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Every Parent’s Complete Guide to Kids’ Dental Health

August 18, 2022

Every Parent’s Complete Guide to Kids’ Dental Health

When it comes to dental hygiene, it’s important to start your child young. Having clean and perfect teeth means forming healthy habits that they will carry until adulthood, so building a strong foundation is important. This means introducing dental hygiene as a good experience–one that doesn’t involve fear. Some children are afraid of dentists because they’re introduced too late when their tooth problems have already grown severe, such that treating them is painful. 

Dental hygiene for your child starts before their first tooth appears. Cleaning their gums with a soft cloth can help remove bacteria and keep their mouth healthy, especially after feedings. In this article, we will discuss how to manage the growth and care of your child’s baby teeth, and how you can help them get on the right path towards good dental health.

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Brushing and flossing: When should you begin and how often should you do it?

You can actually get your child to experience the feeling of brushing as they are teething. Kids like putting things in their mouth during this phase, so you can get them a teething brush which can help clean and relieve the odd feeling in their gums at the same time. 

Your little one’s first tooth will appear before their first birthday, which means that it’s time to visit a pediatric dentist! Getting the basics right helps you get onto a great start on that dental routine for your child’s healthy and perfect teeth.

Apart from the first dentist visit, get your little one a soft-bristled toothbrush. As they get older, you can explain to them the importance of brushing, and build the habit of doing it at least twice a day for two minutes. It would be good to schedule one session just before bedtime to make sure bacteria won’t propagate in your child’s mouth.  

When teaching your child to brush, it’s important to show them what’s going on. First, put a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste on the brush. Next, face a mirror and gently show them how it’s done. Patiently explain the different parts of the mouth, and allow this to act like a checklist on what areas should regularly be cleaned. Let them point out the parts of your own mouth themselves to keep it interactive. It’s at this point that you might also want to teach your child how to properly spit out all that minty gargle water into the sink before they swallow it!

According to Healthline, at 12 to 18 months, you can introduce them to flossing depending on what your pediatric dentist says and how many teeth your child has. So what’s the best floss for your child? The best floss is the one that works and one that they will actually use. Either waxed or unwaxed dental floss will do. Dental floss picks are generally fun for kids and encourage them to floss. Piico has an array of colorful floss picks that come with educational games that are sure to make your child’s experience enjoyable! GUM Soft Picks are also a good  pairing option to help massage your little one’s gums.

A little boy very enthusiastically flossing, his face all wrinkled with glee.

Flossing is a new experience for your kid! Introduce it in a fun way so it doesn't turn into a chore.


Cavities and rotten teeth: What causes them?

Dental caries or cavities are quite common in children, there’s no disputing that. In fact, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes that 42% of children from 2 to 11 years old in the United States have them. So, don’t be too alarmed when your own tike comes down with cavities, but make sure you keep an eye out for the causes to prevent them in the future.

Aside from irregular brushing habits, several factors can attribute to cavities and bad teeth in children:

     1. Weak enamel. Enamel is an outer layer of very tough tissue that covers and protects teeth. Weak enamel can be genetic, which means that proper dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are a must.

     2. Nighttime feeding. Allowing your infant to fall asleep latched on a bottle, or not taking time to wipe their gums or brush their teeth after nighttime feeding may cause “baby bottle tooth decay” according to Healthline. Feeding before sleeping allows sugars to coat the teeth and the mouth over time, which can encourage the growth of bacteria. 

     3. Diet.If your child enjoys sweets and doesn’t brush after eating them, their risk for cavities increases because of the frequent high sugar content their teeth are exposed to.

     4. Prolonged pacifier use. Having your child continuously suck on a pacifier can also encourage bacteria growth. 


Signs of cavities in children and how to avoid them

If your child has yet to be able to express pain and discomfort, then you may want to be on the look-out for signs of damage on their small teeth, especially since these may not be obvious in the beginning. Here are things to take note of every time you wipe their gums or brush their chompers:

     A. White spots on teeth.White spots on your child’s teeth are a sign that their enamel is starting to disintegrate. The weakening of their enamel can eventually lead to cavities.

     B. Light or dark brown spots on teeth and darkening of teeth. Discoloration where the gums meet the teeth can be attributed to tartar, while spots on the teeth may be signs of forming cavities.

     C. Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drinks. If your child is grimacing every time they consume something hot or cold, it’s either that a tooth’s enamel is wearing thin or a cavity has developed.

     D. Having trouble eating and crankiness. If your child seems to be losing appetite and is fussy and uncomfortable during mealtimes, check their teeth for cavities.

Avoiding cavities is as simple as following proper dental hygiene, as we talked about a bit ago. Other than brushing and flossing your child’s teeth, you may also want to take a look at their diet. Having a sweet tooth is a quick way to allow sugar-loving bacteria to breed on and destroy your child’s teeth. However, instead of completely banning sweets at home, you can pick alternatives that are both healthy and yummy, such as yogurt, bananas, apples, unsweetened apple sauce, fresh peaches, and berries. Space out the berries, though, as these can stain your child’s teeth when they have them often. 

A brave little boy opening wide while his dentist cleans his teeth.

Try to make their dentist visits as comfortable as possible, so your kids don't associate them with pain and bad things.


Causes of loose teeth in children

Cavities can lead to rotten and loose teeth, which can be a very uncomfortable situation; but if you have been religiously helping your child create healthy dental choices, then you won’t need to worry too much about the loose teeth because it’s actually a natural occurrence. 

According to HealthyChildren.org, children begin to lose their baby teeth to make way for permanent incisors at around age 6, and this process will go on until they reach early adolescence. Your child will need your help brushing until around age 7, and then you’ll have to guide them with how to care for a loose tooth. 

Make sure to continue brushing and flossing the loose tooth to keep food particles from getting trapped around it. You can try to remove it if it’s really just hanging on by a corner, but it’s advised that you never try to force it out. as this can cause unnecessary pain and may even injure your child’s gums. 

If your kid’s loose milk tooth is causing extreme pain and discomfort, there may be something wrong with the tooth itself. It’s best to go to the dentist to have it looked at if it’s already interfering with your child’s quality of life.


Questions to ask your child’s dentist

Your child should be visiting the dentist depending on the health of their teeth or if there are issues that need to be addressed, but generally a twice-a-year check up is a must. During these visits, don’t miss out on the opportunity to ask questions about your child’s dental health:

     1. “What should I prepare for my child’s first dentist visit?” Once you set your child’s first appointment, ask if there’s anything you need to bring or prepare to help the dentist get a proper history of your child.

     2. “What kind of toothpaste should my child use?” There are different toothpastes to use depending on the health of your child’s teeth. You may also want to ask when it’s okay for them to use the kind with fluoride.

     3. “How do I properly floss my child’s teeth?” It’s one thing to floss your own teeth, and it’s another to floss your child’s, especially since young gums are soft and sensitive. Ask your dentist about the proper way of using floss and floss picks.

     4. “Should I introduce mouthwash to my kid?”This will depend on whether or not your child can already properly gargle and spit. Your dentist will be able to recommend the right formulation for your child.

     5. “How do I wean my child off the pacifier?”  An article on Healthline notes that “non-nutritive sucking” should be weaned by around age 3. Your doctor can give tips on whether you should wait for your child to self-wean or if you should initiate it.

     6. “What do I do with my child’s chipped tooth?” Accidents happen, and if your child is quite playful, then there may be a few knee gashes and a chipped tooth. Don’t try to manage this on your own. Let your dentist assess the damage and take it from there.

     7. “Should my child be wearing braces/retainers?” There are many reasons why dentists recommend children to wear braces or retainers—or sometimes both, one after the other. An underbite or an overbite are two of the most common concerns, and two that need to be corrected early on since these can cause jaw and neck issues as your child’s bones develop. Your dentist will discuss a long-term corrective plan with you, which may change depending on how your child responds. Remember that when it comes to teeth corrections, regular visits are a must, so make sure you and your little one don’t go overdue with appointments.

A toddler with tousled hair, smiling and showing off all their well-maintained teeth.

All the effort you put in now will all be worth it when you see your child confidently smiling.

You are a huge part of your child’s dental health and dental hygiene is one of the first habits that they will learn from you. With these tips, you can consider yourself ready to take on the challenges of a little one’s first dental care habit. Start early, and start right. 

Alongside the recommendations of your pediatric dentist, Piico Kids Floss Picks are sure to make mouth care fun for you and your kid.