Children’s hands and mouths are different than adults and need to use toothbrushes designed for children. Children should use brushes with soft, rounded bristles for gentle cleaning, and should replace it with a new brush about every three months.
Begin daily cleaning once your child’s teeth begin to erupt. In early months, wipe your infant’s teeth gently with a moist, soft cloth or gauze square. As babies grow and get more teeth, use a child’s toothbrush and gently brush all sides of teeth as well as the tongue. Use only a small, pea-sized dab of toothpaste, pushed into the bristles, until your child is able to spit it out. By age 2 or 3 begin to teach your child to brush. You will still need to brush where they miss. Dentists and hygienists often advise children to use a gentle, short, back and forth motion to remove plaque.
Thumb sucking makes children feel secure and content and may induce drowsiness. Sucking is a natural instinct in babies, but prolonged thumb sucking or even pacifier sucking can interfere with the proper growth of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth. This improper development can change the appearance of a child’s face.
Children should stop thumb sucking between the ages of 2 to 4. This can be a hard habit to break but is certainly worth the effort.
The first baby teeth to come into the mouth are the two bottom front teeth. You will notice this when your baby is about 6-8 months old. Next to follow will be the 4 upper front teeth and the remainder of your baby's teeth will appear periodically. They will usually appear in pairs along the sides of the jaw until the child is about 2 1/2 years old.
At around 2 1/2 years old, your child should have all 20 baby teeth. Between the ages of 5 and 6 the first permanent teeth will begin to erupt. Some of the permanent teeth replace baby teeth and some don't. Don't worry if some teeth are a few months early or late as all children are different.
Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32 including the third molars (or wisdom teeth).
Baby Bottle Syndrome is the rapid decay of baby teeth in an infant or child from frequent exposure, for long periods of time, to liquids containing sugars. The upper front teeth are most commonly affected.
The problem is usually caused by a baby falling asleep while nursing a bottle or while breast feeding. While the child is asleep, the sugary liquid pools around the front teeth. The bacteria living in every baby’s mouth then turns the sugars to an acid that causes the decay.
Most often cavities are due to a diet high in sugary or starchy foods and a lack of proper brushing. Bacteria in your mouth feed on starchy foods such as crackers, bread, cookies and candy. When bacteria feed, they produce acids which attack your teeth for up to 20 minutes or more. These acids break down the hard enamel shell that protects and seals important nerves inside each tooth.
Limiting snacking between meals, along with regular brushing can help reduce the amount of acid produced. Also avoid excess sugary drinks, including juice and milk, which can be just as devastating on tooth enamel. Provide water when your child is thirsty and reserve other drinks as treats or pair with meals.
Baby teeth are important as they not only hold space for permanent teeth, but they are important in chewing, biting, speech and appearance. For this reason it is important to maintain a healthy diet and daily hygiene, even though the baby teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth.
While many people believe periodontal (gum) disease is an adult problem, studies indicate that gingivitis (the first stage of periodontal disease) is nearly a universal problem among children and adolescents. Advanced forms of periodontal disease are rarer in children than adults, but they can occur. Evidence demonstrates that periodontal disease in children and adolescents can be due to ineffective brushing or lack of motivation to practice oral hygiene.
Chronic gingivitis is common in children. It can cause gum tissue to swell, turn red, and bleed easily. Gingivitis is preventable and treatable with a regular routine of brushing, flossing, and professional dental care. If left untreated, it can eventually advance to more serious forms of periodontal disease.
Localized Aggressive Periodontitis can affect young healthy children. It is found in teenagers and young adults and mainly affects the first molars and incisors. It is characterized by the severe loss of alveolar bone (the bone that supports the teeth), and ironically, patients generally form very little dental plaque or calculus.
Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis may begin around puberty and involve the entire mouth. It is marked by inflammation of the gums and heavy accumulations of plaque and calculus. Eventually it can cause the teeth to become loose.
Some children are more susceptible including diabetics and children with Down Syndrome or Papillon-Lefevre syndrome.
There is evidence that demonstrates how periodontal disease may increase during adolescence due to lack of motivation to practice oral hygiene. Children who maintain good oral health habits up until the teen years are more likely to continue brushing and flossing than children who were not taught proper oral hygiene.
Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment of periodontal diseases. Therefore, it is important that children receive a periodontal examination as part of their routine dental visits. Be aware that if your child has an advanced form of periodontal disease, this may be an early sign of systemic disease. A general medical evaluation should be considered for children who exhibit severe periodontitis, especially if it appears resistant to therapy.
An important step in the fight against periodontal disease is to establish good oral health habits with your child early. When your child is about a year old, you can begin using toothpaste when brushing their teeth. And, when the gaps between your child's teeth close, it's important to start flossing.
Serve as a good role model by practicing good oral health care habits yourself and schedule regular dental visits for family check-ups, periodontal evaluations, and cleanings.
Check your child's mouth for the signs of periodontal disease, including bleeding gums, swollen and bright red gums, gums that are receding away from the teeth, and bad breath.
If your child currently has poor oral health habits, work with your child to change these now. It's much easier to modify these habits in a child than in an adult. Since your child models behavior after you, it follows that you should serve as a positive role model in your oral hygiene habits. A healthy smile, good breath, and strong teeth all contribute to a young person's sense of personal appearance, as well as confidence and self-esteem.