Kids, kids, kids! Did you know that February is National Children’s Dental Health Month?

For all of you parents out there (new and/or seasoned), I’m sure a few of the following questions have crossed your mind at some point in time, and I’d love to offer guidance in answering them for you!

  • Should I worry about my child’s oral health before they even have any teeth?
  • When should my child’s first dental visit be?
  • How do I properly go about brushing and flossing my child’s teeth?
  • Are baby teeth even important?
  • Are there foods/beverages I should limit when it comes to my child’s diet?

It’s never too early to start placing priority on your child’s oral health and hygiene! Using a damp washcloth placed over your finger to wipe your baby’s gums will help to limit excessive breast milk/formula from pooling and is a great way to start. Once you notice baby teeth beginning to erupt, introducing a toothbrush early on creates an awareness and helps to establish a routine for both you and your child. Many baby and child-friendly toothbrushes are available in the dental aisle of stores, with a wide variety to choose from. A fluoride-inclusive toothpaste is also recommended to help promote remineralization, which promotes strong tooth development and prevents cavities.

The American Association of Pediatric Dentists recommends scheduling a dental appointment for your child once their first tooth has poked through or once they’ve celebrated their first birthday. Honestly, the sooner your child is established at a dental home and can discover what an inviting and positive environment it is, the better. Often times, young children aren’t brought to the dentist until a dental problem has surfaced and they are in pain. This initial experience can then easily become a traumatic one.

When it comes to brushing your child’s teeth, there are a few ways to introduce the habit. Above, I had mentioned using a damp washcloth-covered finger to run over their gums early on. In the infant section at Target or Walmart, you may also come across textured rubber finger inserts that can be used on newly erupted baby teeth. Allowing your child to watch you brush your teeth may spark interest. Invite them to join you using their own, and then help them by demonstrating the proper way to do it afterwards to ensure that it is done correctly and effectively. Incorporating a daily flossing habit is also important to reach and clean in between your child’s teeth and below the gum-line to further prevent cavities from forming in contact spaces.

Below are a few photos depicting some comfortable positions for you and your child to try when it comes to toothbrushing if standing up in the bathroom is difficult or uncomfortable for your child.

Have you ever heard or maybe even thought “Oh, they’re just baby teeth, they’ll just fall out and new ones will come in”? While the fact that they will eventually fall out may be true, they actually serve a pretty important purpose. Baby teeth are space-savers for adult teeth. If they have to be extracted sooner than they’d normally fall out on their own, that space must then somehow be maintained to ensure that there’s room for the secondary (adult) teeth to come in. The presence of healthy baby teeth also come in handy when learning to chew, smile and in the development of speech. A primary tooth that has decay, if left untreated, can also affect the adult tooth that is meant to take its place by spreading bacteria.
    Believe it or not, there are some foods that are more cariogenic (cavity-causing) than others. Unfortunately, a lot of them tend to fall under the yummy “snacks” category for kiddos. The following food items should be limited or provided only at meal times if/when possible:
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • crackers, chips, cookies
  • fruit snacks (dried fruit, fruit rollups, gushers, etc)
  • candy
  • milk, formula, fruit juice, soda, sports drinks
  • citrus fruits (highly acidic)
* Baby bottle tooth decay is of particular concern in infants and young children. Wiping your baby’s gums or gently brushing their teeth after nursing or bottle feeding can help reduce acid attacks caused by milk or formula that may linger after eating. It’s also best to avoid putting your baby or toddler down for a nap or at night with anything besides water.  
    Instead, try implementing more of these foods:
  • fruits (apples, in particular)
  • vegetables (celery, carrots, green leafy vegetables)
  • cheese & yogurt
  • nuts & seeds
If you have any additional questions, feel free to pick your hygienist’s brain the next time you’re in for your own dental appointment. Better yet, call Sala Family Dentistry and schedule your child’s first appointment with our wonderful pediatric dentist, Dr. Ryan Jensen!
Destinee Caves



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