Preventive Pediatric Dentistry for Good Oral Health (in Between Dentist Visits)
Protecting your child’s oral health at home.
The main goal of preventive pediatric dentistry is to help your child develop healthy teeth and to protect their oral health by preventing cavities and gum disease. As a parent, it’s your job to help dentists by taking care of your child’s oral health and helping them build tooth-healthy habits at home—especially when your child can’t see their dentist for their regular appointment. Since preventive dentistry changes as your child ages, however, you might find it difficult to keep track of how you should care for your child’s teeth and gums at home. As a result, we’ve put together a guide to help you care for your child’s oral health even when you can’t see their dentist.
Oral hygiene is essential even before your baby starts teething.
Plaque can form and gather on your child’s gums long before they start teething. This can develop into a problem very quickly once their first teeth break the surface because bacteria from the buildup of plaque will start attacking your child’s teeth before you’ve even noticed them peeking through. To keep your child’s gums clear of plaque and get them used to an oral hygiene routine early on, use a damp washcloth to wipe their gums clean at least once a day.
Wean your child off their pacifier by age two.
Pacifiers are perfect for calming your little one when they’re very young, but you should wean them off of it by the time they turn two years old. Anything that’s in your child’s still-growing mouth regularly will impact its growth. Over time, pacifiers can cause their teeth to come in crooked and angle forward, impacting the appearance of your child’s smile and making their teeth harder to keep clean and healthy.
Fluoride helps build and maintain strong, healthy teeth.
Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps your child develop strong, healthy teeth and helps prevent cavities in the teeth they already have. As a result, it’s important to ensure your little one is getting enough of it. Most Americans have access to fluoridated water, but it’s wise to ensure that you do by checking with your county. If you have well water, your local public health department should provide information on where you can have your water’s fluoride levels tested.
Oral hygiene recommendations change as your child grows.
Updating your child’s oral hygiene routine to meet their changing needs as they age is an essential part of keeping their teeth and gums healthy. As soon as your baby’s teeth start erupting, begin brushing them twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. You should also begin flossing their teeth daily as soon as their teeth are close enough together. When your child turns three years old, start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to brush their teeth. Once your child begins brushing their own teeth, always supervise them to ensure they’re doing a thorough job and don’t swallow the toothpaste.
Books can normalize dental visits and daily oral hygiene.
Reading books about visiting the dentist or practicing oral hygiene at home is a vital part of teaching your child about the importance of oral health as well as helping them build a positive association with the dentist. This will likely make your child’s daily oral hygiene routine go more smoothly and may help dental appointments become more enjoyable for you and your child by removing their fear. You can find a few of our favorite recommendations here.
Oral health should be a priority for your entire family.
Cavity-causing bacteria are infectious, so simply sharing a meal or drink with your child can spread harmful bacteria to their mouth. As a result, practice what you preach—make your entire family’s oral health a priority. Brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day and ensure that you floss and use mouthwash at least once daily; when dental offices reopen, schedule regular appointments for yourself.
Reward systems can encourage your child to brush their teeth.
When your child reaches the age where they’re beginning to brush their own teeth, it’s not uncommon for them to begin resisting the daily activity. Implementing a reward system is a great way to encourage your child to brush their teeth when they’re supposed to. It gives your child the motivation they need to brush their teeth, minimizes fighting about the routine, and helps reinforce it as a daily habit—all while keeping their teeth healthy!
Diet really does affect oral health.
Your child’s diet impacts a wide range of bodily processes, from helping them build strong teeth and bones to boosting their immune system. To ensure your child has all the nutrients they need, feed them a balanced diet of lean proteins, grains, dairy, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Focus on feeding them fruits and vegetables as snacks instead of sweet or carbohydrate-rich snacks. While sweet and starchy foods stick to your child’s teeth and erode their enamel for a long time, crunchy fruits and vegetables clean plaque from your child’s teeth as they eat. For the same reason, it’s healthier for your child’s teeth if you give them water to drink between meals and at night.
Research sealants to protect your child’s teeth from cavities.
Oral hygiene is the best way to prevent cavities, but it’s not always easy to reach the farthest nooks and crannies of your child’s teeth; the task is potentially even more difficult when your child first starts brushing their own teeth. While you wait for dental offices to reopen, it’s a good idea to research sealants, which are a long-lasting protective coating that reduces the risk of decay in molars by almost 80%, and decide whether you’re interested in having them applied to your child’s teeth. Sealants are applied quickly and easily, and they’ll offer a little more peace of mind—especially if you find yourself unable to take your child to the dentist again in the future.
Mouthguards prevent dental injuries.
Make sure your child wears a mouthguard during any sport where they may take an unexpected blow to the face. Mouthguards help protect your child’s teeth and surrounding soft tissues from injury, so they can save your child from a painful dental injury and prevent you from having to rush them to an emergency dental appointment.
When you can’t take your child to the dentist, maintaining their oral health can seem daunting. Thankfully, it’s easy to keep your whole family’s teeth healthy if you implement healthy habits and educate yourself on the care your child needs at each stage of their life. In the meantime, you can call our office with questions about your little one’s oral health at any time.