What Every Parent Should Know About Their Kids' Oral Health

From safe sleeping positions and regulation car seats to baby-proofing strategies and proper nutrition, you’re on top of kids’ health and safety. You’ve covered them from head to toe, but have you forgotten their mouth? Many parents are confused about pediatric dentistry and aren’t sure where to turn for answers. 

Dr. John L. Bishop at Steelecroft Dental understands your frustration and can help you get a handle on when, how, and why you should bring your kids to see him. When it comes to pediatric dentistry, Dr. Bishop has a way with kids. He believes that taking the mystery out of what to expect at the dentist’s office is one of the best ways to ease their fear and anxiety. Our young patients love Dr. Bishop because he makes the dental experience stress free, interesting, and even fun. 

Here are some important facts about your child’s oral health that can help you and your kids establish good habits for a lifetime of smiles.

Before baby’s teeth come in

Your baby may not have any teeth yet, but they have gums, and gums can become infected. Whether your baby is breast or bottle-fed, it’s important to clean their gums to keep bacteria from building up. Here are a couple of tips:

Don’t 

Drink and sleep. Don’t prop up a bottle and let your baby feed for long periods of time (such as at bedtime). The longer the milk or formula stays in the mouth and on the gums, the higher their risk for bacterial build-up and infection.

Share your germs. Although it may seem like a smart way to test the temperature of the food or a convenient place to pop a pacifier, your mouth carries bacteria that you don’t want to introduce into your child’s mouth.

Do

Wipe your baby’s gums with a soft piece of gauze or washcloth after each feeding. 

Check your child’s gums for signs of infection by lifting their lips and looking for redness, swelling, or discoloration. 

How to care for baby teeth

Your kids’ primary teeth will begin to pop through their gums anywhere from six to eight months of age. However, the teething process can start a couple of months ahead of that. Here’s what to do:

Soothe

Give your child a cool, clean teether to soothe sore gums.

Brush

Once your baby’s first tooth emerges (a perfect time to schedule their first appointment with Dr. Bishop), you can break out that soft-bristled baby toothbrush. Don’t use any toothpaste yet, just a gentle hand and soothing motion to get your baby used to the sensation, and of course, to brush away bacteria. 

Once they are able to spit, age 3+, you can add a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste on their brush and teach them to rinse and spit. 

Understand

The more you know about infant oral health, the more motivated you’ll be to keep a regular routine. That’s why Dr. Bishop wants the parents of his youngest patients to understand the consequences of poor oral care. 

When bacteria are allowed to linger on teeth, they begin to seep in and decay the tooth. In serious cases, the decay gets into the jawbone. If this happens, it can damage your child’s adult teeth, and can even lead to fatal illnesses. 

A word about pacifiers and thumb sucking

Weaning your child away from the calming effects of thumb sucking and pacifiers is often challenging. Although some kids give it up on their own, many must go through transition periods that may be difficult for the family.

However, when you consider the possible long-term ill effects of those habits, you may be more determined to endure the rough transition and help your child give them up.

If your child is three years old and still sucking on a thumb, finger, or pacifier, they are at high risk for deforming the upper arch of their mouth, which results in a crossbite, overbite, or protruding teeth. And, of course, those things will require braces later in life to correct them.

Food and drink matters

Even parents who limit obvious offenders, like candy, may not consider less apparent problems like carbs, such as bread, pasta, bananas, and cereal, which turn to sugar in the mouth. The bacteria in your child’s mouth feed on those sugars, turn into an acid, and eat away at their tooth enamel. 

Juice is another culprit responsible for kids’ dental problems. These liquids contain a high sugar content that sits on the teeth. Dr. Bishop recommends reaching for water most often, then milk, and fruit juice only sparingly.

Whatever age your child is, Dr. Bishop can help you get them to adopt a lifelong habit of good oral hygiene. Give us a call or request an appointment online

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