Creating a child’s healthy smile begins in infancy. Creating habits that help a child maintain their healthy smile can have lifelong benefits. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has created the following set of pediatric oral health tips to help you get your child establishing the kind of habits that promote healthy smiles.
- Start cleaning teeth early. As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, begin cleaning it every day by wiping it with a clean, damp cloth. Once more teeth come in, switch to a small, soft toothbrush. Start using toothpaste with fluoride when the child is 2 years old, or earlier if your dentist or doctor recommend it.
- Use the proper amount of fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is very helpful when it comes to fighting cavities, but you’ll need to be careful when using it when a child under the age of 6 uses it–if the child swallows too much fluoride, their permanent teeth could have white spots. To help prevent this, make sure your child uses only a small amount of toothpaste–a pea-sized amount is ideal. Teach your child to thoroughly spit out the toothpaste and rinse well after brushing their teeth.
- Supervise teeth-brushing time. For children who aren’t yet able to brush their own teeth, it’s recommended that you brush your child’s teeth twice a day. Once the child can handle brushing their own teeth, closely watch them while they brush to ensure that the child is brushing thoroughly and using only a small amount of toothpaste.
- Talk to your child’s doctor or dentist. Check with these health care professionals about your child’s specific fluoride needs. After age 2, most children get the amount of fluoride they need from drinking water that contains fluoride and by using pea-sized amounts of fluoride toothpaste when they brush their teeth. If your drinking water does not contain enough fluoride, talk to your doctor to see if there’s a fluoride supplement that could benefit your child. Also, don’t let a child under the age of 6 use a fluoride mouthwash unless your doctor or dentist recommends it.
Early care for your child’s oral health can result in the formation of good health habits and have lasting healthy effects for years to come. But the best and most targeted oral care advice should come from a licensed dentist. If you and/or your child don’t currently have a dentist, reach out to a patient advocacy service like Health Advocate or Health Proponent–they can help you find a provider that meets your needs.