Parents’ care for their child’s well-being is paramount, but with busy work and school schedules, dental health can become a low priority. It can also become increasingly difficult to manage as the child gets older and the parent shifts the responsibility to the child for maintaining their own dental hygiene.
So, how does dental hygiene evolve as a child grows, and what do parents need to know to keep their child focused on their dental health?
Pediatric dentistry covers children from infancy through their teen years and includes the care of their teeth, gums and the entire mouth.
Dr. Samantha Hollinger, D.M.D. of TRU Dentistry Austin, located on South Lamar, provides her insights.
Believe it or not, your baby is born with all their primary teeth (usually 20) in their mouth – you just can’t see them. This is the time when the care for their gums begins. Wiping your baby’s gums after feeding with a soft washcloth removes bacteria and keeps their gums healthy.
The ADA recommends the first dental visit by the time they are one year old. Generally, the first teeth start to break through the gums around six months of age, but can be as early as birth and as late as 2 years old. According to Dr. Hollinger, “The age is really a matter of genetics, but as part of your baby’s first dental visit we would include a screening to check for any developmental issues.
“Although it is not common, early teethers can get cavities before the age of 1, especially if they have a high sugar diet. We look for signs of early decay, which can be severe and painful for the child if left untreated. We also look at the anatomy of the mouth and check for any issues that could interfere with their feeding or the development of the permanent teeth.”
Kids have all their baby teeth by age 3 and by this time they should visit the dentist every 6 months. At about 6 years old, the baby teeth start falling out to make room for the permanent (adult) teeth to come in. Most of the permanent teeth are in at 13 years old.
“Parents can guide their children’s oral health at this stage by brushing your teeth together! Children often learn by watching or mimicking parents and older siblings,” says Dr. Hollinger. “Spending that time together, playing a favorite song and using a tasty toothpaste can establish a child’s joy in caring for their teeth. You can also bring your children to your own dental checkups, which demonstrates the importance and ease of a dental visit.”
By 12 or 13 years old, most of the permanent teeth have come in (except the third set of molars, called the wisdom teeth, which should come in between the ages of 17 and 25.) At this pre-teen stage, oral hygiene is crucial to keep the teeth and gums healthy. And as most parents can imagine, keeping pre-teens interested in oral hygiene can become difficult.
Dr. Hollinger recommends appealing to your child’s growing awareness of their appearance to reinforce a healthy daily routine to make them look and feel better. Brushing twice a day for a full two minutes, flossing daily, and making sure they wear a mouth guard when playing sports are key habits to develop. Parents can make sure they have a fluoride toothpaste, and although it is not necessary, an electric toothbrush, or water flosser can be very helpful, especially if the child has any dexterity concerns.