About 40 percent of children have tooth decay by age 5, reports the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Improper or infrequent brushing and flossing are the main causes. Proper oral care can prevent tooth decay, and you can start now to teach your child good habits. Here are a few tips to help you protect your child’s teeth.
A baby’s teeth will start popping through her gums after she turns six months old. But don’t wait until you see teeth to start caring for her mouth. BabyCenter recommends that you wipe a soft, moist cloth over her gums once a day. That practice removes bacteria and prepares her for the toothbrush that will soon be part of her self-care routine.
After the first teeth emerge, buy a baby toothbrush. It will have a small head and soft bristles that remove bacteria without harming the gums. Use only a rice grain amount of toothpaste and gently scrub the teeth and tongue. If you’ve been washing off her gums, she should be receptive to the toothbrush. If she fights you, brush when she’s well rested and make it a normal and expected part of your routines.
Kool Smiles recommends that first dental visit occur when you baby turns one. The pediatric dentist will look in her mouth, answer your oral health care questions and schedule the next appointment. Unless your baby’s mouth is full of teeth, she’ll probably return to the dentist near her second birthday.
Most of your child’s teeth should be visible now that she’s a toddler, so keep brushing twice a day. Also, continue using a tiny amount of paste. Fluoride paste includes the mineral that prevents tooth decay as it strengthens enamel and fights bacteria. Kidshealth.org recommends that you only use fluoride toothpaste if your local water supply doesn’t contain between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per million and your dentist recommends it. Otherwise, her teeth could develop white spots. And, you’ll definitely want to begin teaching your toddler to brush on her own. Dr. Beverly Largent recommends that parents let their toddlers take the first turn brushing and then follow up to reach every tooth.
You’ll also introduce flossing since your toddler’s teeth are probably touching by now. Use a brightly colored floss pick or follow parenting.com expert advice and wrap regular floss in a C shape around each tooth. By including this oral care activity in your evening routine, it will be a habit when she’s in preschool and is able to maneuver the floss on her own.
Now that your child’s older, she can brush by herself. A rinse that reveals plaque teaches your preschooler to brush every tooth’s surface. To make brushing fun, try flavored toothpaste, a spin brush that’s cool to operate and stimulates the gums or a manual brush that’s decorated with a favorite character.
By kindergarten, oral care should be habit. Your child should be able to apply toothpaste, brush properly and floss. And she should be seeing the dentist every six months.
Since you started your child with good oral care habits when she was just a baby, you’ve equipped her to care properly for her pearly whites. She’s now on her way to a lifetime of healthy smiles and, hopefully, no tooth decay.