Important tidbits for Children’s Dental Health Month Published Feb. 26, 2014 By Maj. Aaron Krance 22nd Medical Group dental clinic MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- *Editor's note: The 22nd Medical Group dental clinic has put together a list of children's dental health tips. For more information, please call the dental clinic at (316) 759-5182.* 1. Starting at birth, gently clean your child's gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing them twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a "smear" of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. 2. Your child should have their first visit to the dentist once their first tooth appears, but no later than one year old. 3. Generally, mouthwashes are not recommended for children who are incapable of spitting after rinsing. This skill usually comes later in life, around the age of 6. It's important to note that mouthwashes are not a substitute for brushing. 4. Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their fingers or thumb past the age of three, your dentist may recommend a mouth appliance to help them break the habit. 5. Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bed-time bottle to prevent the formation of dental caries (cavities) overnight. 6. A check-up every six months is recommended in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems; however, your dentist can tell you when and how often your child should visit based on their oral health. 7. The face and mouth begin to develop three weeks after conception. Risky behaviors like smoking and drinking alcohol can affect the development of these features. 8. Make sure your child has a balanced diet including one serving each of fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat, fish and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay. 9. Sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth causing cavities. The application is fast, comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years. 10. If you live in an area where your primary water supply is not fluoridated or your child primarily drinks bottled water, dentists recommend supplementing your child's water intake with 8 ounces of fluoridated water daily. Fluoridated gallons of water are available at most major grocery stores. 11. Soft plastic "boil and bite" mouthguards should be used to protect your child's teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from injury whenever they play contact sports. If you like, your dentist can make a custom mouthguard for your child for better fit and protection. 12. If your child knocks out a permanent tooth, stay calm and find the tooth. Hold it by the crown instead of the root and try to re-insert it in the socket. If that is not possible, put the tooth in a glass of milk and take your child and the glass immediately to your dentist. 13. There is very little risk in dental x-rays. Dentists are careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed. Lead aprons and high speed films or digital x-rays are used to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation. 14. Pick toothpaste for your child with the American Dental Association seal of acceptance on it. This indicates that the toothpaste has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness. 15. Dental caries are the #1 childhood disease, four times more prevalent than asthma, which is #2. 16. The majority of babies' first teeth erupt between the ages of 4-7 months. Teeth may appear as early as 3 months or as late as one year old. 17. Community water fluoridation and dental sealants are two leading evidence-based interventions to prevent tooth decay. 18. Growing evidence suggests a link between gum disease and premature, underweight births. Pregnant women who have untreated gum disease may be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. 19. Limit not only sugary items in your child's diet, but also sugar free acidic beverages (diet sodas, sparkling water, fruit juices). 20. By the time a child enters the first grade, the six year molars have usually erupted. This is a permanent tooth but is commonly mistaken for another primary tooth since no tooth is lost before it appears. This tooth is one of the most important in a child's mouth because it helps the other permanent teeth come into their proper place. 21. Primary teeth are important not only for appearance and speech, but also for chewing which aids in digestion. Additionally, they preserve space for erupting permanent teeth. 22. It's a good idea for parents to start flossing their child's teeth as soon as the teeth are in contact with one another. 23. Most children lack the coordination and discipline to brush their own teeth properly until the age of 6 or 7. Until then, parents should help and/or monitor their brushing. 24. Replace your child's toothbrush every 3 to 4 months or even sooner if it shows obvious signs of wear. Do not let your child chew on his or her toothbrush. This will greatly shorten the lifespan of the toothbrush. 25. Never share toothbrushes between children.