Each year, during the month of February, the American Dental Association (ADA) brings awareness to children’s dental health in hopes to get oral health and oral hygiene under control at a young age. Although Canada does not specifically have a month for Children’s Dental Health, most dental offices across Canada recognize the ADA’s month long campaign and join in with their efforts.
For parents of babies, young children and teenagers, it's important to address oral hygiene and oral health every step of the way. So when exactly should you make your child a patient at your local Dentist Office?
Babies, Toddlers and Oral Health
Dental professionals recommend that parents make their child’s first dental appointment upon their first birthday, or 6 months after their first baby tooth erupts.
While it seems a bit early to be addressing oral health, it is important that a Dentist examines your baby’s new teeth to determine if there are any cavities, no matter how small the tooth is, or how unlikely a cavity seems. This dental appointment is also a time for your Dentist to look at your child’s tooth structure to see if there are any problems with jaw growth or teeth formations.
As your baby’s teeth grow in, make sure you are brushing them with a soft, baby sized toothbrush (for 0-3 years of age) and with minimal toothpaste. A small amount of fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice is perfect for new baby teeth.
Children's Oral Health (Ages 3-12)
After all the work babies put into growing and teething, they’ll soon be saying goodbye to their first set of little pearly whites.
Around 3-5 years of age when most, if not all, teeth have erupted, is also the point where some teeth start to wriggle and become loose. Typically the baby teeth at the front of the mouth (incisors) fall out first, and the progress moves backwards to the molars.
This is an exciting time for children as much as it can be a scary one. For parents or caretakers, take the opportunity to talk to your child about losing baby teeth and explain that their mouth is just making room for stronger, larger teeth that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
To help ease your child’s mind about losing teeth, use your discussion as an opportunity to talk about the Toothfairy and how the Toothfairy usually exchanges money for their baby teeth. If you can get your child excited about the Toothfairy’s next visit, it will help take their mind off having a gap in their smile.
For some Toothfairy activities, be sure to check out this previous post!
It’s also important to know that after age 3, children need to be brushing their teeth with a dab of fluoride toothpaste the size of a pea. Parents and caregivers should still monitor how their children are brushing their teeth to ensure that the correct amounts of toothpaste are being used, and that they are brushing for long enough. Around the age of 8, children are capable of brushing their own teeth and should know the routine well.
But just how much time needs to be put into brushing teeth and what techniques should be used?
The Right Way To Brush Teeth
Two minutes is all it takes to brush teeth properly—and this number doesn’t change as your child grows. In fact, all of us should be brushing our teeth for two minutes, both morning and night. Understandably, children get a bit antsy when brushing their teeth because time seems to go on forever. Make it easier on your child by setting a countdown timer so they know just how much time they have left before they’re all done brushing.
It’s also important to talk to your child about proper tooth brushing techniques. Again, these don’t change as your child gets older, so it’s important that they know what movements to use when brushing their teeth so they can maintain their oral hygiene on their own. Here are important tips to share with your child:
- Be gentle with the toothbrush against your teeth
- Use short strokes that go up and down each tooth
- Brush all surfaces of teeth—the fronts that face out, the insides, and the sides against your cheek and tongue
- Be sure to brush the gum line
- Always spit out toothpaste that’s left over
- Finish off by flossing in between teeth (see our post on tooth floss techniques)
By keeping up an oral hygiene routine, children learn the essential steps in keeping their adult teeth healthy for life. If you can, talk to your child about plaque and the dangers of plaque build up, such as cavities, gum disease and loss of enamel. Some of these concepts aren’t easy to explain but they are important. Here’s how you can explain them:
- Cavities happen when plaque (the bad sticky film on teeth) builds up and wears away at the enamel (the stuff that makes teeth)
- Gum Disease happens when we don’t brush our gums, or when our teeth have health problems and it hurts the gumline
- Loss of enamel happens when we don’t have enough calcium in our food, when plaque builds up on our teeth, or there’s too much acidity in our food. The only way to keep enamel strong is by brushing our teeth and going for dental cleanings
Teen Oral Health and Getting Wisdom Teeth (late childhood-19 years)
Once your child has the basics of oral hygiene and as they get older, it’s important that other aspects of Oral Health are addressed. In late childhood and throughout the teen years, your child’s jaw will be almost fully-grown and your dentist may see some areas of concern with their bite, the spacing of their teeth, and Wisdom teeth slowly making their way through. All of these concerns can be addressed through dentistry appliances and Oral Maxillofacial surgery.
Most commonly for spacing problems, to correct bites and to better a child’s smile, dentists will use braces as a tool to get teeth to gently shift overtime. Our Guelph Dentist Office has Invisalign braces as well as traditional braces that can be used for your child’s smile. While traditional braces have been the usual choice for many in the past, Invisalign braces are a popular, less noticeable choice because they are clear, easy to wear, and are customized to your child’s teeth. When you visit our Dentist Office, we will be able to create a customized system of Invisalign braces, with trays that match your child’s level of dental progress.
Another large concern for many parents and a source of pain for older children and even young adults, is dealing with wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are the final set of teeth that creep up between the ages of 16-25 and can be seen as the molars furthest to the back of the mouth.
Although extra, strong molars are amazing for some, most dental patients don’t have the space in their jaw for their growth, which is why patients growing in wisdom teeth can be in a tremendous amount of pain. If wisdom teeth don’t have enough space to properly root and grow, they can cause jaw pain, gum pain and can even shift other teeth out of place, which is especially frustrating if your child already had braces.
To properly keep an eye on wisdom teeth development, our Dentist Office will take X-Rays periodically with your child’s complete oral examinations to monitor the growth of wisdom teeth to see how they may impact your child’s smile.
What You Need To Do For Your Child’s Oral Health
From infancy to early adulthood, it’s important for parents and caregivers to take steps that provide their child with good oral health and hygiene. Be sure to book your child’s first Dentist Appointment when their first tooth arrives and continue to take care of the teeth they have with brushing, flossing and regular dental cleanings and examinations.
For any concerns or questions you may have, or to book your child’s next dentist appointment, call our Guelph Dentist Office. We are always accepting new patients and we are ready to make little smiles flourish.