Don't Forgrt to Take Your Infant or Toddler to the Dentist

It came out recently that this year’s National Poll on Children’s Health reported that only twenty-three percent of one year olds and forty-four percent of two year olds have been to the dentist.

I just want to make sure that you are aware that the current recommendation is that all children start routine dental care at age one year. The pediatric dentists report that they are already seeing in-between the teeth cavities in a significant number of children by that age. If left untreated, they can lead to complications such as periodontal abscesses and severe decay that may require the tooth to be pulled or a “baby root canal” to treat.

Also, many dentists are now routinely applying fluoride “varnish” to the teeth of young children at their routine dental visits to greatly reduce the risk of decay.

Parents should start cleaning the teeth and / or gums of their infant by six months of age or when the first tooth erupts, whichever comes first. This helps to keep the teeth and gums healthy and reduces the risk of cavities. Perhaps even more importantly, it gets your child used to your cleaning the teeth at an early age. If you don’t start early and come at your one year old with a toothbrush, it is likely going to be a struggle. But, if you’ve been cleaning their mouth for months already, it will be just par for the course.

To clean the teeth of infants, you can use a clean damp washcloth to massage the teeth and gums. If you don’t want to wash so many washcloths, you can use a non-sterile 2x2 gauze pad moistened with water (you can get a pack of 200 for $5 or 6 at any pharmacy) that you can throw away when done. Or, you can get one of the rubber bumpy gum massagers that you put on your finger.

At one year of age, you can start using a small head soft bristled toothbrush with water to clean the teeth. If brushing is a struggle, Gerber and Oragel make non-fluoride containing baby toothpastes that are safe for the toddler to swallow. These add some flavor to the brush that may make the child mind being brushed less. Once your child can spit out toothpaste (typically around age 2 -2 1/2) you can start using a fluoride toothpaste.

Parents should brush after their child at least once a day until they are age five or six, as they simply don’t do an adequate job until then. You can begin to teach your child how to floss and floss them around age 5.

Most children in the Chico and surrounding areas should also be on a once a day oral fluoride supplement from age six months through 16 years. This is so the fluoride gets incorporated through the enamel of the permanent teeth as they develop so they come in strong and cavity resistant. Fluoride is only available by prescription, so check with your doctor or dentist.

These are simple steps that can keep your child smiling beautifully for years to come.