Advancing Children's Health

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Celebrating National Tooth Fairy Day

Published by , on Aug 22, 2013

pediatric dentistryToday is National Tooth Fairy Day – a perfect time to learn more about your child’s dental health. Tegwyn Brickhouse, DDS, PhD, a pediatric dentist at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, shares some tips on how to provide proper dental care for your child at any stage.From gums to the first toothDental care begins even before you child has teeth. Parents should use a soft, wet washcloth to care for and clean a child’s gums. Some companies even make finger washcloths specifically designed for infants. Parents can expect to see a first tooth, typically in the lower front, at 4-9 months of age. During this time, infants will want to chew on anything and everything. To help the teething process, try non-medicinal methods first, which include giving the child something clean and safe to chew on, like a teething ring. If plastics are of a concern to parents, give the child a clean cloth or burp rag to chew. Wet the cloth, squeeze out the excess water and throw it in the refrigerator or freezer as the chill will help relieve the irritation. For safety and to prevent choking, ensure that your baby is chewing on age-appropriate items without small parts.Brushing should begin with the first tooth. A small soft-bristled brush is fine to use without toothpaste. Check the package to determine which size is right for your child based on their age.“If your child can spit well and understands not to swallow the toothpaste, a small “schmear” of toothpaste can be used during brushing starting at age 2,” says Dr. Brickhouse. “However, do not use the large “swoosh” shown on most toothpaste commercials, as it can be too much for tiny mouths.”Even when your child is old enough to brush on his own, supervise the process to ensure the job is thorough and offer any needed assistance. A child’s first visit dental visit should be within six months of getting their first tooth. Dr. Brickhouse says that this is a common mistake parents make,“Many parents think their child does not need to go to the dentist until age 3, but taking your child to the dentist early can provide preventive care and guidance to keep a child from needing more serious dental care in the future,” says Dr. Brickhouse. “Preventative dental care starts by getting your child to the dentist at a young age.”Your dentist will determine how often your child should have dental check-ups and educate you on the best care for your child’s oral hygiene based on family history and your child’s unique needs. Talking to children about dental health at a young age can help prevent fear of the dentist’s office.Fluoride and flossingBottled and filtered water have become popular causing kids miss out on the benefits of the fluoride found in most tap water. When your child reaches 6 months, check your water for fluoride; if you find there is fluoride in your water, give your child tap water to help strengthen and protect their teeth. If your water does not contain fluoride, talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments, including fluoride varnish which can be applied by a dentist to help prevent tooth decay.Children should be introduced to the practice of flossing when they begin to grow teeth that touch, typically molars. Dr. Brickhouse suggests using a flossing stick, called a flosser, which makes it much easier for parents to floss their child’s teeth.Pacifiers and thumb suckingChildren should be weaned from both a pacifier and thumb sucking by age 3. If your child is having trouble breaking the habit, think of an alternative such as gifting the pacifier to a new baby, putting mittens or socks on his or her hands at bedtime or even using a habit appliance cemented in the child’s mouth to prevent thumb use. Speak to your child’s dentist or pediatrician can help with alternative methods if your child is having trouble weaning from this habit. Thumb sucking can affect teeth alignment and cause other dental problems. As soon as permanent teeth start coming in, thumb sucking can affect the upper jaw and bite, in addition to causing other issues.The Tooth FairyChildren start to lose baby teeth and have their first visit from the Tooth Fairy around age 6 when baby teeth start to make way for permanent adult teeth. In case you’re wondering, it is safe for children to wiggle out loose teeth using their tongue or a clean finger. However, there should be very little blood when a child pulls a loose tooth that is ready to come out. Don’t forget to encourage your kids to put the tooth under their pillow if the Tooth Fairy makes visits to your house!Is your child in need of a dentist appointment? Make one today! 

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