Children can learn lifelong habits beginning at an early age. Establishing a routine beginning when your child is a baby or toddler will set him/her on a path to a lifetime of good oral health.
As your child grows their dental needs will change. This easy guide will help parents take care of their baby or toddler’s teeth and help them learn to care for their own teeth as they grow.
When to Start
Begin cleaning your child’s mouth when they are still an infant. This will create a daily routine for both you and your child. Use a soft damp washcloth to gently wipe the baby’s gums. This will remove any bacteria in the mouth that could cause issues as the baby teeth come in. Clean the baby’s gums after every meal and before naps and at bedtime.
Baby’s First Tooth
When the first tooth begins to appear, start using a soft bristle toothbrush. This will remove the harmful bacteria and let the baby get used to the feel of the toothbrush in their mouth. Choose a small toothbrush that has very soft bristles. If possible pick one with a long handle to make it easy to use.
When the first tooth has erupted through the gum, you may use a toothpaste that is intended for young children. Use a small amount, about the size of a grain of rice on a damp toothbrush. Clean around all sides of the tooth or teeth to make sure it is properly cleaned.
At One Year
As your baby’s first birthday approaches, it is time to make their first dental appointment, preferably a pediatric dentist who is specially trained to treat young children. The dentist will examine the child’s mouth, making sure the teeth are properly cleaned, and check the overall health of the mouth tissues.
At Three Years
At age three, you may begin using a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste (about the size of a pea) on the child’s teeth. Make sure they don’t swallow the toothpaste, if they still have problems spitting out the toothpaste continue using the toothpaste for young children. At this age you will still have to brush their teeth but you can begin to teach them how to do it themselves.
Learning to Brush their own Teeth
When a child is able to properly hold a toothbrush it is time to begin learning to brushing their own teeth. You will still need to supervise and help make sure all of the teeth have been properly brushed. This step is important for teaching a lifelong habit of brushing.
Time to Brush on Their Own
Children are usually ready to brush their teeth themselves when they have begun to write. Direct supervision will no longer be required, but checking to make sure they are brushing properly is recommended. Children at this age may get distracted or rush through brushing so they can go play.
Problems to Watch For
As your child grows it is important to keep an eye on the health of their teeth and gums. If you notice the child’s gums are red or are tender, or if there are any dark spots on your child’s teeth, or the teeth are yellow along the gum line you should take your child to the dentist for a dental exam.
Help your child learn and practice good oral hygiene by being a good role model.