Babies, toddlers and preschoolers must not get lost in the excitement of the start of the school year. We know Back-to-School kids are getting a lot of the attention now. However, we think preschool, toddlers and babies also need part of our focus as we shift into fall schedules. We are concerned that the tinier members of your family get some dental care this time of year. As seasons change and families find their new rhythm, we do not want to leave out the dental welfare of the pre-preschoolers, toddlers and tiny–even toothless– babies.
Pre-school and Toddlers Start Brushing Before you Know It–Because Baby Did!
Some people believe that the health of a child’s teeth is totally genetic. Dentistry for Children reaches out to parents with this rather defeatist attitude. We extend hope and assure you that genetic background only plays a part in the health
of your child’s teeth. “Courtney Chinn, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist in New York City and associate professor at New York University College of Dentistry, said, there will always be a genetic component to how strong our kids’ teeth and gums are, but parents can still make a huge impact on their child’s future dental health by modeling good behaviors right now.”
If you want your child to have good dental habits, begin those habits for them, even before they have teeth.
Introducing Five Dental Life Lessons for Parents from Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers
That’s what this article is all about. Before we talk about preschooler’s teeth, we want to talk about the tiniest of teeth and the tender gums of babies.
Lesson 1. Brushing is born with the bassinet.
Yes, here at Dentistry for Children, Dr. Troy King and his staff want families to understand that good dental hygiene begins even before babies have teeth. Shocking news? It’s true.
Lesson 2. Brushing the Non-teeth?
We highly recommend you brush inside your tiny baby’s mouth even before teeth erupt. You can “brush” inside the little mouths with your finger or a fold of cloth. Likewise you can use the convenient infant tooth and gum wipes once a day. We often get arched eyebrows from parents when we tell them this, but studies reveal “even before a child has teeth, there are cavity-causing bacteria in the folds of the tongue.” After all, we don’t want baby-bottle decay to get a foot-hold, do we?
Lesson 3. Don’t lick that spoon!
We also believe this is the time to discourage bacteria from entering a baby’s, toddler’s or preschooler’s system. We know previous generations have done it, but please avoid sharing babies’ spoon. Likewise, don’t share his cup or clean his
pacifier with your mouth. Think about it. What grown up caries bacteria lurk in your mouth?
Then, when baby gets one tooth, it’s time for you to use that first soft-bristled kid’s toothbrush, and-yes- fluoride toothpaste. (Keep in mind babies under 3 do not know how to spit.)
Lesson 4. A Ritual Schedule to keep that one, two or three teeth clean…
Dr. Lezli Levene Harvell, D.D.S., a board-certified pediatric dentist in Newark, New Jersey (and mom of five girls ages 2 to 14 explains the ritual. “Ideally you’ll do this after breakfast and after dinner…”
That’s right, we said, “you” do the brushing. Let him or her play at it, but you make sure you do it correctly because technique counts. And up to age 6, most children do not have the hand coordination to properly do this activity. Those pretty 6 year molars will be at risk if you don’t get all the way back for him or her.
Facts for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers: Time and Teeth
Did you know that recently the American Dental Association (ADA) changed its guidelines for fluoridated toothpaste? Now, they recommend it for use as soon as babies get their first tooth. At first you only need a smear the size of a grain of rice. At age 3, move up to the size of pea as a guide for toothpaste.
A Baby Story of Pain, A Toddler’s Terror, A Preschool Pandemic…Caries (tooth decay)
Did you know that tooth decay in toddlers has become epidemic? Children as young as two are seen in ERs. Their pain and infection has happened because they lacked regular dental attention and treatment. By then, the cases have gone so far, they require general anesthesia and surgery.
- Did you know 1 in 4 US preschoolers has already had a cavity? And 55 percent of the students in kindergarten have endured at least one cavity? We can only say, “Poor Babies!”
- “Tooth decay is the most prevalent disease of childhood — it’s five to eight times more common than asthma,” says Dr. Chinn.
- This is a more important issue than many parents understand. She adds, “It can interfere with a child’s ability to eat, sleep, speak properly, learn, or pay attention in school.
Here’s the good news: Fluoride toothpaste can block cavities by helping to re-mineralize areas of teeth that have been attacked by bacteria.
Dr. Harvell, D.D.S., states, “If you’re one of the 25 percent of Americans whose city water supply isn’t fluoridated (or you use well water), your child’s pediatrician or pediatric dentist will likely prescribe a daily supplement a chewable fluoride-plus-multivitamin.
(Special Side-Note:) We are aware there’s a growing number of people concerned about fluoridating water supplies; but we must remark that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the ADA, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all fully support the practice.
Lesson 5: Getting Baby to Those Dental Check Ups–Getting to a Dentist Early and Often
So if we were to ask, we are sure you would say you need a dental check up and cleaning twice a year—Why should the standard for babies or toddlers be different? And how soon do we think you should begin? The official line from the AAPD and the American Academy of Pediatrics is that you should take your child to the dentist by his first birthday. Many dentists say to bring your baby to the dentist by 6 months of age. Whatever the age, what happens at that first exam?
a. A thorough exam of the mouth, tongue, gums and palates,
b. A dental history from both parents,
c. Time for lessons to guide parents on proper brushing habits, cavity prevention, and subsequent visits.
d. Likewise, the dentist will often assess the risks. Dr. Harvel states, “If a mom tells me, ‘I had a mouthful of cavities as a kid,’ automatically I’m thinking her child may be at higher risk,” she says.
e. Home Sweet Dental Home
In addition, your early visit will establish a dental “home” for your kids. We’ll make Dentistry for Children, a safe place where you and your child can receive the best information about dental health. You’ll know that we know your case, before an emergency occurs.
Dr. Chinn adds that knowing the family history is strategic to treatment. “If we’re looking in a kid’s mouth earlier, we can treat early decay with fluoride to harden the tooth and don’t have to pick up the drill at all.
Or we can do more shallow fillings that don’t require a needle, so it’s not as traumatizing.”
And about Dollars and Dental Sense
By the way, if you are budget minded, did you know that pediatric dental care is now required to be covered by most health-insurance plans, as well as Medicaid? And early visits pay off in the long-run because statistics show that kids who saw a dentist before age one have 40 percent lower dental costs in their early years than kids who failed to see a dentist in their first 5 years.
Preschoolers and Dental Health
Dr. Joseph Castellano, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), recently conceded that back-to-school was hectic. However he balanced sympathy for parents with hope they would still find time to focus on good dental practices. He added another important point to the ones we have already covered in this article. He stated that around 3 and 4 years of age is “also the time to start talking to children about diet and sugar-sweetened beverages.” He reminds parents to tell them how harmful such drinks can be, and show them “other, healthier alternatives are available.
Your Terrific Take-Aways from This Week’s Blog
That first five years from tiny babies, to toddlerst o preschoolers are preparation for Kindergarten and many more changes in life. Your dental home will help your child face the new world with a shining smile and bright confidence to match it.
Dental concerns change as your babies age, but the concerns in this blog are the first ones. The first five lessons we’ve outlined are dental lessons, of course, but they are also lessons in good health habits, self-discipline, and time management–Basic life-skill lessons that will always help babies shine, far beyond Kindergarten.