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Proper Dental Care Begins With Baby Teeth

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
Mother brushing her smiling baby's teeth in bathroom

Healthy teeth are important to your child’s growth and development. They help your child eat and speak properly and smile with confidence.

The good news: Recent stats show that nearly 84% of children in Ohio had a dental visit in the past year.

The bad news: About 23% of U.S. children still get cavities before age 5. In fact, 52% of children 6 to 8 years of age, and 57% of youth 12 to 19 years of age have cavities. The total prevalence of dental cavities in youth 2 to 19 years of age in 2015 to 2017 was 45.8%, according to a recent article.

“Primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, hold space for permanent teeth,” explains Kelly Kirtland, DDS, Chief of Pediatric Dentistry at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “Keeping baby teeth healthy can also save children from the pain of a cavity—and the impact it may have on your child’s ability to learn, focus, and play.”

Care Should Start Before Teeth Develop

Most babies begin teething between 6 months and 12 months of age. But you can protect your child’s oral health from birth.

  • Don’t put your little one to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, sweetened water, or sugar-laden drinks that can promote tooth decay.
  • Wipe your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth after meals. Once you see teeth come in, brush gently with a soft baby toothbrush and rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Report any spots and stains on developing teeth to your child’s doctor or dentist.

Also, breastfeeding during your child’s first year may reduce their risk of future tooth decay by 50%.

Maintain a Healthy Mouth Through Childhood

All of your child’s baby teeth should come in by age 3. Follow these tips to keep them intact.

  • Visit the pediatric dentist between ages 6 months and 1 year, or when your child’s first tooth appears. Take them back as often as the dentist recommends—usually once every six months.
  • Feed your child a healthy diet. Think fruits and veggies instead of sugary cookies and candy.
  • Brush teeth twice a day. Use a smear of fluoride toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice until age 3. Then brush with a pea-sized drop of toothpaste. Please supervise brushing until age 8 or 9.
  • Please do not give your child gummy candies or sugary juices.

Know What to Do in Case of Emergency

Even when you take good care of teeth, emergencies may happen. When they do, visit your child’s dentist as soon as possible. If the dental office is not open, or in serious situations, go to an emergency department.

For a cracked tooth, rinse your child’s mouth out with warm water to clean the area. Keep the swelling down by using cold compresses on the face. Then, see a dentist right away. If your child bites their lip or tongue, carefully clean the area with water then apply a cold compress. If there’s a lot of blood or the bleeding won’t stop, visit the dentist or the emergency department.

If your child’s tooth is knocked out by a hard fall or something that might have caused a more serious injury, if possible, place the tooth back in the socket. If not, place the tooth in a cup with saliva or milk. Bring the child to the Emergency Room as soon as possible.

Related Links

UH Rainbow Pediatric Dentistry is specially designed just for children and staffed by pediatric dentists, dental residents and staff who are experts in the care of kids. Learn more.

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