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Most parents know good dental health is vital for overall health, especially for children, but a recent survey from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry found that 74 percent of U.S. parents aren’t following guidelines recommended by the AAPD. Cavaties are also the most prevelant childhood disease, the organization emphasizes.

Dentists stress that regular check ups with for children, along with a good bit of precaution, can make a big difference for kids of all ages.

Even before those first teeth erupt, parents should wipe their baby’s gums with a wet washcloth to rid the mouth of build up and sugars. Of course, never put a baby to bed with a bottle either. The AAPD recommends children begin seeing a dentist by their first birthday.

Dr. Camille Horton, who runs Issaqueena Pediatric Dentistry in Clemson and Seneca, said it’s important for kids to understand the routine of seeing a dentist twice annually.

“This helps a child begin early routine visits which can ultimately make them more comfortable at a younger age,” she notes.

Toddlers go through a lot of growing pains, and that includes in their mouths as well. At this age, showing a child how to brush their teeth is important, but parents should make sure they’re checking behind their children to make sure their kids are cleaning all the hard to reach places. At this point, parents can begin flossing their toddler’s teeth as well.

More: AAPD: Most parents don’t follow dental guidelines

“Many children in this stage can be more resistant to having their parents brush their teeth, so we offer tips on how to deal with these changes,” Horton said.

She also recommends that parents limit the amount of juice given to children, as the sugar can do damage to their teeth. Toddlers are also more prone to dental trauma, and a pediatric dentist can give advice on how to avoid trauma or help in the event that something does happen.

School-age children should brush and floss twice a day, with parents helping with younger ones. Children who participate in sports should wear the appropriate mouth guard to protect the teeth. This is also the time for parents and dental experts to pay attention to tooth alignment and decide if the child will need to visit an orthodontist.

Horton suggested that parents invest in toothbrushes with a two-minute timer so their children will know how long to brush. She also recommended the use of toothpastes or rinses that would color plaque so children would know more specific places to brush.

Tooth care doesn’t end when kids become teens. Teenagers involved in sports need to continue to use mouthguards to keep permanent teeth safe. Maintaining a healthy diet and healthy brushing and flossing habits is also important.

Dentists should also keep track of wisdom teeth eruption in teenagers and determine if the teeth will need to be extracted or not. This is also the time for braces if they are needed.

Over all the ages and stages, pediatric dentists recommend that parents keep encouraging their children to make good habits and choices when it comes to their teeth. Parents should also set a good example by letting their children see them with good dental health practices. And having a dental home where a child of any age can be comfortable is also important.

“It’s an opportunity for a pediatric dentist to teach a parent,” Horton said.

Pediatric dentists specialize in children, and many, like Dr. Horton’s office, will offer patients to come in for a ‘happy visit’ where a child can tour the office and sit in an exam chair without anything invasive happening. This allows kids to feel comfortable with the surroundings before anybody starts poking in their mouth.

To find a pediatric dentist that’s right for you and your family, ask local friends for recommendations. Most people are willing to share the names of excellent dental providers.

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