Dr. Swati Singh
Dr. Swati Singh
February is National Children's Dental Health Month, an opportunity for parents of toddlers and young children to explore questions about keeping your child's teeth clean, their first dental visit or how to protect their smiles.

Dr. Swati Singh, a dentist at Smiling Kids Pediatric Dentistry in Noblesville, said it is important for parents to understand the real facts behind their kids' dental health to help them avoid complicated dental procedures in the future.

First tooth equals first visit: It is recommended that parents take their children to a pediatric dentist at the sprouting of the first tooth, which normally happens at about six or seven months of age. Although some may believe it is not necessary to emphasize dental habits until a full mouth of teeth, baby teeth act as placeholders for the permanent ones.

"Not only do these 'primary' or baby teeth help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt," Singh said. "In addition, these initial visits help build a trusting child-dentist relationship, and establish a dental home for your child."

Selecting Dr. Right: Parents are quick to select pediatricians to care for their children. But what many parents don't realize is selecting a pediatric dentist is also key to maintaining a high level of health, as tooth decay can negatively impact a child's overall quality of life, inhibit their cognitive and social development and compromise their growth, function and self-esteem. Finding the perfect dentist might seem like a daunting task, but there are a couple of ways to ensure you child's teeth are in the right hands.

"While a general dentist or family dentist might seem like a perfect one-stop-dental-shop, these professionals only require one month of training in the basics of children's dentistry," Singh said. "Parents should look into scheduling an appointment with a pediatric dentist, as they complete an additional two or three years of trainings that enable them to better care for children's developing teeth."

Make brushing a habit: Helping children establish good, life-long dental habits from the beginning is crucial and starts with proper brushing habits.

Starting at birth, clean your child's gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice a day using fluoridated toothpaste with an age-appropriate toothbrush. Use a smear of toothpaste for a child less than 2 years of age. For children anywhere from 2-to-5-years of age, dispense a pea size amount of toothpaste and assist with child with brushing.

"Getting your kid to brush consistently can be a challenge, but we encourage parents to get creative and turn it into a fun experience for their child," said Singh. "Just remember that the main goal is to ensure your home is an encouraging environment that supports your child's proper dental hygiene and reinforces the countless reasons why daily dental care is so vital."

Snacking and tooth decay: Dental tooth decay is the #1 chronic childhood disease worldwide and is four times more common than asthma. Today, tooth decay is found in 20 percent of children ages 4 to 5, with 86 percent having some form of tooth decay by age 17. But it can be easy to prevent, as long as parents understand which foods and drinks are best for children's dental health.

"If you're unsure what food or drink is appropriate, ask for your pediatric dentist hygienist to provide a list of foods that are good for the prevention of tooth erosion and decay," said Singh. "Parents can also try limiting your child to one to two sugary drinks, desserts or candies per day."

This information can help parents lead their children toward a path to a healthy and bright smile. For more information on a child's dental needs or tips from Dr. Singh, visit www.smilingkidsnoblesville.com.