Children's Dental Health

school with a toothache, how hard it must be to concentrate. These are the things that have an effect beyond just our health, but on how we function in life."

Some of the first steps parents can take to ensure a healthy smile on their child are simple.

1. Begin early.
"Ah, so what? It's their baby teeth. They're going to fall out anyway." Plenty of parents don't realize that dental hygiene isn't just for people with teeth — the gums and baby teeth are placeholders for the permanent ones.

To prevent the buildup of plaque, parents should regularly start cleaning the gums of their newborn with a damp washcloth after feedings, Krol says. "The first trip to the dentist starts at the first birthday, but parents can start the conversation as soon as they start visiting the pediatrician, and when the first tooth appears, which is around six months, parents should start brushing it."

2. Get the right gear.
As much as we'd like to imagine, little children are not just small adults. "They're different," Lunden says. "Their bodies are growing, there's cell division going on." And as for their teeth, well, the enamel is much thinner than that on Mom and Dad's pearly whites.

That's why they need to use a toothbrush with a small head and extra-soft bristles, to prevent gum scratching, and only a pea-sized amount of non-fluoride toothpaste with each brushing.

"People don't realize that there's toothpaste specific to babies, and they let them use their toothpaste," Lunden says. "Babies and toddlers don't get it yet to swish and spit. It's just natural for them to swallow it. So, if they ingest a lot of fluoride, they can get fluorosis, which causes those little white or — worse yet — brown specks on their

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