Raising kids is a huge responsibility that often feels a bit overwhelming. While most know what to expect concerning major physical and health milestones, many parents might not consider researching dental development and oral health care. Taking care of your child’s teeth should be a top priority for all caregivers and is a crucial part of overall health and wellness. Research has shown that poor oral hygiene and treatment can be a serious risk factor for certain diseases in adulthood, including diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. Building healthy habits at a young age can help your child take better care of their teeth long term.
Infants and Toddlers
It’s recommended that parents begin massaging and gently brushing their baby’s gums at a relatively young age. Around three months, many babies begin the teething process, so this special attention can be comforting and help relieve pain and irritation. Infants also learn a lot about their world by using their mouths. Using a special brush designed for infants can be stimulating for your baby, as well as an opportunity for them to interact with you. Once their teeth do start coming in, make a habit of brushing twice a day using a small, soft toothbrush. Choose a toothpaste that’s safe to swallow and use an amount that’s comparable to a single grain of rice. Many pediatricians recommend that you take your child for their first visit to the dentist between the ages of one and two. While this is mostly to build familiarity with the procedure of having their teeth cleaned, it can also allow your dentist to check for problems that may be addressed at an early age.
During this stage of development, it’s important to make oral hygiene and preventative care both frequent and fun. If your children don’t enjoy cleaning their teeth, choose products that help make the process more exciting. You may want to find a book, movie, or television show about caring for your teeth to help encourage your children to get excited about brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. There are also several apps out there to help make dental care more fun. Most kids lose their first baby tooth around the age of 5. This can be frightening for some children, so be sure to remind them that this is a normal and good thing!
Teenagers and Adolescents
Once all of your child’s permanent teeth have grown in, you may find yourself considering alignment options. Depending on your child’s needs, they may be able to try a braces alternative, such as clear aligners, to straighten their crooked teeth. Your dentist may recommend some initial work to prepare for orthodontic procedures, such as having baby teeth pulled or utilizing a palatal expander. Many teens and young adults also need to have their wisdom teeth pulled to prevent overcrowding or future damage. This process usually involves mild sedation and must be performed by an oral surgeon.
Preparing for the future can help these natural progressions feel more manageable for parents. During every developmental stage, remember to make proper preventative care a healthy habit for your kids. Teach your children to make caring for their teeth and gums and lifelong priority.