It's never too early to begin proper care and maintenance of your child's teeth.
After every feeding, it is important to wipe your baby's gums with gauze or a clean washcloth. You also can use an infant-sized toothbrush, which looks like a rubber thimble with brushes on it.
At about six months - sometimes as early as birth - your baby's first teeth will begin to appear. ImmediaDent suggests that you schedule your baby's first dental appointment around this time. You may want to choose a pedodentist, a dentist who specializes in children's dentistry, until your infant loses all baby teeth.
To clean your baby's teeth, use an infant toothbrush and half a pea size of infant-safe, fluoride toothpaste and brush his or her teeth. Note: Do not allow your baby to swallow the toothpaste. Fluoride can cause an upset stomach or, in large amounts, can be toxic.
Clean your baby's teeth after the last bottle of the night to help avoid "baby bottle tooth decay." And never put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, which contain sugar and acid, and can lead to early onset of tooth decay.
Toddlers and grade-school aged children
All 20 of your child's primary teeth should appear by age 3. Your child's permanent teeth will begin appearing around age 6.
To maintain healthy teeth and gums, your child should brush and floss twice a day, just like an adult.
Use half a pea size of child-safe, fluoride toothpaste with a child-safe toothbrush. Like a baby, do not allow the child to swallow the toothpaste. Then, help your child floss each tooth, moving from the left to the right side of the mouth.
At age 2 or 3, your child should have his or her first teeth cleaning, and begin regular dental visits, like an adult, after that. To make the visit more pleasurable for you and your child:
- Try to avoid scheduling the appointment during nap and mealtimes; mornings are best.
- Don't let anyone tell your child scary dental visit stories.
- Try not to seem anxious about going to the dentist.
- Don't threaten or bribe your child to go to the appointment.
- Combining a happy visit for your child alongside your cleaning appointment is also beneficial.
An apple a day...
A child's diet is just as important for healthy teeth and gums as brushing and flossing.
Remember, juice and sodas contain high amounts of sugar and acids, which need to be cleaned off their teeth as soon as possible.
Try to limit your child's intake of sugary, sticky (e.g., Fig Newtons, raisins) and acidic (e.g., juices) foods and drinks. If your child eats or drinks any of these, he or she should brush his or her teeth after.
Encourage your child to eat snacks like carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and apples, which have a natural ability to scrape plaque off your teeth.
Stressing the importance of healthy teeth and gums at an early age will encourage a lifetime of good oral habits.