Children’s Dental Health

February 24, 2020, Shirley Rubio Blake

It’s the last week of February and hard to believe it’s almost March. March brings spring, and then summer sunshine isn’t far away! But before we say goodbye to February, let’s talk about children’s dental health because February is National Children’s Dental Health Month.

I don’t remember that teeth brushing was an issue when I was growing up. But as a parent, teeth brushing is very important and can be serious work, especially with a toddler!

There is hope though because with consistency you eventually get to a point where your child brushes their teeth by themselves. It’s ok if they need a gentle reminder! My oldest son is successful in brushing his own teeth daily, but it’s a different story with my youngest son.

Most babies get their first tooth between 6 and 12 months. My oldest got his first tooth at 6 months. At that young age, children cannot brush their own teeth. Children don’t have enough coordination or dexterity to brush their teeth adequately until they are about 6 or 7 years old.

When my children got their baby teeth, I took the responsibility to ensure their teeth got cleaned. For babies with just a few teeth, you can clean the teeth by wiping it with a washcloth. When it was time for a toothbrush, we purchased the giraffe baby toothbrush. There are all kinds of baby tooth brush options, and initially they are used as a teething toy.

As they grew older, they would try brushing their own teeth. My husband and I make it a family event, and brush our teeth while they are “brushing” their own teeth. All children need help brushing their teeth and especially the hard to reach places. When I help my kids, I explain what I am doing and say age appropriate comments like, “I am brushing the sugar bugs,” or “I need to get the ickies off of your teeth,” or “Let’s make your teeth be shiny and clean.”

My oldest son asked me what happens when you don’t brush your teeth and what do sugar bugs do to your teeth. I googled cavities in teeth and then showed him images of what can happen. It helped him to understand the importance of teeth brushing. My younger son needs a couple more years.

Tips to help in taking care of your child’s teeth:

  • Sing a special tooth brushing song
  • Let your child pick out a toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Role model how brushing your teeth is fun
  • Get a sand timer, my son loves to watch this while brushing
  • Purchase a toothbrush that has your child’s favorite character
  • Commit to your own routine that includes teeth brushing
  • Play a fun video

Another important aspect of children’s oral health is fluoride. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities and if you are not exposed fluoridated water you have a higher risk from tooth decay. Children’s teeth need fluoride.

Most cities have fluoride treatments in their water. But people who live in Oregon’s rural communities sometimes have water sourced from a well and well water does not have fluoride. Luckily, you can get a fluoride rinse from the store. That is what my family does. We have bubble-gum and apple flavored fluoride rinses for the kids. The key is being consistent in using the fluoride.

One last thing to remember is the importance of flossing. I didn’t think much about flossing when my first son was little. Thankfully his dentist brought it up. My son’s teeth were very close to each other and with more consumption of processed foods it is important to floss children’s teeth.

There is so much more to children’s oral health information such as bottle decay, sealants, and food consumption. Go to your/your child’s dentist with any questions and concerns because they are the experts. It is recommended that you make your child’s first dental appointment when their first tooth appears.

If you would like additional reading resources, check out the links below, and enjoy the last days of February!

Fun Facts about Teeth

Babies have 20 teeth

Cats have 30 teeth

Adults have 32 teeth

Dogs have 42 teeth

Pigs have 44 teeth

Teeth are made of enamel, the hardest substance in the body

 

Additional Reading: