Caring for Children’s Teeth
Early childhood is about learning, growing, and having fun, but for many children, it’s also a time for tooth decay. Tooth decay is the leading dental problem among preschoolers, and it’s also one of the most common chronic childhood health conditions in the United States.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, making it a great time for parents and caregivers to learn more about caring for their children’s teeth. By caring for young children’s teeth and teaching children proper oral care, parents and caregivers help ensure their children’s better overall, life-long health.
Why Are Baby Teeth Important?
Because primary (baby) teeth eventually fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth, parents many not understand why baby teeth matter. However, baby teeth are integral to children’s health and development. Baby teeth hold space for permanent teeth and help them come in straight. Children need their baby teeth to help them chew food, learn to speak properly, and smile. Decayed teeth can lead to severe pain, poor nutrition, and speech problems.
How Should Parents and Caregivers Care for Children’s Teeth?
- Start practicing oral hygiene even before your baby’s first teeth start to appear. Use a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad to wipe over your baby’s gums to remove any bacteria.
- Begin brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day as soon as they begin to come in. Use an infant toothbrush and a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice).
- Don’t put your baby or toddler to bed with a bottle. Children who are put to bed with a bottle containing naturally occurring or added sugars may develop a condition called baby bottle tooth decay because their teeth are bathed in sugary, decay-promoting liquid as they sleep. Bedtime bottles also pose a choking hazard.
dangers of putting a child to bed with a bottle of liquid containing sugar.
- Start flossing between your child’s teeth as soon as two teeth touch. Using a floss stick may be easier than using floss.
- For children ages 3 and older, increase to a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. Work to teach children not to swallow any toothpaste. When children swallow too much fluoride toothpaste, they can develop tooth discoloration and surface irregularities in their permanent teeth.
- Supervise children while brushing to ensure they brush twice a day, or as directed by their dentist, for 2 minutes. Ensure that all surfaces of front and back teeth are brushed. Also, make sure that children don’t use too much toothpaste or swallow any toothpaste.
Giant Toothbrush is a fun tool to teach proper brushing techniques.
- Be an oral care role model! Let your children watch you brush and floss your own teeth. They’ll understand that brushing teeth is part of the daily routine.
- Limit sugary drinks and snacks. Sugary foods and drinks promote tooth decay. Don’t allow children to have bottles and sippy cups with liquids containing sugar for prolonged periods. Brush children’s teeth after they consume sugary foods and drinks.
Display teaches children the essentials about caring for their teeth.
When Should Children Start Seeing a Dentist?
Children should visit the dentist when their first tooth appears or no later than their first birthday. Your child’s dentist can provide additional information about proper brushing and flossing, sealants, and fluoride treatments. Follow the recommendations of your child’s dentist, which will be tailored to your child’s particular oral health needs.
brushing and flossing with our Plaque Hunter™ Demonstration Model.
Learn More About Our Childhood Dental Health Education Materials
To discover more about our oral health education models and resources that can help teach parents, caregivers, and children about the importance of proper oral care, please visit our Parenting Section.
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