6 Questions About the Oral Health of Children

When it comes to taking care of the oral health of children, parents may have some doubts. In this article, we'll clarify the most common.
6 Questions About the Oral Health of Children

Last update: 02 August, 2022

From the moment you become a parent, concerns about how best to care for your child become a new reality. Therefore, it’s common when it comes to taking care of little ones’ mouths for doubts about the oral health of children to arise.

In this article, we’ll tell you the most frequently asked questions by parents about the oral health of children, so that you can take care of your little one’s oral cavity in the right way. Keep reading!

1. At what age do they start brushing their teeth?

One of the most frequent doubts about the oral health of children is when it’s the right time to start cleaning their mouths. You should know that the earlier you start, the better it will be.

It’s best to clean your baby’s mouth even before the first teeth appear, as bacteria and milk residues can accumulate on the oral surfaces. In addition, sanitizing the oral cavity from an early age helps to familiarize the little one with this habit.

“It’s essential for oral hygiene to be a habit from childhood in order to avoid the appearance of dental and gum problems, such as cavities, periodontal disease, or even tooth loss.

-UNICEF-

It’s best to clean the baby’s mouth by wrapping your finger in a clean gauze pad moistened with water. Rub the gums and tongue with the gauze.

Once the first teeth appear in the mouth, you’ll need to use a toothbrush. There are different models specially designed for babies and small children, with small heads and soft bristles.

Adults should be in charge of cleaning their children’s teeth every day, at least twice a day. Care should be taken to clean all tooth surfaces of each tooth in the mouth. Between the ages of 6 and 8, children can begin to brush by themselves, although adults should accompany and supervise the process.

Experts suggest using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste to prevent cavities. In the beginning, only a minimal dose, similar to the size of a grain of rice, should be used. When the child begins to spit, it can be increased to an amount similar to that of a pea.

A toddler learning how to brush his teeth.
Prevention of oral disease includes routine six-monthly or annual check-ups with a pediatric dentist. This way, tooth eruption can be monitored and any oral health problems can be prevented.

2. When to visit a pediatric dentist for the first time?

The first visit to the dentist should take place before the baby’s first birthday when the first teeth appear. They should be repeated every six months or as often as the pediatric dentist recommends.

Starting the visits at an early age allows the professional to evaluate the growth and development of the jaws and to follow up on the eruption of the teeth. Also, it allows for early detection of any anomaly, disease, or habit that affects the oral health of children in order to seek timely treatment.

Also, visiting the pediatric dentist from an early age helps the child to bond better with the professional, the office, and the dynamics of this type of care. Parents can clear up all their doubts during these consultations and learn about the necessary care to keep their child’s mouth healthy.

3. Do baby teeth get sick?

If cavities affect baby teeth is another common doubt about children’s oral health. This disease, which is common throughout the world’s population, attacks both permanent and primary teeth. That’s why it’s so important to take care of them from the beginning.

When the disease affects infants and young children, it’s known as baby bottle tooth decay or early childhood cavities It’s characterized by the rapid destruction of the temporary teeth and occurs as a consequence of inadequate or non-existent dental hygiene, combined with a high consumption of sugars. The use of bottles with sweet drinks and the permanence of these substances on the tooth surfaces lead to the development of the disease in infants.

You should know that baby teeth play a very important role in the development of children. They help in the chewing and swallowing of food, intervene in speech and pronunciation, and influence the appearance of the smile. In addition, they favor the correct development of the jaws and save space for the permanent teeth. They even guide their eruption.

For all these reasons, it’s essential to protect the temporary teeth and prevent them from becoming diseased. And if this happens, it’s necessary to treat them in order to keep them in the mouth until they fall out on their own. If this isn’t done, there’s a risk of suffering serious complications such as pain, infections, premature loss, and malocclusions.

4. What foods cause cavities?

Food plays a fundamental role in the correct development of children. Taking care of their diet from an early age, including the incorporation of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy products, and legumes, favors the maintenance of good health.

This also brings benefits to the oral cavity, as an adequate supply of vitamins, minerals, calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride helps to build strong and resistant teeth.

But when it comes to feeding children, many parents have doubts about which foods affect the oral health of children the most. Sweets and refined sugars are the most harmful to the mouth. Sweets, carbonated beverages, juices, soft drinks, pastries, and snacks are some examples.

Bacteria in the mouth take advantage of sugar in the diet and, when metabolized, produce acids that destroy hard tissues. Therefore, a diet with a high presence of this sweet substance predisposes children to suffer cavities.

During childhood, it’s important to manage those sweets that children usually prefer responsibly. And while it’s best to avoid them, if you choose to offer them, it should be done infrequently and on special occasions.

It’s also crucial that the intake of these items is done at one time of day and not various times. It’s also important to brush the teeth well after eating them.

5. Should fluoride be applied to the teeth?

You may have heard about fluoride and have doubts about its benefits for the oral health of children. You should know that the use of this element in the oral cavity helps prevent cavities.

The action of fluoride ingested through food and water has a beneficial effect during the formation of teeth. That’s to say, it only acts in children when the dental elements haven’t yet emerged.

At this stage, its important to be careful with the amount of the mineral ingested, as an excess of the element could lead to fluorosis.

On the other hand, the action of topical fluoride (direct application on the oral surfaces) is one of the most beneficial practices. The element in question combines with the minerals in the tooth and ensures a tooth surface that’s more resistant to acids caused by bacteria. In addition, its presence in the oral environment reduces bacterial proliferation and aggregation.

Fluoride is incorporated on a daily basis, through the use of fluoride toothpastes. But pay attention to the dosage according to the age of the child, because as we said, the excess of its use or accidental ingestion can cause unwanted effects.

In addition to this, the dentist can perform topications with fluoride varnishes or gels in the dental office. In general, they’re performed every 6 months as a preventive measure, although they can be more frequent, depending on the case.

Finally, depending on the risk of cavities in the child, the dentist may suggest the use of special pastes with a higher concentration of the element or mouthwashes.

A toddler girl brushing her teeth by the sink.
Children should use fluoride pastes in every toothbrushing, but sometimes this alone is not enough. Consult your pediatrician to provide the best care for your child’s mouth.

6. What are dental sealants and how do they influence the oral health of children?

Dental sealants are a preventive measure used on children’s healthy molars to avoid cavities. It consists of placing a thin layer of a special material on the rough and deep surfaces of the teeth.

This technique is used to fill areas that are difficult to clean, where plaque usually accumulates. Therefore, a protective barrier is formed on the molars, which favors their hygiene and reduces the risk of disease.

In general, they’re applied on permanent molars, as soon as they finish erupting: Around 6 years of age and then at 12 years of age. But in some cases of higher risk, they can be used on premolars, temporary teeth, or other elements with some anatomical defect that retains bacteria. Their application is simple, quick, and painless and doesn’t require anesthesia.

Clearing doubts about the oral health of children

The best way to take care of the oral health of children is to be informed about what to do. Seeking answers to your doubts allows you to take care of them responsibly.

Visiting a pediatric dentist is one of the best strategies for knowing what to do and for answering any questions that may arise. The professional will explain how to take care of your child’s mouth and will accompany you in the process.

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