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.
Infant Oral Care
A baby’s teeth will start popping through their gums after they turn six months old. But don’t wait until you see teeth to start caring for their mouth.
BabyCenter recommends that you wipe a soft, moist cloth over the gums once a day. That practice removes bacteria and prepares the child for the toothbrush that will soon be part of their 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 their gums, children should be receptive to the toothbrush. If they fight you, brush when their well rested and make it a normal and expected part of your routines.
Most dentists recommend that children first visit the dentist when your baby turns one year old.
Your pediatric dentist will look in their mouth, answer your oral health care questions and schedule the next appointment.
Unless your baby’s mouth is full of teeth, they’ll probably return to the dentist near their second birthday.
Toddler Oral Care
Most of your child’s teeth should be visible as 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, children’s teeth could develop white spots. And, you’ll definitely want to begin teaching your toddler to brush on their 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 their in preschool and are able to maneuver the floss on their own.
Preschool Oral Care
Now that your child’s older, they can brush by themselves. 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.
Elementary Oral Care
By kindergarten, oral care should be habit. Your child should be able to apply toothpaste, brush properly and floss. And they should be seeing the dentist every six months.
Since you started your child with good oral care habits when they were just a baby, you’ve equipped them to care properly for her pearly whites. Their now on her way to a lifetime of healthy smiles and, hopefully, no tooth decay.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the dental health blog of Dental Patient News and has been republished here with permission. It has since been updated for accuracy & comprehensiveness.