Information for new parents on
childrens' dental health

Brushing and Flossing
Begin oral health care as soon as your baby is born by cleaning his or her gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after feeding. The doctors at Easton Pediatric Dentistry recommend that parents begin brushing children's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a small amount of water. Unless your child's dentist advises it, do not begin using a fluoridated toothpaste until the age of two, and then use only a pea-sized amount. Children should be taught to spit out toothpaste and rinse with water after brushing. Flossing should begin as soon as any two teeth touch. Parents should assist their children until they are old enough to brush and floss on their own--usually by age six or seven.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Because a baby's teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they appear in the mouth, it's very important for caregivers to understand what baby bottle tooth decay is and how to prevent it. Baby bottle decay is a dental condition that occurs when a child's teeth are over exposed to sugary liquids, such as formula, fruit juice, and milk. Remember, it's not just what your child drinks but also how often and how long his or her teeth are exposed to decay-causing acids. Parents who repeatedly offer their baby a bottle containing sugary liquids, either as a pacifier or at bedtime, can do serious harm to their child's health. If your child needs a comforter between regular feedings, the doctors at Easton Pediatric Dentistry recommend giving him or her a bottle of water instead.

Thumbsucking is a normal, soothing reflex for babies and young children. However, as permanent teeth come in, continued thumbsucking may cause improper tooth alignment. Different factors determine if dental problems will occur resulting from thumbsucking, including how often your child sucks his or her thumb and how much force the child uses. Children should stop sucking their thumb by the time their permanent teeth come in--usually around six or seven years of age. The doctors at Easton Pediatric Dentistry recommend positive measures, such as praise and small rewards, be given to encourage children to stop sucking their thumb. Negative reinforcement or constant nagging can actually have the opposite effect, making children more self-conscious and may push them to suck their thumb more. As a last resort, a dentist may recommend an appliance be placed in the child's mouth, which serves as a deterrent against thumbsucking. Parents should keep in mind that thumbsucking during childhood is normal and children will likely give up the habit when they are ready.

Fluoride is nature's cavity fighter, and along with proper home care, is one of the most effective ways of preventing tooth decay and improving your child's overall dental health. According to years of dental research, fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, making it less susceptible to decay. That's why it's important for parents to ensure that children are receiving the recommended amount of fluoride. Fluoride may be obtained several ways, including drinking fluoridated community water. The amount of fluoride in tap water is relatively small, yet is enough to strengthen the developing teeth of children. Fluoride may also be obtained through topical applications of toothpaste and mouthrinse or your dentist can prescribe it.

As with all good things, moderation is the key, so it's important for parents to monitor their child's fluoride intake. Young children should be supervised when using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride supplements should only be prescribed for children living in nonfluoridated communities. Additionally, children under six years of age should not use a fluoride mouthrinse. Be sure to take your child to the dentist for an evaluation of his or her fluoride needs. Research shows that fluoride, taken in the correct amount, reduces the chance of childhood cavities by up to 50 percent.

Baby's First Visit to the Dentist
Dental health problems can begin at a very early age. That's why the doctos at Easton Pediatric Dentistry recommend scheduling a baby's first visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, and no later than your child's first birthday. The key to this first visit is to educate and guide parents on a child's oral health based on your child's developmental needs. During this first visit, your baby will often sit in your lap while the dentist examines his or her mouth, teeth, and gums; demonstrates how to effectively clean your baby's teeth and gums; evaluates any adverse habits, such as thumbsucking and liquids at bedtime; identifies your child's fluoride needs; and suggest a schedule of dental visits for your child's future. You can establish a positive relationship between your child and the dentist by starting dental visits early and continuing check-ups regularly.

Teething usually occurs between the ages of four months and two years, causing sore and tender gums. Common signs of teething include irritability, loss of appetite, restlessness, or waking up during the night. Chewing on fingers and toys is also associated with teething, along with excessive drooling. Parents should be sure to give children plenty of fluids to keep them well hydrated. The doctors at Easton Pediatric Dentistry recommend gently rubbing baby's gums with a clean finger, a small soft-bristled toothbrush, or wet gauze to sooth pain. A clean teething ring to chew on, especially a cold one, may also be helpful. Teething should not cause a fever. If your child does have a temperature, it should be addressed as a different medical concern. If your baby continues to be uncomfortable, even after you attempt to ease his or her teething pain, call your physician.

When teeth are forming in a child's mouth, the chewing surfaces are susceptible to decay. This susceptibility is due, in part, to the inability of the toothbrush to reach down into the tiny pits and grooves of the tooth. Food and bacteria build up in these depressions, placing the teeth in danger of decay. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of cavities in children occur in these pits and grooves. Sealants are plastic coatings that are "painted" onto the teeth to protect against cavities, especially those found on the chewing surfaces of premolars and permanent molars. A recent national study found that children with sealants had significantly less dental decay than children without sealants.  Sealants help "seal out" food and plaque and are one step to help keep your child cavity-free for a lifetime.