Good oral hygiene is critical – especially for children. But, quite often, many parents don’t know when and where to begin when it comes to their children’s dental care. With 2016 coming to an end, it’s a good time to use up those dental benefits and use those Flex Spending Account dollars before you lose them!
You may find it shocking to know that dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease – with more than 16 million kids suffering from untreated tooth decay in the U.S., according to The Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives. The Coalition estimates that in the U.S., oral disease causes kids to miss 51 million school hours and their parents to lose 25 million work hours annually.
Here is a basic dental care timeline to help guide parents as to what they should expect and when:
Baby Steps (0 – 6 months)
RELAX. There is no need to worry at this age.
Stop Teething Me! (6 months – 1 year old)
Begin Brushing. As soon as that first tooth breaks through, it’s time to start brushing. Using a baby tooth brush with soft bristles and only water, gently brush the teeth and the gums.
If you do not already have a family dentist, you should begin researching dentists in your area and you may even want to schedule an introductory meeting to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have.
Open Wide – First Trip to the Dentist (1-2 years old)
Your child’s first trip to the dentist doesn’t have to be traumatic. Leading up to the appointment you can prepare your little one by getting them excited about it. This is what generally goes on at a first appointment:
- The dentist counts your child’s teeth, making sure everything is developing properly.
- Oftentimes, their teeth can be cleaned to remove any plaque or stains – the kids usually enjoy this part!
- The best part of the visit – yummy fluoride paste to make baby teeth strong and resistant to decay.
- And a trip to the treasure chest for a prize!
A check-up every six months is recommended in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems.
X-Ray Vision (6 years old)
To make sure everything is progressing as it should, the dentist will recommend a panoramic x-ray. This type of x-ray shows the entire mouth, including the teeth that have not yet erupted. Using this image, the dentist can diagnose future problems years before they become apparent.
Seal the Deal – Sealants (6-7 years old)
To help prevent cavities, the dentist will recommend sealing your child’s 6 year-old molar teeth. Sealants work by filling in the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.
The Tooth Fairy Years – (7 – 11 years old) These are the years of great changes. Every time you look in your child’s mouth, there is another tooth that’s wiggly. In these years, most of your child’s teeth will change from baby teeth to permanent. Your dentist will carefully monitor their development, and may recommend orthodontic treatment at this age.
Sign, Sealed, Delivered (12 – 13 years old)
At about 12 years old, 2nd molars come out, and they need to be sealed just like the 6-year old molars were.
Uncharted Areas – Periodontal Charting (Late teens and into adulthood)
Periodontal charting is a procedure done to detect any signs of gum disease. Careful measurements of your gums are taken, watching for signs of inflammation, recession, and gum disease. 80% of adults have some form of gum disease, whether it is just gingivitis (bleeding gums) or actual deterioration of gum attachment and accompanying bone loss. Early detection of Periodontal or Gum Disease is critical in treating it.
Most importantly, children and adults should always maintain a regular schedule, visiting their dentist at least twice a year. In between visits, parents should establish and encourage a routine of brushing and flossing at least twice a day. With the proper dental care, you can insure the health of your teeth and gums for a lifetime.