Health for Young Children
By Ann Haffner, Parents as Teachers National Center
a toothless grin requires care. Parents as Teachers National Center
offers tips to parents on helping their children keep that winning
smile from the first day on.
dental health is important
It's never too early to start caring for one's teeth. Since tooth
decay can begin as soon as teeth first appear, parents are encouraged
to start caring for their children's teeth and gums early.
" Children need strong and healthy teeth to chew food and to
be able to speak clearly.
" Primary teeth or 'baby teeth' hold spaces and serve as a
guide for the permanent teeth that will come later. If a baby tooth
decays and is removed early, the permanent teeth may drift into
an empty space and come in crooked.
" The most important tip for parents is to be a good role model.
Children are more likely to pick-up a good habit if they see their
parents practicing and enjoying the behavior, too. Good oral hygiene
What parents can do to help
" Before your baby's teeth push through the gums, get in the
habit of wiping her gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad after
each feeding. Not only will this keep out bacteria but it may also
help alleviate some 'teething pains'. This will also help you and
your child get in the habit of keeping a clean mouth, leading to
less resistance as the child gets older.
" Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle of anything
other than water. Milk can pool around the baby's teeth and the
sugars can cause decay. To avoid spreading germs and bacteria, be
sure pacifiers are kept clean and never dipped into sweet liquids
or licked by someone other than the child.
" Once the teeth have erupted (usually between 6 to 12 months
of age), start brushing your child's teeth and gums with a child-size
soft bristle toothbrush and water twice a day. When your child is
old enough to be able to spit, begin adding a pea-size amount of
toothpaste to the brush. Flossing should start when the teeth begin
to touch. To help your toddler stay still while cleaning her teeth
sing a song or tell a story to distract her or make a game out of
brushing teeth to make the situation more enjoyable.
" Feed your child a healthy diet. Foods with calcium and fruits
and vegetables lead to strong bones and strong teeth. Limits should
be placed on sugary or starchy snacks and drinks.
" The American Dental Association recommends that parents take
their baby to the dentist as soon as the first tooth comes in or
at least by age 1. The dentist will then be able to give parents
advice early and it will get the child accustomed to visiting the
dentist, hopefully cutting down on fears and anxiety.
more child development and parenting information, parents are encouraged
to visit the Parents as Teachers National Center web site, at www.ParentsAsTeachers.org.
Parents as Teachers National Center
Based in St. Louis, Parents as Teachers National Center is the resource
base and backbone of Parents as Teachers, a parent education and
early childhood development program serving parents throughout pregnancy
until their child enters kindergarten, usually age 5. The nonprofit
National Center oversees more than 3,000 programs offering Parents
as Teachers services nationwide as well as in several other countries.
For more information about Parents as Teachers, visit www.ParentsAsTeachers.org.