Tot Toothbrushes Promote Good Brushing Habits in Our Youth | Dr. Mark Sayed
Many parents don’t know that children’s teeth must be cleaned as soon as they start coming in. What they also may not know is that traditional toothbrushes may not be safe for toddlers to use themselves because they can be over inserted in the mouth or even swallowed. Orange County orthodontist Mark Sayed knows the importance of promoting healthy dental habits from an early age.
Today, safer toddler toothbrushes are available that prevent the buildup of plaque and bacteria. Using toddler toothbrushes can help children establish good oral health habits at an early age.
A dental hygienist designed and introduced the first toddler toothbrush in 1993. It resembles an oblong shaped teething toy, with one wide end for easy gripping and a narrow end with a small head of bristles. The shape prevents it from being over inserted in the mouth or swallowed, and some models have bumps around the gripping end on which infants can teeth.
Even before children’s primary teeth come in, parents should start promoting oral health in infants by wiping the baby’s mouth with a washcloth or gauze pad to prevent the build-up of plaque and bacteria.
It’s never too early for parents to encourage their youngsters to start using toddler toothbrushes. “As soon as they’re reaching and grabbing for things, they’re ready for it,” says Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Bob Roesch, DDS, MAGD. “It familiarizes children with having a toothbrush in their mouths, and they like to mimic their parents.”
“Parents need to be good role models,” says Dr. Roesch. “They need to take good care of their own teeth and make dental care part of the daily routine for the whole family. Adults should supervise children while brushing. Adults also should help children have fun with oral care by singing songs to keep them brushing longer or making brushing a game by naming the individual teeth being cleaned.”
How Do I Care for My Child’s Baby Teeth?
Though you lose them early in life, your primary teeth, also called baby teeth, are essential in the development and placement of your permanent teeth. Primary teeth maintain the spaces where permanent teeth will erupt and help develop proper speech patterns that would otherwise be difficult; without maintenance of these spaces, crowding and misalignment can occur, resulting in more complicated treatment later. Baby teeth also are primers for teaching your child good oral care habits. It is important to take care of your child’s primary teeth. Even though primary teeth last only a few years, decay, cavities and infection can take its toll and may require expensive treatment to repair.
When do baby teeth come in?
Your child’s primary teeth generally make their appearance when he or she is 6 or 7 months old, though it can occur as early as birth. There are 20 primary teeth, followed by 32 permanent teeth that will eventually replace them. Your child should have all of his or her primary teeth at age 3 and will keep them until age 5 or 6, when they begin to loosen and fall out. This process usually lasts until the child is 12 or 13. Primary teeth fall out because permanent teeth are pushing them, and by about age 14 children have 28 permanent teeth, plus four additional teeth, called wisdom teeth, that grow behind the permanent teeth in late adolescence.
What can relieve my child’s discomfort during teething?
Between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, your child may experience sore gums and general oral discomfort as primary teeth erupt. While some lucky children experience no apparent discomfort during eruption, many others do. Signs that eruption is causing discomfort in your child include crankiness, lack of appetite, excessive drooling, restless behavior, pink or red cheeks, coughing, upset stomach and the chewing or sucking of fingers and toys. There are ways you can bring your child relief. A cold, wet cloth for your baby to suck on can sooth gums. There are also teething accessories and toys your child can chew on to relieve discomfort. Thumb sucking also brings relief, however, dentists recommend this practice should cease upon the arrival of the first permanent teeth, so it does not interfere with the normal development of a child’s oral cavity.
Should loose primary teeth be pulled?
Losing primary teeth before they are ready to fall out can affect the proper positioning of the permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, other teeth may tip or fill in the vacant space, forcing permanent teeth to come in crooked. If a baby tooth is knocked out, see your dentist, who may recommend a space maintainer to reserve the gap until the permanent tooth comes in. In instances where a primary tooth is loose because of the emergence of a permanent tooth, have the child wiggle the tooth or eat something hard, such as an apple, to help it along. Once the shell of the tooth is disconnected from the root, the discomfort in extracting a loose primary tooth is minimal.
Updated: February 2007
The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is a non-profit organization of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patient’s oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at www.agd.org/public.
• 50 percent of children will have a cavity or filling between the ages of five and nine.
• Perceived healthy snacks such as fruit juice and milk can also be the source of cavities.
• The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) recommends parents schedule an appointment with a dentist as soon as the first tooth appears.