February is Children’s Dental Health Month. Dentists take more time this month to help educate parents, grandparents and children on the importance of good habits to maintain a healthy mouth for a lifetime.
Did you know that cavities are caused by germs that are passed from adult to child?
Babies are born without the bacteria that cause caries, the disease that leads to cavities. They get it from saliva that is passed from their caregiver’s mouth to their own. Caregivers pass on these germs by sharing saliva, by sharing spoons, by testing food before feeding it to babies, by cleaning off a pacifier in their mouth instead of with water, and through other activities where saliva is shared. These germs can start the process that causes cavities even before babies have teeth, so it’s important to avoid sharing saliva with your baby right from the start.
Toothpaste: when should we begin using it and how much should we use?
The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using your fluoridated toothpaste and a soft toothbrush. Use a "smear" of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child 2 years of age and younger. For the 3-6 year-olds, dispense a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s tooth brushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing. Older children still need to be supervised when brushing and flossing.
How can parents help prevent tooth decay?
Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly, beginning with the eruption of the first tooth. Then, we can recommend a specific program of brushing, flossing, and other treatments for parents to supervise and teach to their children. These home treatments, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, will help give your child a lifetime of healthy habits.
Visit MyChildsTeeth.org for more information on healthy dental habits.