What Should You Know About Your Child’s Oral Health?
When should you take your child to the dentist? How can you protect against kids' cavities? WebMD asked an expert.
When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?
When they get their first tooth or reach their first birthday, whichever is earlier. Many people are shocked that it’s so early. The older guideline was age three, just because that’s when general dentists found they could manage a child. But at three, we often find that damage has already been done from baby bottle tooth decay or cavities.
How should I prepare my child for his first visit to the dentist?
Present it as something fun and exciting, and as a sign that he is growing up. Tell your child that we will “count,” “brush,” and “take pictures” of his/her teeth. By explaining the exam and the cleaning in these terms, your child will better understand the situation. Avoid negative words such as “hurt,” “drill,” “pull,” and “shot.” Don’t tell your child, “The dentist won’t hurt you” -- this may never have entered his mind in the first place! Reassure him that the dentist and staff will be gentle and friendly.
What should my child eat and drink to protect his teeth?
This is one of those questions parents don’t ask me, but I wish they would! First, don’t give your child juice all the time, especially the juice boxes. Most of them are not nutritious. If your child must have juice, follow the 1-2-3 rule: only one cup of juice a day, along with two glasses of milk and three glasses of water. The best snacks for a child are those that don’t come in a plastic package: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, milk, yogurt, and cheese. Don’t peel your child’s apples and other fruit --the edible peels are where most of the nutrients come from, and they help to scrub the teeth.
When is my child ready for “real” toothpaste?
As soon as they’re old enough to spit -- usually around age three. Once they’re in enough control to be potty trained, they have enough control to spit out fluoridated toothpaste. “Children’s” toothpastes are like training wheels -- they can’t do much harm. But they also aren’t all that useful. Make sure your child brushes his teeth after breakfast, not before, so they start the day with a clean mouth. And after brushing teeth at night, nothing else to eat or drink except water.