Expert Offers Dental Care Tips

Dr. Richard Barnes, spokesman for the Tulare-Kings Dental Society, said parents can insure healthy teeth in their children if they provide consistent care. Here are some tips from him and the American Dental Association as to how to care for a child’s teeth.

The American Dental Association recommends taking a child to the dentist no later than his or her first birthday. Dr. Barnes said he likes to give a cleaning to all his patients before they are 4 years old. This gets the child accustomed to the dentist, and the dentist can also check for any problems. While it may seem premature to take a toddler to the dentist, Barnes said he has seen tooth decay in children as young as two.

Parents should brush their children’s teeth at least once a day as soon as they have teeth. Barnes said parents will often tell them that their child won’t let them brush their teeth, but he assures them that if they do it on a consistent basis, the children will eventually learn that it is part of their routine. Children age 6 and younger cannot do a good job brushing their own teeth, so parents must do it themselves.

Floss your child’s teeth at least once a day.

Use a toothpaste labeled “children’s toothpaste” or even just a wet toothbrush. “A wet toothbrush is a great way to brush your children’s teeth. That’s what I do for myself and my family,” Barnes said. In Tulare County, the water does not have fluoride, so Barnes said it is best to give children who live here a fluoride supplement.

Get rid of the pacifier by 2 years old. Even though some people may say it is OK for children to have a pacifier up until their adult teeth come in, Barnes said that isn’t true. The bones in the mouth will form around something like a pacifier or a thumb and cause problems later in life.

Avoid baby bottle mouth at all costs. This means never putting a child to bed with a bottle of formula or juice.

“Even if it is just one tablespoon of apple juice with water, when the child is asleep the liquid is pooling in their mouth and that attacks the teeth,” Barnes said.

This can cause severe tooth decay in very young children. Even though the children’s baby teeth will start falling out around age 6, Barnes said baby teeth are important as place holders for adult teeth, and dentists prefer not to extract baby teeth because of that.

Be an example. A parent who brushes and flosses their own teeth shows their children that it is an important part of hygiene, Barnes said.

Also, if a parent isn’t sure how to take care of their child’s teeth, they should take their child to the dentist and ask plenty of questions.