Dental Health Answers
Home Oral Care for Children
An effective oral hygiene regimen at home is the best way to keep your child’s smile bright and healthy for life. Here are some helpful tips to keep your child’s teeth clean and avoid dental emergencies and issues such as cavities in between his or her regular checkup visits.
Infants and Toddlers 0-2
Good oral care can begin before your infant even has teeth. Twice a day, wipe your baby’s gums with a wet washcloth to remove residue and film from milk or formula. This also teaches your baby to become used to you putting your hands in their mouth. Babies usually start teething between 4 and 10 months. As soon the first tooth erupts, you should begin brushing it twice a day using a toothbrush and water (there are baby-safe toothbrushes and finger brushes that can be used with infants). Do not leave any oral hygiene products for your baby to chew or play with, as they can present choking or injury hazards.
Dr. Janet Visanescu follows American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines and recommends that you bring your child in for their first dental visit near their first birthday, and begin regular 6 month checkup and cleaning visits.
Choosing a Toothbrush for your Child
Use soft bristles: Dr. Visanescu recommends that you select a toothbrush with soft bristles. Brushes with harder bristles are not more effective at cleaning your child’s teeth; rather, harder bristles can irritate their gums and may even make them more resistant to wanting to brush.
Find a comfortable fit: Make sure the head of your toothbrush fits comfortably in your child’s mouth, and can reach all of the surfaces of your teeth, even in the back. There are a variety of child sized toothbrushes. Your child should not use the toothbrush unsupervised, but may still be tempted to bite or chew on the bristles. Finally, you will need to replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 months or sooner if the bristles are frayed or bent.
Choosing a Toothpaste
Toothpaste is another decision that will depend on a variety of factors. The ADA currently recommends the use of toothpaste with fluoride when brushing for ages 3 through adulthood. No matter what type of toothpaste you choose, you should closely supervise the toothbrushing process to ensure your child is brushing their teeth properly and to help them avoid swallowing or eating the toothpaste.
There are are growing number of toothpastes and powders available that either contain fluoride or are fluoride-free. What we find most important at Dr. Visanescu’s office is the maintenance of a healthy oral hygiene routine that includes brushing twice a day, with a toothpaste that you are comfortable using.
Children ages 2+
At around 2 years of age, your child should be able to spit while brushing, so parents are encouraged to introduce toothpaste around this time. Brush your child’s teeth for them, encouraging them to hold on to the toothbrush and help you, until you are confident they can do it themselves effectively, and without swallowing the toothpaste.
- Depending on the child’s age, use a smear or dab of toothpaste. Take care that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, brush the inside surface of each tooth first, where plaque may accumulate most, brushing gently back and forth.
- Clean the outer surfaces of each tooth. Angle the brush along the outer gum line, brushing gently back and forth.
- Brush gently back and forth the chewing surface of each tooth.
- Clean behind each front tooth using the tip of the brush.
- Brush your child's tongue.
Start flossing your child’s teeth by age 4 or sooner. Wrap a length of floss around your fingers and, using your thumbs, push and gently move the floss back and forth to reach between the teeth to the gum line. Take care to be gentle, so that your child has a positive experience and will not be resistant to flossing now or in the future.
Children ages 10-12 typically have developed most of their adult teeth, and can begin to follow the adult oral care routine and brush their teeth independently, although they may still need to or prefer to use a child-sized toothbrush with a smaller head. You should check their teeth periodically to make sure they are brushing properly and thoroughly. Dr. Visanescu will also let you know how your child is doing with their oral hygiene routine at regular 6 month checkup and cleaning visits.
Family and Cosmetic Dentistry
La Grange, KY 40031
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