Despite their best efforts when trying to ensure their child’s teeth and gums remain healthy and strong, parents can find themselves making a number of common oral care mistakes that can inadvertently threaten their child’s long-term oral health. While these mistakes may seem harmless at first, they can slowly contribute to a growing oral health problem that could eventually cause their child to develop tooth decay, troubling eating, or a speech impediment.
While no parent would willingly jeopardize their child’s oral health, most common oral care mistakes result out of parents not realizing their actions present any kind of threat. To provide you with the knowledge needed to avoid causing damage to your child’s oral care, here are a few common mistakes parents make with their child’s oral health.
Not Visiting the Dentist Early Enough
Because a child’s baby teeth eventually fall out to make room for permanent teeth, many parents mistakenly believe it okay to postpone visiting the dentist until their child reaches the age of two or three. However, according to both the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents need to schedule their child’s first dental appointment by the age of one.
Scheduling early appointments allows Drs. Berger and Sheppard the chance to examine the development of your child’s teeth, while also looking for any early signs of tooth decay. Most pediatric dentists can tell by the age of four whether a child will need braces, and by spotting the signs of decay early, your dentist can repair any damage before it progresses. When left untreated, tooth decay may necessitate the use of dental crowns to repair a child’s teeth or, in some extreme cases, the removal of teeth too badly damaged by decay for repair.
One technique commonly used by parents to help settle down a fussy baby for a nap is to lay the child down with a bottle containing milk, formula, or sweetened juice. While this technique may indeed help your baby fall asleep, it can also cause serious damage to his or her oral health.
Laying a child down with a bottle as she fall asleep allows these type of sugary liquids to pool around her front teeth, which provides fuel for bacteria that thrive in the mouth. This type of mouth bacteria uses this fuel to produce acids that cause tooth decay. When left untreated, this type of dental disease can cause damage to your child’s long-term oral health.
Instead of lay your child down with a bottle, try providing him with a clean pacifier instead. When you do feed your child, make sure to thoroughly wipe his teeth and gums with a soft, clean cloth after each meal. Once your child develops multiple teeth, you should start clean his teeth with a child-sized brush after meals.
Not Giving the Pacifier the Heave-Ho
While using a pacifier during a child’s first year of life may help to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, long-term use of a pacifier can actually threaten a child’s oral health. If your child sucks too strongly on a pacifier, for example, the motion could affect how the top and bottom teeth align in the mouth and even alter the shape of a child’s mouth.
Pediatric dentists recommend that pacifiers only be used on infants, and not be given to toddlers to walk around with in their mouths. This means taking away the pacifier from your child by the age of two. If your child continues to demand a pacifier beyond the age of three, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends seeking a professional evaluation.