Pediatric Dental Guideline for Children 0-12 Years Old
As a parent, it can be easy to dismiss the importance of your child’s oral health while they still have their baby teeth or as their permanent teeth are just erupting. Knowing they’ll have another set of teeth that will grow in seemingly downplays the care needed, but your children’s dental health is important, even as a baby. Unhealthy teeth as a baby could lead to difficulties in chewing or speaking, and cavities in baby teeth are just as damaging as cavities in permanent teeth.
Children’s teeth change so much during these early years before their permanent teeth are established that it can be hard to keep up with the proper care at each stage. Here’s what you need to know about caring for your child’s teeth.
Dental Care for Children 0-3 Years Old
An infant’s first tooth typically appears after the first six to seven months. As they are teething, their gums are likely to be very sore. Some ways to alleviate this soreness include:
- Rubbing your baby’s gums with your finger.
- Letting your baby chew on a toothbrush or frozen wet washcloth.
- Giving your baby chilled teething rings.
- Talking to your doctor about giving your baby Tylenol or Ibuprofen if the other three suggestions aren’t alleviating pain.
Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth
Once a baby’s first teeth start appearing, you should start brushing. When you’re selecting a toothbrush, make sure to choose a brush with soft bristles and a small head. As you’re brushing their teeth, use a small amount of low-fluoride (less than 1000ppm) or a non-fluoridated toothpaste that’s about the size of a grain of rice, then increase to a pea-size amount of the fluoridated toothpaste once they turn three or when they are able to spit excess toothpaste into the sink. You should brush twice daily for optimal teeth care.
When to Take Your Baby to the Dentist
After the first tooth erupts, as you’re brushing your child’s teeth, keep watch on the condition of their teeth. If you notice any sort of decay or discoloration, such as brown spots or tooth pits, you should take your child to a pediatric dentist for an exam. Regardless of the condition of your child’s teeth, they should see a pediatric dentist somewhere between one and two years of age. Along with an exam, your pediatric dentist can also give expert advice on tooth care, teething problems, thumb habits, growth and development of teeth, and more.
Building Healthy Dental Habits
An infant or toddler’s dental health goes beyond teeth brushing to include habits such as diet, thumb sucking, and bedtime routines. Some habits to keep in mind include:
- Limiting your child’s excess sugar intake and encouraging them to drink water throughout the day to prevent cavities.
- Only giving your child water in their bottle or sippy cup before bedtime — breast milk, formula, and fruit juices all contain sugar.
- Preventing tooth misalignment from pacifier, thumb, or finger sucking. Children should stop using pacifiers by ages 2 and thumb or finger sucking by the age of 4 with positive reinforcement. Most kids are able to stop on their own, but not all.
Dental Best Practices for Children Ages 3-6
Your child should have all of their baby teeth by the time they’re 3 years old, with their first permanent tooth appearing around age 6, meaning these few years are important for maintaining healthy dental habits.
Tooth Brushing for Young Children
Your child can start brushing their own teeth once they’re old enough to hold a toothbrush, but brushing should be assisted by an adult for at least one brushing per day. They can continue using low-fluoride children’s toothpaste during these years and along with a soft bristle toothbrush. Brushing twice a day is still essential to good dental hygiene, and it’s especially important to brush before bedtime.
Healthy Habits for Good Oral Health
Similar to infants and toddlers, it’s important to limit sugar intake as much as possible in addition to preventing any tooth misalignments or accidents. Some habits to keep in mind include:
- Encouraging healthy snacks and water intake, steering away from sports drinks, juices, and sodas, as those contain high amounts of sugar.
- Ensuring your child has the proper sports gear. If your child is starting organized sports during these years, it’s important to use proper mouth guard protection to prevent any tooth-related accidents.
- Preventing tooth misalignment from sucking on a pacifier, thumbs, or fingers. Your child should have stopped using their pacifier by this time and should stop sucking on their thumbs or fingers by age 3 or 4.
Dental Guidelines for Children Ages 6-12
These teeth make up the set that your child will use for the rest of their life, so dental hygiene, as always, is essential during this stage as permanent teeth start to erupt.
The Eruption of Permanent Teeth
A child’s baby teeth typically fall out, with new permanent teeth growing in, starting around age 6 or 7. Your child will continue to lose baby teeth and grow their permanent set until around age 12. Typically, once a child starts losing their baby teeth this cycle will continue with around four new teeth every six months. Flossing at night is a great habit to initiate when a child’s permanent teeth come in. It is likely the child will need assistance until they develop the ability to do it independently.
Tooth Brushing for Ages 6-8
At this stage, it’s important for children to still get help from an adult for brushing their teeth. A parent or guardian should encourage proper brushing techniques and make sure they’re brushing thoroughly for about two minutes twice a day. The recommended amount of fluoride in their toothpaste is between 1350ppm and 1500ppm, which can be found in the ingredient information on the box.
Tooth Brushing for Ages 9-12
Children are old enough to start brushing their teeth on their own with supervision as needed for the recommended two minutes twice a day. At this point, your child is safe to use adult toothpaste rather than children’s toothpaste.
Lifelong Oral Hygiene Habits
As a child’s permanent teeth erupt, it’s important to continuously encourage general good habits. Some oral hygiene habits to keep in mind during this stage and throughout adulthood include:
- Drinking water throughout the day, especially after eating.
- Brushing twice daily, especially once before bed, and flossing at least once a day.
- Gently brushing your tongue as you brush your teeth.
- Limiting sugary and acidic foods and drinks.
- Scheduling regular dentist appointments. This may differ depending on your oral health, but it’s recommended to see your dentist every six months.
Schedule a Dental Appointment With Pediatric Dentistry
Whether you welcomed a new child or are looking for a new local dentist, Pediatric Dentistry will prioritize your child’s oral health. You can schedule an appointment with either our Des Moines or Ankeny office with our caring staff and qualified pediatric dentists. If your child is a first-time patient with us, we ask that you fill out our new patient form ahead of the scheduled time to make the process easier for everyone. We look forward to seeing you and your child at their next dental check-in!