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Understanding Your Child’s Oral Health Development

Understanding Your Child’s Oral Health Development

At Northfield Family Dental, our team of experienced children’s dentists know that many parents have a lot of questions regarding their kids’ oral health.

Every child achieves certain milestones as they continue in their development. Whether making the switch to solid foods, taking their first steps or mastering saying the word “no,” parents need to know an approximate age when each of these stages of development should occur.

Your child’s oral health also features a few milestones that parents need to be aware off so they can provide the type of oral care necessary to ensure their child’s development remains on track. Most parents have an understanding of what age a child should start walking and talking, but what about when their first tooth will arrive? When should parents start using toothpaste to brush their child’s teeth and what age should they start to floss?

So that you have a better idea of what to expect during your child’s oral health development, here are a few stages every parent should know.

Stage 1: 4 to 24 months

Plaque – a sticky biofilm that contributes to the development of tooth decay and gum disease – begins to develop in the mouth from a young age. This means that parents should start regularly cleaning their newborn’s gums with a damp washcloth following every type of feeding.

When a child’s first tooth emerges, parents should begin to brush their child’s teeth for two minutes twice a day. To make it comfortable for your child, you should use a baby-sized toothbrush that features a cushioned head. Additionally, parents should use a toothpaste that does not include fluoride when brushing their child’s teeth.

Once a child as two teeth that touch, parents need to start flossing.

At Northfield Family Dental, we follow the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s recommendation that a child’s first dental visit should be scheduled shortly after their first tooth emerges or by the age of one, whichever comes first. Parents should then schedule visits every six months like they do for their own oral health.

Stage 2: 2 to 4 years

Parents should switch to using a toothpaste that contains fluoride by the time their child reaches the age of two. Fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay caused by plaque. Parents should start to encourage their kids to brush their own teeth around the age of two as well. However, you should still follow up and brush them again to make sure the teeth are clean and free of food. Having your child brush gives them a sense of ownership over their oral health that will become important later when they’re able to take control over their brushing and flossing habits.

As your child gets better at brushing their own teeth, it’s important that parents continue to monitor their brushing until good habits are firmly established.  While brushing may seem like a chore to some kids, parents can use a number of different techniques to help better engage them. Brushing at the same time as your kids is one of the most successful ways parents can help stimulate their child’s desire to brush. By having brushing be a family activity, kids are more likely to take an active interest, especially when they can model their behavior after mommy or daddy.

At this age, it’s also important that parents set a good example for their kids. It’s easier for a child to hear how important brushing and flossing are to their oral health when they can see their parents taking the time to practice quality oral hygiene at home.

Stage 3: 5 to 7 years

Even though kids start to become fiercely independent at this age, most children still don’t possess the manual dexterity required to successfully brush and floss on their own. It’s not till the age of 7 – or when they can tie their own shoes – that kids begin to possess the ability to brush properly. Until that time, parents should continue to watch their kids brush, and then brush their teeth again to make sure the habit is done correctly.

Around this age, kids start to develop their permanent molars, which are areas most likely to be the breeding ground for plaque and dental decay. It’s important that parents focus on these areas when brushing to help prevent the development of cavities.

Stage 4: 8 and up

Once kids start school, parents begin to have less of an influence over the types of meals and snacks they enjoy during the day. Set an example yourself by eating a variety of healthy foods, while still making a consistent commitment to maintain your oral health. While you might think that kids won’t notice what you do, they actually do pay far more attention to their parents’ actions then you might think.

Whenever preparing your child’s lunch pack plenty of healthy snacks, and keep the number of sugary drinks your kids consume to a minimum. What a child eats during the day can have a significant impact on their oral health, as it will be several hours before they brush after lunch or a mid-afternoon snack. Sugary snacks and drinks during this time of day will have a greater impact than when consumed at dinner.

If you have questions about your child’s oral health development, make sure to ask the team at Northfield Family Dental during your next appointment. 


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