Parent’s Guide to Dental Safety
As a parent, you want to keep your child safe -- which is no small task! When it comes to dental safety alone, there are plenty of potential hazards to avoid. A dental emergency can range from a broken tooth to a knocked-out tooth or a toothache, each of which can be caused by a number of things depending on your child's age and activities. The good news is that there is a lot you can do along the way to protect your child's mouth, teeth and gums from harm. Here is an overview of what you can do to ensure your child's dental safety at every age.
Infants and Toddlers
Little ones fall a lot as they learn to navigate their way in the world, putting them at risk for a broken tooth or a cut or bitten tongue, lip or cheek. Their small size means they have unique needs and are at risk for dangers older kids aren't. To guard your child's dental safety:
- Child-proof your home. Do not let your child walk around carrying a bottle or sippy cup; unsteady walkers could injure their teeth or gums during a fall.
- Keep any mouthwash (and all other fluids, for that matter) out of the reach of children. The alcohol content in most mouthwashes can be toxic to small children.
- Pick an age-appropriate toothbrush that is the right size for your child's mouth. Do not share your child's toothbrush with anyone else.
- Choose a fluoride-free toothpaste to prevent dental fluorosis. Little kids often swallow toothpaste and too much fluoride can discolor children's permanent teeth.
School Age Kids
Accidents from sports and outdoor activities such as skateboarding are common for this age group, as are cavities. To keep your child's dental safety in check:
- Make sure your child wears a mouthguard while playing sports. Kids should also be wearing a mouthguard (plus pads and a helmet) when rollerblading, skateboarding, scootering and bicycling.
- Consider dental sealants for added protection against dental cavities. The procedure is quick and usually pain-free.
- Don't yank loose baby teeth. It could cause unnecessary pain, an infection or bleeding. If a tooth is extremely loose, use a clean damp gauze pad to firmly tug on the tooth. If it doesn't come out right away, leave it alone.
- Prevent unnecessary toothaches by visiting the dentist every six months. Ask the dentist for age-appropriate ways to assure your child's dental safety.
Good nutrition and oral hygiene tend to fall by the wayside during the teen years, even though teens are more concerned with their appearance than ever. To safeguard your teen's dental safety, talk to your child about the need to:
- Take caution with teeth whitening products. Before using any over-the-counter dental products, talk to your dentist. Many of these products are safe, but knowing how to use them safely is key to preventing painful side effects.
- Keep oral piercings clean. Common dental problems linked to tongue piercings include pain, chipped teeth and infections. To prevent bacteria from building up, clean your piercing after every meal. Remove the piercing at night and brush it to remove dental plaque.
- Cut back on soda. The sugar in soda can cause dental cavities and the phosphoric acid blocks the absorption of calcium, weakening your teeth. Use a straw to drink soda and rinse your mouth out with water after drinking any. Better yet, opt for fluoridated water instead.
- Get back to dental care basics. Brush and floss regularly and see a dentist twice a year. This is the best way to protect against cavities and to help reverse the effects of gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease.
Despite even your best efforts at dental safety, accidents do happen. When they do, call your dentist right away.