From the toothless smiles of toddlers to the over-crowded grins of teenagers, the landscape of your child’s mouth will change dramatically as they age, but instilling good oral care habits early on will make sure their smile’s are healthy for life.
The most common oral diseases that affect children – even those as young as six months – are tooth decay and cavities, both of which form when sugary liquids are left in the mouth for too long, and the teeth are not cleaned. Parents are the first line of defense for a good oral health care routine.
Stage One: 0 – 6 months
Did you know that your baby’s teeth start to form as early as the sixth week of your pregnancy? A well-balanced diet that includes calcium-rich foods like yogurt and dark leafy greens will start her smile off right.
Once baby has arrived, you can begin an oral care routine: at the same time every day – bath-time is ideal, but especially after a nighttime feed – use a soft, clean wash cloth or finger brush to gently massage the inside of your baby’s mouth.
Stage Two: 6 – 24 months
At about six months (and often before), your baby will start teething. You can expect about 20 teeth in all.
Help relieve pain and discomfort from teething by offering her a teething ring that contains only water, and has been cooled in the fridge, a damp washcloth for him or her to chew on, and by massaging the gums with your clean finger or a baby washcloth.
Brush their teeth in a circular motion with water and a small, soft toothbrush twice a day for at least two minutes to remove sugar that can form plaque, which can lead to tooth decay. Once a month, check baby’s mouth by lifting their lip to look for chalky white or brown spots at the front and back of her teeth.
Encourage healthy snacking: opt for cheese, veggies, fruit, yogurt, and water or milk over juices and sugary pop or drinks.
Stage 3: 2 – 5
Continue encouraging your child to brush her teeth for two minutes twice a day using either a manual or power tooth brush with soft bristles. Once he or she is three years of age or can spit it out, you can introduce fluoride toothpaste. Health Canada recommends no more than a pea-sized amount under supervision until the age of 6.
Stage 4: 6 – 12
At this stage, your child’s baby teeth will start to fall and their adult teeth will start to appear. Adult teeth are usually larger and more yellow in colour, and will continue to erupt into your child’s teenage years. You should continue to monitor and help with brushing and flossing until they are eight or nine years old.
Some children may need specialized care to straighten out crooked teeth or correct teeth and jaws that do not fit together correctly. Talk to your dentist about a recommendation.