Oral health for children

September 21, 2011 2:09:03 PM PDT
The tooth brush was enough to convince 2 year old Dyondra McClear to stay in the dentist chair.CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT FREE DENTAL SCREENINGS THIS WEEK AT NYU SCHOOL OF DENTISTRY.

It's a visit that is so important to protect her new teeth.

Your child's first visit to the dentist should be when their first tooth comes out or at their first birthday, whichever comes first.

"Early childhood tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease," Dr. Amr Moursi, a pediatric dentist at the NYU College of Dentistry, says prevention is key.

First, avoid the constant bottle feeding and sippy cup. The sugar feeds the bacteria in the mouth.

"So their just bathing their mouth throughout the day with this milk or juice. That can turn into cavities very, very quickly," Moursi said.

If your child insists on a bottle at bedtime, fill it with water instead.

When it comes to eating, Moursi says limit the number of times any food goes into the mouth.

"The children who get a lot of cavities are children who snack throughout the day. That's what you want avoid," Moursi said.

For the thumb suckers like Dyondra it's a hard habit to break

"She sucks her thumb and it pushes out the 2 front teeth and she's getting an overbite," her mom, Tracy Ann Smith, said.

"Excessive use of the thumb or pacifier can distort the way the teeth come together. It can distort the growth of the jaw," Moursi said.

It can even create a callous on the thumb. The sooner they stop the better.

And even if your child only has 1 or 2 teeth, start brushing to keep them clean and get them into the habit early. "Focus on the gum line brush in the morning after breakfast and last thing before bed, and remember a pea size amount of toothpaste," Moursi said.

The recommendation is to start fluoride toothpaste at the age of 2. When can your child brush on their own? The rule is if they can tie their shoes by themselves, they're probably ready to brush their teeth themselves.

If your child is a thumb sucker, you can find advice for breaking that habit at http://www.ada.org/2977.aspx#top.