Updated: Aug 20
Providing proper dental care for my kiddo's was something that I had to learn the hard way. When my oldest was a baby, I took all my direction from her pediatrician, and really just read "What to Expect: The First Year" which, while a good book, didn't really prep me for taking care of my daughter's teeth,
When we went to her first dental visit at the Pediatric Dentist, when she was about 2 years old, she already had cavities. We had to take her to have oral surgery at the local Children's Hospital to have metal caps put over several of her teeth.
Taking Care of Teeth from the Beginning
Dental Care begins early, even before your child has teeth! I didn't know this, and my family didn't tell me either, even though apparently my cousin had to have the same dental surgery as my daughter.
Here are the key things I learned:
Every night, wipe down your baby's gums with a wet wash cloth. This can continue until they have a couple of teeth in, when you can begin to brush.
DON"T let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth! Milk has sugar in it (natural sugar but still), and when it pools in the baby's mouth, it can cause cavities to form.
First Dental Visit
According to my dentist, a child should have their first dentist appointment around age 3. It may seem intimidating, but when they go in early, it actually makes them feel comfortable with the dentist.
I recently took my 4 year old for her first dental visit. (pictured here) We were a year late because of COVID but it turned out great.
The dental assistant showed her all the tools that would be used with her teeth, and what they would be used for, prior to beginning the cleaning.
She even got to pick a flavor of toothpaste, which she really liked.
We got done with her cleaning, was told that she had a clean bill of health, and no cavities.
Then she told me that she likes going to the dentist, and wants to go there every day!
Talk about a win for the dental team there! The take-away? Kids really only get scared of the dentist if we model that behavior for them.
It is important to take your child for the recommended check ups with the dentist every 6 months, so that they are getting their teeth cleaned well on a regular basis. This can help to prevent severe dental problems later in life.
There was an article out a couple years ago that flossing really doesn't matter for your teeth. My dentist told me that it is still recommended and useful! It is good to floss every time that you brush your child's teeth.
Dentists also strongly recommend fluoride mouthwash for children over 6 years old. This helps to prevent cavities and tooth decay. It is good to use at bedtime, since you aren't supposed to eat or drink anything after use for 30 minutes.
Sometimes the dentist will also offer a special fluoride treatment in the office, to help seal off your child's teeth from cavities.
Dental Health is Linked to Overall Health
According to the Mayo Clinic, dental health is a window to your overall health. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475)
Germs and bacteria can enter the body through the mouth if we don't care for our dental health properly. This can cause infections in other parts of the body!
There are lots of reasons to take care of kids teeth properly, and if you teach them it is just a normal part of the day, that is how they will see it!
Here is a how-to video showing the ways to brush for different age groups:
Also, if you want to expose your kids to dental care as something important, there are videos from Ryan's World and Baby Bus about brushing your teeth. The baby bus video tells kids to "Brush Your Teeth In the Morning" and my toddler will sing that to me.
If you have older kids, never fear, you can still start now to build positive dental care habits for their future! Let me know in the comments if this is helpful for you, and any other dental care tips that you know! If this resonates with you, please feel free to share on your socials!