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Many myths still exist about dental care for young children. The standard of care calls for a child’s first visit to the dentist at twelve months of age. Many parents find this quite difficult to adhere to. In our practice, we normally like to initially examine children between eighteen and 24 months. Of course, if parents notice irregularities, we will see the child at any time.

Preventive dental care, both at home and dental office, is the key to limiting future dental problems. Here are some tips for home care prior to your child’s first visit:

  • Teeth should be cleaned on a daily basis as soon as they begin to erupt.
  • A soft, end-rounded nylon-bristled toothbrush (many brands available) should be used in a circular motion with half the brush on the teeth and half the brush on the gums.
  • A small amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used (half a small pea size) is more than adequate. The topical effect of the fluoride will help make the teeth more cavity resistant. The amount that may be swallowed is so small, that there will be no consequential effects.
  • The child should be lying down in a lap, on a couch or bed, so that the head can be supported. Please remember that children up until age 7 to 8 do not have the dexterity to brush or floss efficiently by themselves. Therefore, a parent must complete this task.
  • We prefer this to be completed prior to bedtime as salivary flow at night is decreased.

At times, we commonly hear this phrase, “He/she won’t let me brush their teeth.” This is not an option. Time of day may be an option as dental plaque should be removed every 24 hours.

Fifty percent of three-year-olds in America already have dental decay. In addition, tooth decay is the number one chronic illness in the United States and is the number one reason children miss school. As we all know, children cannot learn when they are in pain.

In upcoming articles, we will discuss the use of the bottle, sippy cups, pacifiers, and what to expect at your child’s first visit. Stay tuned.

Dr. Allen H. Vean, DMD is a pediatric dentist at Cody Dental Group in Denver, CO.