Get Questions About Your Children’s Dental Health Answered

Thursday, February 9, 2023
Get Questions About Your Children’s Dental Health Answered

Parents and other adult caregivers have questions about how to best support their children’s dental health. February, which the American Dental Association observes as National Children’s Dental Health Month, is a great time to get answers.

Our team at Penn Dental Medicine (PDM) includes some of the most skilled pediatric dentists in Philadelphia. Here are answers to some dental care questions often asked.

When Should My Child Get Their Baby Teeth?

Toddler stands at bathroom sink in front of mirror, practicing brushing his teeth.

Most infants’ baby teeth come in at about six months. All baby teeth should be in place by the child’s third birthday. If no baby teeth have appeared by 12-15 months, schedule a pediatric dental consultation.

How Can I Make My Child’s Teething Less Painful?

Teething children may fuss and drool, suck their fingers, have trouble sleeping, or lose appetite. To help ease these symptoms:

  • Use wet gauze or your clean finger to massage your baby’s gums.
  • Use Tylenol to relieve your baby’s pain.
    Over-the-counter acetaminophen is safe and effective. Don’t use topical anesthetics like benzocaine or lidocaine, which could lead to a rare but serious oxygen reduction in your baby’s blood. Also, avoid homeopathic teething gels and tablets containing belladonna, a poisonous plant.
  • Give your child a safe, sturdy teether.
    PDM recommends a one-piece teething ring made of firm rubber. Don’t use beaded teethers. Beads may be made of acidic material, which can harm your child’s oral health and become choking hazards.

Should I Worry If My Child Sucks Their Thumb?

Thumbsucking is natural. It can help children soothe themselves, fall asleep, and feel secure.

Some adults give children pacifiers. Choose orthodontic pacifiers. They allow for babies’ natural tongue thrust and are less likely to contribute to open bites.

Thumbsucking or pacifier use must stop by the time the child is age 2-4 to help avoid bad bites. Pediatric dentists can use a mouth appliance with older children to help them break the habit.

When Should I Start Brushing and Flossing My Child’s Teeth?

Start brushing your child’s teeth, twice a day, as soon as the first tooth comes in.

For children under age 2, use a smear of fluoride toothpaste the size of a rice grain. For children over age 2, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

As soon as your child’s teeth touch each other, start flossing them. Floss once or twice a week to help children build the habit. Use soft, colorful floss picks that are easy for young hands to hold.

Sometime between 18 months and 5 years old, children may want to start brushing by themselves. Encourage their sense of independence and let them try, but keep brushing their teeth after they do. They won’t fully develop the needed dexterity until age 7 or 8. Children will also need your help flossing even after they can brush on their own.

What Food and Drinks Are Best For My Children’s Dental Health?

At any age, too much starchy and sugary food and drink are bad for oral health and overall health.

Pediatric dentist wearing face mask and gloves holds hands out to smiling young girl wearing dental bib sitting on mother’s lap.To encourage your child’s healthy teeth and gums, choose nutrient-rich foods over energy-rich ones. Foods high in minerals like calcium and iron and vitamins B, C, and others all promote good oral health. Some of the best choices include:

  • Dairy products (such as white milk, yogurt, and cheese).
  • Leafy green vegetables (such as spinach, collard, and kale).
  • Whole grain bread and cereals.
  • Fruits (especially less acidic fruits such as bananas and blueberries).

Tap water is the best drink for teeth, especially when fluoridated. Fluoride strengthens enamel, helping prevent tooth decay. If your local water supply isn’t fluoridated, talk with your pediatric dentist about fluoride drops you can add to food.

Fruit juices and juice drinks contain large amounts of added sugar. Even 100% fruit juices contain natural sugars the mouth processes the same way it does added sugars. Children under age 2 should not drink juice. Older children can drink half-cup (4 fluid ounces) servings but should do so when eating. Chewing increases saliva, which naturally helps wash away sugary juice residue.

How Can I Get My Child Ready for Their First Dental Visit?

As soon as your child’s first tooth appears or no later than their first birthday, your child should visit a pediatric dentist, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Many children naturally feel nervous or afraid about their first dental visit. You can help prepare them by:

  • “Playing dentist” with them.
  • Watching a video or reading a book with them about a favorite character visiting the dentist.
  • Telling them what the dentist will do in simple language (“count your teeth,” “make your teeth sparkle and shine”).

How Can I Find a Philadelphia Pediatric Dentist I Can Trust?

Here at PDM, our pediatric dentists help children from the city and throughout the region get a start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

As you search for a pediatric dentistry practice in Philadelphia, be sure you’re asking the right questions. Download our free brochure, Must-Ask Questions for Your Child’s Dentist. It will help you make the best choices you can for your children’s dental health.

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