Raising kids is busy work. Parents of infants know how easy it is to get caught up in the day-to-day routine of ensuring baby is happy, healthy and developing properly. Moms and dads of toddlers and preschoolers are always on the go, seemingly doing it all with little to no sleep. Parents with school-aged children are swept up in spirit days, snack duty and extracurricular activities, while parents of teens may be left wondering where all the time went as they tackle broken hearts and college entrance exams.
One of the things that’s easy to push to the side is an emphasis on good oral health and regular visits to the dentist — it’s often viewed as a painful, traumatizing experience, even though it shouldn’t be. Your child needs checkups with their dentist as much as — if not more often than — checkups with their pediatrician. Often overlooked in discussions about developmental milestones, your child’s oral health varies by age.
Birth to 6 Months
Start thinking about your child’s oral health before their first teeth come in. Keep gums clean with a soft washcloth after feeding to cement good habits and reduce bacteria that could cause future tooth decay or gum disease.
Babies usually begin teething at 4 to 6 months old, during which time their first tooth may come in. Ease the pain and inflammation of the process by providing teething toys or a cold, wet washcloth for your baby to gnaw on.
6 Months to 1 Year
You’ll continue fostering good habits by keeping your baby’s gums clean but will switch from a washcloth to a soft-bristled children’s toothbrush when the first tooth arrives. Brush that tooth and your baby’s gums after feedings to improve circulation and ward off decay and disease. Toothpaste is not yet necessary.
During this time you should book your infant’s first dental exam, either before their first birthday or 6 months after the arrival of their very first tooth.
1 to 2 Years
As your baby careens toward toddlerhood, you’ll want to keep brushing your child’s teeth with a soft-bristled brush and water. If booking their first dentist’s appointment got lost in the fray, you’ll want to do that.
Get your child used to having their mouth looked at regularly. Keep an eye out for brown or white spots on your infant’s teeth, which could indicate cavities or decay. White spots on the gums or lips can indicate canker sores — causing crankiness to reach untold levels. See your dentist with any concerns.
2 to 5 Years
Although all children develop at different times, most toddlers will have all of their baby teeth between their second and third birthday. Keep checking regularly for signs of decay.
Most kids are responsible enough to spit after brushing their teeth just after their second birthday. Introduce fluoridated toothpaste to your child’s brushing routine at this time, using a pea-sized amount. You’ll need to supervise their brushing and teach them how to properly brush their teeth. Set the habit of brushing at least twice a day, for two minutes each. Playing a song that’s about two minutes long or setting a timer makes the practice easier for some kids.
Your toddler or preschooler should have regular dental checkups between the ages of 2 and 5, visiting at least twice a year to ensure their teeth and gums are healthy and developing properly. A twice-annual checkup allows the dentist to monitor your child’s oral health and spot problems before or as soon as possible after they develop.
If your water supply isn’t fluoridated, as is the case with well water, you may want to discuss flouride treatments with your child’s dentist. You might also discuss dental sealants, which cover your child’s back molars to ward off decay and damage.
5 to 10 Years
Get ready for visits from the tooth fairy! Your child’s baby teeth will fall out to be replaced by a permanent set of adult teeth. The good habits you established in infancy will serve your child well as they become more and more independently responsible for the care and keeping of their teeth and gums.
Continue supervising brushing until you’re sure your child is coordinated enough to brush their teeth properly for two minutes at a time — most kids are able to do this at age 6 or 7, requiring a little more help and supervision before this. You’ll also want to get your child used to flossing between their teeth. Some kids have trouble with this and may find it easier with flossing tools designed for kids.
You’ll want to continue regular appointments every six months and monitoring regularly for signs of decay and cavities — even kids without a sweet tooth can develop cavities, so touch base with your child’s dentist when in doubt.
If your child develops a love for sports during this age, it can be beneficial to see your dentist about a custom mouthguard to protect their smile from damage. Even noncontact sports can cause injuries to your child’s teeth, so exercise caution.
By the time your baby is a preteen, most of their adult teeth are present. Swap out the children’s toothbrush and toothpaste for a regular, adult-sized soft-bristled brush and toothpaste and continue ensuring teeth get brushed twice a day for at least two minutes. Check in on your child’s flossing habits and use any mouth rinses recommended by your dentist — especially if your child needs extra fluoride from a prescription rinse.
Teenagers face a lot of hurdles when it comes to oral health. In addition to maintaining basic health and hygiene, you’ll want to talk to your dentist about correcting any alignment or spacing issues. These things present a cosmetic problem that can make your teen’s self-esteem plummet, but they can also make it more difficult to keep teeth clean and free from decay. Invisalign is one option that may be available to your teen to help correct these issues.
Your teen may also be begging for teeth-whitening treatments — something that can improve self-esteem and social standing. Your teen’s dentist can help decide if whitening treatments are appropriate for your child.
As with younger children, protecting your teen’s mouth during sports is important. Your family dentist can help fit a custom mouthguard to provide the best protection possible for your young athlete.
Keep an eye out for wisdom tooth woes when your teen reaches age 16 or 17. These third molars have a chance of coming in crowded or not fully erupting from the gums, requiring surgical removal. Your dentist should have a pretty good idea of what’s in store with regards to your teen’s third molars from X-rays and regular exams.
Timeline of Your Child’s Dental Health Needs
It’s easy to let good oral health fall to the background of your child’s busy day-to-day life. But dental milestones, such as a first dental appointment, adding toothpaste to their home care routine and trading up for an adult-sized toothbrush are important.
Your family dentist can make sure your child is reaching milestones as well as avoiding common childhood pitfalls like cavities, crowded teeth and impacted wisdom teeth. Additionally, your dentist can keep your child’s teeth looking their best by offering regular cleanings and age-appropriate teeth-whitening treatments to help bolster burgeoning self-esteem.
Does Dr. Krieger See Children and Teens?
The office of Drs. Krieger and Hur sees every age of patient, from the smallest to the tallest. If you’re looking to get your child seen, we can help. Simply call our office at (201) 560-0606 or click here to get in touch via email and book your spot today.
Not only can we make sure your child or teen’s teeth are healthy, but we can also make sure they look their best — while avoiding the anxiety so many people develop about going to the dentist. Our office leverages the latest technology and pain-free dental practices to keep your whole family happy to come back.