Discovery Point Blog

January 31, 2020

The Importance of Childhood Dental Care

It’s never too early to begin practicing good oral hygiene. Help your child develop proper dental care habits from the very beginning so they can enjoy a healthy, bright smile for life. Keep reading for details about the importance of establishing an excellent dental care routine for babies and children.

Oral Care for Your Infant

Your baby’s teeth might not be visible yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Babies are born with all of their teeth —they’re simply hidden beneath the gums and waiting to come through. At around six months, these tiny baby teeth begin to erupt and become visible. 

Well before your infant’s first tooth appears, you’ll want to begin practicing an oral hygiene routine that keeps their gums clean and healthy. Here’s a road map for promoting your baby’s oral health:

  • Wipe down gums after feeding. Following each feed, use a soft washcloth on your baby’s gums to get rid of bacteria that could lead to decay.
  • Avoid letting your baby linger with the bottle. “Baby bottle tooth decay” occurs when children drink from bottles containing milk, formula, or juice for long stretches of time. With prolonged exposure to the sugars in these liquids, bacteria in the baby’s mouth can thrive and cause decay. For the same reason, try not to let your baby fall asleep with a bottle.
  • Brush teeth as they appear. Use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste—around the size of a grain of rice—twice a day to keep newly erupted teeth clean and decay-free.

Wondering when you should schedule your child’s first appointment with the dentist? When their first baby tooth comes through, it’s time to make the call. If no teeth are visible by their first birthday, go ahead and book an appointment.

Creating an Oral Care Routine that Sticks

By age three, most children have all of their baby teeth visible. These primary teeth will then begin falling out around age six. A full set of permanent teeth has usually grown in by the time a child turns thirteen.

In order to promote dental health throughout all of these stages, it’s critical that you help your child develop a consistent oral hygiene routine. Many of us have memories of being prodded by our parents to brush for a full two minutes, floss daily, or stay away from sugary drinks. By making dental care as fun as possible, you can help your child avoid associating negative feelings with these healthy habits. Fortunately, this isn’t as hard as it sounds!

Try getting your child involved in their own oral health by allowing them to pick out a toothbrush that inspires them. Many toothbrushes scream “FUN!” with colorful handles, cartoon characters, and even built-in timers with upbeat songs. 

You can also have your child participate in picking out an exciting toothpaste flavor—just be sure they understand that this substance is to be spit out after brushing, not swallowed. Some types of toothpaste boast a special foaming action or glitter-like flecks to make the brushing experience more attractive to children.

If you have trouble convincing yourself to brush for a full two minutes, you may be wondering how you can possibly get your child to make this a part of his or her morning and evening routine. One great way to make this time pass quickly is to play a song that lasts roughly two minutes. Children can pick new songs as their interests change or choose a special song just for this ritual.

Do you have a child who dreads going to the dentist? Try to make this visit something to look forward to by planning a fun activity afterward. Whether your child loves going to the zoo, hanging out at a certain park, or hitting the bookstore, making a detour following their dentist appointment can help negate any negative feelings they have about this event and make future visits less of a struggle.

Give Kids A Smile®: The ADA Foundation’s Push for Better Oral Health for Children

The American Dental Association recognizes the importance of promoting oral hygiene for youngsters and has come up with the Give Kids A Smile® program to ensure that underserved children have access to the dental health care they need. 

This program also offers tools and resources to help educate children and parents about proper dental care practices and the connection between oral hygiene and general health and well-being.

As one of the world’s largest charitable programs focused on oral health, Give Kids A Smile® supports roughly 10,000 dentists in providing free oral care services for over 350,000 children nationwide. Learn more about the GKAS program in your community by visiting today.

Establishing good oral hygiene habits can’t start early enough. It’s a good idea to have your child visit the dentist with you before they are actually sitting in the “big chair”. For more guidance on your child’s dental health, please consult your dentist.