastic or metal retainer that holds open the space left by the missing tooth. The dentist will remove this retainer once the adult tooth begins to appear.
A space maintainer holds open space for an adult tooth.
Braces and Bad Bites
A bad bite is when the teeth are crowded, crooked, or out of line, or the jaws don’t meet properly. A bad bite may be noticed as early as two years of age, or most commonly between the ages of six and 12, when the adult teeth are starting to come in.
Problems that can be caused by a bad bite:
- Crooked, crowded teeth may keep the jaws from developing properly and symmetrically (evenly).
- Some severe bad bites may keep a person from eating and speaking normally.
- It’s more difficult to keep teeth and gums clean, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Teeth that are out of line are more likely to get worn down.
- A bad bite or crooked teeth may make children feel less confident about their looks.
Early treatment may help prevent a bad bite or make it less severe. That’s why it is a good idea for children to have their bites checked by a dentist at every check up. If braces or another treatment are needed, the dentist may refer your child to an orthodontist (a dentist with a specialty in treating bite problems). Treatment usually begins when children are between eight and 14 years old.
Prevent Dental Injuries
Sport-related dental injuries can be prevented by wearing a mouthguard. Mouthguards cushion impacts that could cause broken teeth, jaw injuries, or cuts to the lip or tongue.
Mouthguards are most commonly used in contact sports, like boxing, football, hockey, and lacrosse. However, even in noncontact sports like gymnastics or skateboarding, mouthguards can help prevent mouth and jaw injuries.
Your dentist can make your child a custom mouthguard that fits her mouth. Since treating a sports-related dental injury can cost thousands of dollars, a custom—made mouthguard is money well spent.
A Healthy Smile for Life
Good oral hygiene and a healthy diet are important for children’s overall health. By following the tips in this brochure, you can take good care of your child’s teeth and help him develop good dental habits. This will help your child avoid tooth decay.
As children get older and start taking care of their own teeth, make sure they brush and floss well each day. Set a good example for your child by brushing your own teeth twice a day, Flossing or using another between-the-teeth cleaner daily, and visiting the dentist regularly. It’s all about PREVENTION!
Don’t wait to take your child to the dentist until pain or a dental emergency happens. Regular dental exams and professional cleanings can help your child have a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Handling Dental Emergencies
Knowing how to handle a dental emergency can mean the difference between saving and losing your child‘: tooth. Here are some tips to help you cope quickly and calmly with a dental emergency.
- Baby tooth – If something happens to any of a child’s baby teeth, you should call your dentist and take your child to the dentist as soon as you can.
- If a tooth is completely out, do not try to put it back into the tooth socket. Although it is normal for children to lose baby teeth, an accident that damages a baby tooth could also harm the adult tooth underneath.
- Adult tooth – Unlike a baby tooth that is knocked out, an adult tooth should be put back into the socket. After you find the tooth, hold it by the crown, (top), not the root. If the booth looks dirty, rinse the root briefly with water. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached bits of tissue.
If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket with a clean washcloth or gauze pad. If this isn’t possible, see if the child can hold the tooth in the cheek or under the tongue. If that does not work either, put the tooth in a container with milk, saliva, saline (salt) solution, or an emergency tooth preservation kit. If none of these liquids is available, put the tooth in water.
Take your child to the dentist as quickly as you can. It’s best to see a dentist within 30 minutes. Don’t forget to bring the tooth and any tooth pieces you can find!
- Broken or cracked tooth – Rinse the mouth with warm water to keep the area dean. Put a cold compress (like an ice pack or a washcloth with ice wrapped inside) on the face to reduce swelling. Go to the dentist right away. If you can find the broken tooth piece, bring it with you to the dentist. Wrap it in some wet gauze or a wet towel if possible.
- Bitten Tongue or Lip – Clean the area gently with a cloth and place a cold compress on the area to keep swelling down. If there is a lot of bleeding or if it doesn’t stop after a short time, take your child to a dentist or an emergency center.
- Objects Caught Between Teeth – Gently cry to remove the object with dental floss. If that doesn’t work, go to the dentist. Do not try to remove the object with a sharp or pointed instrument.
- Toothache or swollen face – Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out. Give your child what you would normally give her for pain. Do not put any medication directly on the aching tooth or gums. Take your child to the dentist as soon as you can. If your child’s face is swollen, take your child to your dentist or physician. Swelling of the face can be a sign of serious infection. Do not delay.
- Possible Broken Jaw – Apply a cold compress to control swelling. Take your child to the dentist or an emergency center right away.