Keeping your children’s teeth in great shape during their early years is a good way to ensure they have healthy teeth and gums as they grow into adults. By being proactive about their oral health, everyone wins. You could save them from a future of discomfort and missed school time, while saving yourself from lost work hours and expenses for costly dental treatments. Learn how to keep your children happy and their smile healthy.
Step 1: Take charge of your baby’s oral health1
During the early years, you play a huge role in maintaining the oral health of your little one because there isn’t much that he/she can do without assistance.
- Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums clean after each feeding. This prevents sugars and acids from milk and juice from pooling around the teeth, which can cause discoloration and decay called “baby bottle syndrome”.1
- If your child drinks before bedtime or a nap, try giving him/her water instead of milk or juice.
- Make an appointment for your child’s first visit to the dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends bringing your child to the dentist before his or her first birthday and then following up with appointments every six months.
Step 2: Let toddlers try
By age 3, children should be brushing their own teeth under adult supervision. 2
- Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- Start flossing your child's teeth daily when all the primary teeth are in or when teeth are touching each other.
- Don’t forget to visit the dentist twice a year.
Step 3: Build a foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits
By age 8, your child should be able to brush and floss alone, with occasional checks from you. 3
- Turn brushing and flossing into a twice a day routine.
- Make it fun by giving your child a colorful toothbrush and bubble gum-flavored floss.
Step 4: Reinforce the routine
Hopefully at this stage of life, your pre-teen or teenager has an established oral hygiene routine and visits the dentist twice a year.4
- It’s a good idea for parents to monitor brushing habits and nutrition.
- Encourage the use of mouth guards during sports.
- Strongly discourage smoking and oral piercings.
Children need a balanced diet to help their bodies — and teeth — develop.
- Make sure your child gets an adequate supply of calcium by eating calcium-rich foods to support the structure of the face and jaws and ensure strong teeth.
- Milk, yogurt and cheese are high in calcium and can inhibit the effects of harmful acids.
- Discourage snacks that are high in sugar or starch, as well as sticky foods that may remain in contact with teeth longer.
Dental sealants can stop cavities before they begin. Dental sealants:4
- Are a fast and painless way to protect your children from cavities.
- Are applied to the chewing surfaces of molars to act as a barrier between the tooth and harmful bacteria.
- Are most effective when applied to decay-susceptible biting surfaces as soon as the teeth come in.
- Can be applied by either your dentist or a registered dental hygienist, and application takes less time than having a tooth filled.
1Academy of General Dentistry. (2007). Does My Child Need to See a Pediatric Dentist? Retrieved from http://www.knowyourteeth.com
2 Academy of General Dentistry. (2007). Cavity Prevention for Preschoolers . Retrieved from http://www.knowyourteeth.com
3 Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center. (2011).Your child’s mouth. Retrieved from http://www.colgate.com
4 Academy of General Dentistry. (2012). Dental Sealants: Is My Child a Candidate? Retrieved from http://www.knowyourteeth.com
The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.