A healthy oral hygiene routine is important for all ages, but it is especially important for children to help prevent problems in the future. In general, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a child’s first dental visit take place at age 1 or within six months of their first tooth. This first visit helps families establish a relationship with their dentist, learn about good habits for their newest addition and sets a baseline for their dentist to compare to as they grow and develop. If anything seems out of place or abnormal, their dentist can recommend the best next steps.
Establishing that relationship early can give parents another resource to rely on as their children grow. Toddlers fall a lot as they learn to walk and having a dentist to call if they get hurt can be a big relief.
Regular dental cleanings normally start around age three, but tooth brushing should start as soon as the first tooth arrives. Cavity prevention should start early and is important even before adult teeth come in. Cavities, or tooth decay, are more common in children than adults and can lead to serious problems if they aren’t treated. Oral hygiene and our diet contribute to the formation of cavities. When you eat or drink sugary foods, the bacteria in your mouth produce acids that attack tooth enamel. This is when cavities can form. Grazing throughout the day can also put you at risk for developing cavities since acid is being created throughout the day instead of at certain times.
Good oral hygiene involves:
- Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Cleaning between your teeth daily with floss.
- Eating nutritious meals and limiting snacking.
- Visiting your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.
All children are different, which is why it’s important to make regular checkups with your child’s dentist so they can determine what is best for their needs.
Naomi Lane, D.D.S., P.A., is a pediatric dentist in Greensboro and a member of Cone Health Medical Staff.
Diplomat, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry
Fellow, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry