Tips for keeping your kids’ teeth healthy

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Despite the fact that it’s almost entirely preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. The good news is there are safe and effective preventive measures that can protect teeth.

Good oral hygiene practices can help keep children from getting cavities.

When should your child start seeing a dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends your child start seeing a dentist at age 1, or 6 months after the first tooth comes in.

Your child will become more comfortable at the dentist because they will get acquainted with the office and dental team at a young age. The dentist will focus on education and prevention in hopes that your child will have a lifetime of healthy teeth.

When should I start brushing my child’s teeth?

You can use a soft wet cloth to wipe the gums even before the teeth have come in. This helps prevent bacteria from building up in the mouth and causing cavities later on. Once the teeth start coming in, you should start cleaning them. You can use a soft cloth or soft infant toothbrush.

The earlier you start using a toothbrush, the sooner your child will get used to having it as part of the daily routine. You can begin by just using water on the brush or a small amount of nonfluoridated infant toothpaste. Once all 20 primary teeth are in, it is recommended to start using a children’s fluoride toothpaste. If you cannot visually see between all of the teeth you should begin using dental floss. In order to keep your child’s teeth healthy, we recommend brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. Starting these habits young will help lower your child’s risk of developing cavities.

What foods and drinks can damage my child’s teeth?

A healthy diet is equally as important as brushing your child’s teeth when it comes to preventing cavities. A diet high in sugar puts your child at a high risk for developing cavities. Some of the biggest “cavity causers” in young children are frequent consumption of juice, chocolate milk and fruit snacks. If your child likes to carry a bottle or sippy cup with them during the day, we recommend only placing water in it. Foods that are sticky, like fruit snacks, raisins, or candy stick in the deep grooves of the back teeth and can cause cavities quickly. These types of snacks are also very high in sugar so they should be saved for special occasions.

Baby teeth really do matter!

Cavities in a young child can be very difficult to treat. They can also lead to pain, swelling, infection and early loss of their teeth.

Healthy baby teeth are important for proper speech development, chewing and proper nutrition for growth and development, as well as leading the path for proper permanent tooth eruption. By implementing a healthy diet low in sugar, brushing and flossing your child’s teeth twice a day, and seeing your dentist twice a year, you can help prevent cavities and put your child on the road to a lifetime of healthy teeth.

Dr. Andi Igowsky, DDS, is a pediatric dentist at Just Kids Dental on 1313 N. Taylor Drive, Sheboygan.