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N.C. Dentists: Get Your Child’s Teeth Off to a Healthy Start

Children’s baby teeth begin appearing as early as six months of age and are at risk of decay as soon as they do. “It’s best to start good oral health care early, as soon as these teeth erupt, to prevent cavities and ensure a healthy mouth,” says Dr. Skip Tyson a Wilmington, N.C., dentist.
What’s known as “baby bottle tooth decay” can occur with infants and toddlers unless parents take precautions. “This can occur when a baby’s teeth are exposed to drinks that contain sugar. Much of the time it’s due to putting the child to be with a bottle or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy infant,” says Dr. Tyson.
“It most often starts in the upper front teeth, but other teeth can be affected. In some cases, the decay is so severe that their teeth cannot be saved and must be removed,” adds Dr. Tyson. While such cases are rare, “we do see them in some of the N.C. Dental Society’s free children’s clinics, such as ‘Give Kids A Smile!’, in instances where access to regular dental care is lacking.”
“The good news is that tooth decay in young children is entirely preventable!” adds Dr. Tyson. “A sound program of oral hygiene including regular dental checkups is the best safeguard. The key is to start early.” Here are some recommended steps from Dr. Tyson :
• Begin cleaning your child’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist pad or wash cloth.
• When your child’s teeth begin to come in, brush them gently with a child-size tooth brush and water.
• For children older than 2, brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure they spit out the toothpaste. (Your dentist can help select a suitable product for your child)
• Until you are comfortable that your child can brush his or her own teeth, brush your child’s teeth twice a day. When your child has teeth that touch, you can begin flossing.
“Teething is one of childhood’s rituals,” says Dr. Tyson. “During the first few years of your child’s life all 20 baby teeth will push through the gums and most children will have their full set of teeth by age 3.” “As teeth erupt, children may become fussy or irritable. Some may have trouble sleeping and lose their appetite or drool more than usual. These are not causes for concern. If your child develops diarrhea, rashes or a fever or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, it’s best to call your physician.”
Dr. Tyson advises parents to schedule their child’s first dental visit no later than six months after their first tooth appears. Here are some tips:
• Consider making the appointment for the morning when children tend to be rested and cooperative.
• Keep your anxieties and concerns to yourself; these can be easily transmitted to children. Be positive.
• Never use a visit to the dentist as punishment or a threat. Never bribe your child.
• Talk with your child about visiting the dentist.
During the first visit, your child’s dentist will inspect for oral injuries, cavities or other problems and will tell the parent if the child is at risk for tooth decay.
“During this visit, the dentist or hygienist will clean your child’s teeth. The dentist will also offer advice on teething, pacifier use and finger- or thumb-sucking, as well as discussing future treatment and a next appointment.”
“The bottom line is that it’s good for parents to instill good oral health practices early in their child’s development to prevent future dental problems,” adds Dr. Tyson.
Additional information on children’s oral health can be found at or