Taking care of teeth and gums is vital to a child’s long-term health. Baby teeth are important because not only do they help children learn to speak and chew naturally, but they also hold the place for permanent teeth. But baby teeth are particularly sensitive to decay, which can affect the development of permanent teeth. So it’s important to learn how to care for your child’s teeth before that first tooth arrives. Help your child have a healthy smile by following these tips.
- Get into the habit of cleaning your baby’s gums using a clean, damp cloth. No toothpaste is needed—plain water will do the job just fine.
- Once your child has teeth, you can use a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste—about the size of a grain of rice for children under 3 and a "pea-sized" amount for children older than 3. It's important to use the correct amount because too much fluoride can cause white spots to appear on your child’s teeth.
- Always use a toothbrush with soft bristles. And as soon as your child has two teeth that are touching, it’s time to introduce dental floss. (Look for flossing picks and other products designed especially for kids.)
Teach the Right Technique
- Help your child brush their teeth at least twice a day—especially after breakfast and before bedtime. You will need to brush for them until they are old enough to handle the toothbrush on their own, usually around the age of 6. Even then, it’s a good idea to supervise to be sure your child is brushing thoroughly and using the right amount of toothpaste.
- Remind your child that it’s important to clean all teeth, not just those up front. Brush all tooth surfaces (top, front and back), using short, gentle strokes. Pay special attention to back teeth and along the gum line, turning the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle.
- Teach your child to take their time when cleaning teeth. They should brush for at least two to three minutes.
- And don’t forget to brush their tongue to remove bacteria and keep breath fresh.
Make Brushing Fun
- Let your child “practice” brushing on a favorite doll or stuffed animal. You might even let them try brushing your teeth.
- Get into the habit of brushing together, demonstrating proper technique and talking about the importance of dental health.
- Set a timer or have your child brush along to a special song to be sure they are brushing for at least two to three minutes at a time.
- Let your child help choose a toothbrush in their favorite color or featuring their favorite cartoon character. You can also look for different flavors of toothpaste, as long as it contains fluoride.
Healthy Smiles for Life
- Talk to your child about the importance of good oral care, reminding them that dental health plays a key role in overall health.
- Encourage kids to eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugary snacks and sodas.
- Be sure your child always wears a mouth guard when playing sports.
- Take your child to the dentist regularly once they develop teeth (usually before their first birthday).