Introduce your infant to good oral hygiene from birth. Gently wipe Baby's mouth with a damp cloth after each feeding.
Once teeth have erupted, use a clean pinky finger to “brush” Baby's teeth and tongue. This also massages their gums, and most babies love it!
By the age of 1 year, dentists recommend weaning babies off of breast milk. They should be given milk from a sippy cup.
Don’t let Baby fall asleep on the breast or after bottle feeding. Minimize on-demand nighttime feeds. Clean Baby’s mouth and teeth after each feeding to remove milky residue.
Take your Baby for a first dental appointment by the first birthday. This is an introductory visit to sensitize children to the dental environment and build healthy rapport. Early introduction helps to minimize dental anxiety.
At these dental visits you may be asked about diet. The child’s erupting teeth, gums, and lip/tongue muscle attachments will be assessed. No x-rays will be taken; they are typically introduced between 4-5 years.
Choose a small, child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush.
Use fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice as soon as your baby's first tooth appears. Once the child turns 3, you may use a pea sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
Brush your child's teeth twice a day, in the morning and just before bed. Spend 2 minutes brushing, concentrating a good portion of this time on the back molars. This is an area where cavities often first develop.
Remember to brush along the gum line.
Gently brush the tongue to clean it, rinsing the brush afterwards.
Teach kids to spit out excess toothpaste, but not rinse their mouths after brushing. The fluoride in the paste will be absorbed and strengthen their teeth.
Children often want to take control while brushing, so take turns with your child.
Replace the toothbrush every 3 or 4 months, or sooner if it shows signs of wear. Never share a toothbrush with others.
Let older children enjoy selecting a new toothbrush.
Once your baby has two teeth touching one another, it is time to introduce flossing. Floss once a day, preferably right before bedtime. Do not let your child eat after s/he has flossed.
Use about 18” of waxed floss. Show your child how to curve into a “c” shape, gently moving up and down between each tooth to extract trapped food and plaque.
Teach them to floss gently, using a fresh piece of floss between each tooth to avoid transferring food and bacteria from one area to another.
It may be easier to use dental picks rather than floss.
Establishing Great Habits
Many parents find that a “Brush-Book-Bed” routine helps small children prepare for rest. Sugar Monster is a great tool to help kids understand the importance of caring for their teeth.
Teach toddlers and small children by modeling great oral health. Brush and floss your teeth together. It will help them feel like big kids!
Ditch the drama. Use a timer to mark the two minute metric.
Use a chart to track your young child’s habits. Reward them with a small toy or privilege after completion of 10 oral health activities.
As children get older, model great habits at home. Brush your teeth after every meal. If you’re snacking on the road, rinse your mouth with water to remove loose food particles and reduce acid buildup. Explain to your children why you are doing so.
Teach older children not to share other kids’ food, beverages, or utensils, to avoid the transfer of bacteria.
Motivate teenagers like the chewing gum companies do. Teach them the importance of fresh breath and a confident smile.
Talk about nutrition with your kids. It’s important to teach them why we make healthy choices.
Minimize exposure to sugar rich foods.
Candies aren’t the only food contributing to tooth decay. Avoid sticky “fruit” roll ups, chips, cookies, and any starchy food that converts to sugar.
Sodas are terrible for teeth because they are high in sugar, and full of acids that wear down enamel.
Juices should be given at meal times. Allow only water and milk between meals and at snack time.
Teach children to enjoy healthy snacks including nuts, cheese, yogurt, crunchy fruit and veggies.