Next Steps: Dental Care for Children 1–4 Years Old

At Kids Dental we recommend that a child’s first dental visit take place at about 12 months of age, or soon after the first baby teeth appear. This is an ideal time for our team to evaluate your child’s oral, dental and nutritional health, as well as to diagnose any existing or potential problems.

What You Need to Know

Examination of the infant 6 months after the first tooth erupts and at no later than 12 months of age, allows our team to intervene before oral health is compromised by poor oral hygiene (cleaning) or improper feeding habits.

During these first visits, early signs of childhood caries cavities such as “white spot” lesions at the necks and inside surfaces of the upper front teeth can also be detected. These are white, chalky areas on the front teeth, close to the gum line called decalcifications. They are caused by acid producing bacteria and are the main cause of cavities.

Oral hygiene techniques may be modified depending on your child’s age. For very young infants, the gums and teeth need to be cleaned once or twice a day with a piece of clean gauze. Babies should be introduced to the toothbrush around the age of one. At around two years a small pea-sized drop of children’s toothpaste can be applied to the toddler’s toothbrush.

Brushing baby teeth can be quite challenging and some creative approaches such as “taking turns” for “rewards” may need to be used. The good news is that the initial brushing attempts need only last a few seconds.

Your child’s first visit

At your child’s first visit, we’ll invite him or her into the magical world of Kids Dental. This will include a stop in Grinich Village, our interactive child waiting and play area that features a child’s view of dental health and wellness. After that, your child will journey through to one of our captivating, child-centred examination areas. During the first visit, we’ll:

  • Inquire about your child’s medical history.
  • Learn about your child’s dietary and eating habits.
  • Assess the need for fluoride supplements.
  • Evaluate the child’s oral hygiene.
  • Examine the mouth for dental caries or other problems.
  • Perform a caries risk assessment.
  • Implement age appropriate cleaning techniques.
  • Introduce the concept of wellness and what it means to your child’s health.
  • Provide guidance for injury prevention.
  • Prepare to provide preventive, interceptive or restorative services.

What you need to do

  • Book your child’s first visit to Kids Dental 6 months after the first tooth erupts and no later than 12 months of age.
  • Prepare your child for the visit by focusing on the positive and by engaging your child as much as possible into your and their oral hygiene routine.
  • Don’t let your child in on any negative feelings or fears you might have about going to the dentist. Frankly, they’re going to have so much fun once they visit Kids Dental that you may have trouble getting them to leave!
  • Prepare a list of any questions or concerns you might have before the visit.
  • Let our receptionist know that it’s your child’s first visit when you arrive.
  • After the first visit, make your child’s next appointment according to the schedule we recommend. If your child has special health care needs, we may recommend more frequent appointments based on your child needs or susceptibility to disease as well as special equipment to assist you and your child with his or her oral hygiene.
  • For children under 2 – brush teeth with plain water after breakfast and at bedtime. If your child’s at increased risk for tooth decay, talk to your dentist or doctor about having your child brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • For children 2 and over – brush teeth after breakfast and at bedtime with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Make sure the child spits out the toothpaste after brushing but doesn’t rinse with water. Fluoride left in the mouth can help prevent tooth decay.
  • Parents should assist children with tooth brushing to make sure that plaque is removed. Children need this help until their fine motor skills are more developed at about age 7.
  • Check your child’s gums and teeth regularly (about once a month) so you know what the normal appearance of his or her mouth is.
  • Talk to your dentist or doctor about the need to give your child fluoride supplements. This may be necessary for a child with an increased risk of tooth decay or if the level of fluoride in the drinking water source is low.
  • Dental sealants should also be discussed with your child’s dentist or doctor. Sealant is a thin plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surface of primary chewing teeth and are recommended shortly after the teeth erupt.
  • Sore gums due to teething can be soothed with a clean teething ring, cold spoon, cold wet cloth or appropriate pain medicine.
  • Avoid sharing eating utensils or orally cleaning (with your saliva) a pacifier or bottle nipple. This helps prevent passing on any bacteria that can cause tooth decay to your child.
  • It’s a good practice to have your child drinking from a cup by the age of 12 to 14 months.
  • Never put your child to sleep with a bottle or sippy cup.
  • Limit your child’s consumption of any beverages that are high in sugar as well as lengthy feedings of formula or any sugary fluids that can promote tooth decay.
  • Promote healthy eating as much as possible with planned meals and snacks that are appropriate for your child’s age – fruit vegetables, whole grain and unsweetened dairy products are all good choices.
  • Only serve foods containing sugar at meal times and limit the consumption of foods that stick to the teeth such as fruit rollups and dried fruit.
  • Ply your child with fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.
  • Limit fruit juice consumption, best served in a cup, to 4 to 6 oz. per day. Real fruit juice is always best.
  • Encourage water or milk between meals.
  • Drink fluoridated water – either from your community water source or bottled at a concentration of approximately 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L (ppm).

If your young child is using a pacifier:

  • Never attach the pacifier with a ribbon or string
  • Make sure the pacifier is sturdy, one piece and flexible (not brittle)
  • Clean at all times – Use water not your saliva
  • Never dip the pacifier in sweetened foods

Take steps to reduce the risk of injury to your child’s growing teeth:

  • Be mindful that injuries to the head, face and neck are common in children
  • Do what you can to minimize your child’s risk of an oral injury and know what to do if an injury should occur
  • Never attempt to reinsert a primary tooth that has fallen out
  • Use an age-appropriate infant/car seat at all times
  • Don’t place a child of any age in a shopping cart
  • Use safety locks on cabinets
  • Keep pet food and dishes out of reach
  • Keep appliances and dangling cords out of your child’s reach
  • Lock doors and safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs
  • Always secure and childproof windows above the ground floor
  • Help your young toddler on stairs and when climbing on and off furniture
  • Keep toys with small, removable parts out of reach
  • Keep an eye out to ensure that equipment at playgrounds you visit are properly maintained and that equipment is surrounded by a soft surface such as sand, wood chips, mulch or rubber mats
  • Supervise your child’s playground activities and make sure they are only playing on equipment and play structures or with toys that are right for their age
  • Make sure your child always has a helmet on when cycling (even tricycles), scooting or boarding of any kind
  • Put emergency contact numbers in a prominent place so you or any caregivers can get to them right away.

If you haven’t already done so, call Kids Dental today to arrange your child’s next dental exam. See the section on dental care for children 5 – 10 years to find out how you can continue to help ensure the best dental health for your growing child.