Tips for Parents
Dr. Rex and our staff are a highly trained pediatric dental team with lots of experience in preventing tooth decay and orthodontic issues. On this page we have outlined some guidelines on keeping your child’s teeth and gums heathy.
You can always make an appointment with us and get a completely personalized program of oral care for your child and individual instruction for you and your older child based on an assessment by Dr. Rex. All of that comes as part of our Internet New Patient Special, along with an exam, X-rays and consultation with Dr. Rex.
By age 1
Babies’ first two teeth emerge between 8 and 13 months of age. Dr. Rex recommends you bring in your child by his or her first birthday. He’ll help you establish good oral hygiene routines for your child and check for any obvious oral issues. Your child will also start getting familiar with going to the dentist. Learn more …
At 18 months of age
At 18 months your child has their front teeth and a molar or two. This is a good time for toddlers to get their first real checkup! By starting your child early, we can prevent a lot of potential issues, such as cavities and problems with the bite (how the teeth come together).
By age 3
By age 3, your child has all their baby teeth including their baby molars. Habits such as thumb-sucking and pacifier usage should have stopped. If a child continues with these habits, there is a good chance there will be permanent deformation of his or her oral structure, such as protruding teeth, requiring later orthodontic treatment. If you need help guiding your toddler away from his or her habit, give us a call!
Age 5 to 7
You can opt to put sealants on your child’s permanent “6-year” molars. It’s a good idea to put the sealants on as soon as the permanent molars come in, before decay gets a chance to attack the teeth. Sealants are thin plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. It is a quick, painless procedure.
After a child turns 4, the jaw and facial bones begin to grow, creating spaces between the teeth. At age 6 to 7, children start losing their baby teeth and their adult (permanent) teeth begin to come in. Dr. Rex recommends that children get checked out for orthodontic issues around age 7, when he can begin preventive orthodontics, if needed.
Diet, drinks and snacks
Every time your child eats something, the bacteria in the mouth get to eat too. That’s why regular brushing and flossing is so important, but it’s also why it’s important to regulate snacking. If you had one Cheerio every half an hour for 24 hours your teeth would rot. If you had a bowl of Cheerios once a day, there would be much less danger of decay.
In general, foods that can cause decay are ones that bacteria like to feed on. These include starchy foods like bread, crackers, pasta, potato chips and pretzels. Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay, and it’s not just the sugar in candy and cake. Sugar is also in fruits and most milk products as well as being added to food such as cereals and peanut butter. Children don’t need to give up eating these foods, they should just be eaten in way that will minimize decay. For example, eating food containing sugar or starch with a meal, not as a snack, or choosing food that can be easily washed away from the teeth with saliva or water, rather than eating sticky food like dried fruit or toffee.
You can get inventive with the snacks you stock your pantry and fridge with, Dr. Rex can help you choose your snack cupboard based on your child’s preferences.
Dr. Rex has abundant experience with helping parents with food choices and how to establish good, but fun, routines. He’ll also assess your child’s diet and see how much impact, if any, he thinks it is having on their oral health.
What about bottles and sippy cups?
If your child is in the habit of going to sleep with a bottle, switch over to a bottle of water, or a pacifier. Milk, formula, juice or sweetened liquid feed the bacteria in the mouth while your child sleeps. These bacteria produce acids that attack the teeth.
Use of sippy cups can be a good transition from a bottle to a regular cup if done over a short period of time (three to four months) and not over an extended period of time. What you want to avoid is the sippy cup taking the place of a bottle, and being used by your child all day. This can contribute to cavities, especially if the sippy cup is full of juice or a sugar-sweetened drink. A sippy cup that is being drunk from all day, can also make the child feel full and prevent the child getting the nutrition he or she needs.
Helping your child brush and floss
The sooner you start with cleaning your child’s teeth the better! You can clean’s a baby’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or a cloth and water. As soon as teeth begin to appear, Dr. Rex recommends starting with brushing the teeth once a day with a soft tooth brush, using just a little bit of toothpaste. For the 2-year-old you should start to brush the teeth twice a day, using a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste.
Usually parents will need to brush the teeth for their child until age 5, or let the child do it, but under supervision. At around age 7 your child is probably ready to floss, although they might need a flossing aid, such as a flossing “harp.” Our staff can help explain and show different flossing options for your child.
We have developed methods of easily getting your child’s teeth brushed and flossed, and Dr. Rex or one of our hygienists can show you how.
To make an appointment, call (541) 318-5688 or click here to request an appointment online.