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How Do I Help My Children Care for Their Teeth and Prevent Cavities?

Regular dental visits, cleanings and good nutrition are the best way to protect your child from dental disease. Your child needs strong healthy teeth to chew food, speak, and smile.

Start oral care early at home by:

Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, wet cloth after each feeding to help remove food particles.  It will also help the baby get used to having his/her mouth cleaned.

The American Dental Association recommends that you should always rinse pacifiers with water. Cleaning a child’s pacifier with your own mouth can pass decay-causing bacteria that may be in your saliva to your child.

As soon as the first tooth appears you can begin gently brushing your baby’s teeth with water. Always use a soft-bristled, child–sized toothbrush.

Ask your dentist or physician if you are thinking about using fluoride toothpaste before your child’s second birthday. When toothpaste is used, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you place only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride for children under 6 years. It is important that your child learns to spit out, not swallow, the toothpaste.


What Brushing Techniques Can I Show My Child?

The American Dental Association says young children need be watched while brushing. By age 6 or 7, your child should be able to brush their own teeth, unassisted, while you watch. Around age 10 or 11 most children should be able to brush without supervision. If you’re not sure if your child is ready, talk to your dentist for advice.

Here are some brushing tips:

  • Standing behind him/her while holding their brush show’s them how to hold their toothbrush.
  • Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
  • Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.

Teeth should be brushed twice a day.


When Should My Child Begin Flossing?

Begin using floss when your child has two teeth that touch. Flossing breaks the bond that the plaque creates between the teeth that the toothbrush bristles can’t reach.

Flossing is not easy for a child. You should floss your child’s teeth until he/she can do it alone, usually around age 10 or 11. There are many different floss holders on the market that can help. If you’re not sure, talk to your dentist for advice.

What are Dental Sealants and How Do I Know if My Child Needs Them?

Sealants protect teeth from plaque, bacteria and acid attacks.

Back teeth have pits and grooves that are hard to clean, toothbrush bristles just cannot reach into them. Sealants are a material that is applied to these grooves where decay occurs most often.

When your child goes in for their regular dental visit, the dentist will check for newly erupted back teeth and recommend the sealants as they are needed.

What is Fluoride and How Do I Know if My Child is Getting the Right Amount?

Fluoride is a mineral that is very effective in protecting teeth from decay. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child can benefit from fluoride if they get it from more than 1 source.

Toothpastes, mouth rinses, treatments applied in the dental office, fluoridated tap water, and fluoride supplements are some examples of fluoride sources. If you are not sure if your tap water has fluoride, ask your dentist.

Your child may be missing the benefits of fluoride if they regularly drink bottled water or un-fluoridated tap water. Bottled water does not always contain fluoride you will need to check the bottle water label to see if fluoride has been added.


How Important is Diet to My Child’s Oral Health?

Help your child start good eating habits. What we eat, and how often, can affect our teeth. Plaque constantly forms on teeth. When we have food or drinks that contain sugar, the plaque bacteria make acid from it that can attack tooth enamel.  The stickiness of the plague is what holds the harmful acids against the teeth which, if not removed can cause tooth decay. Limiting between-meal snacks, offering water or healthy foods, such as fruit, carrot sticks or wheat crackers and saving sweets for mealtime will help.


What Should I Do if My Child Chips, Breaks or Knocks Out a Tooth?

How you handle a dental emergency can mean the difference between saving and losing your child’s tooth. These are the current American Dental Association recommendations:

“Knocked-out Tooth:

Baby tooth- If a baby tooth is completely out, do not try to insert it back in the socket. An accident that damages a primary tooth, could also harm the permanent “adult” tooth underneath. If something happens to any of the baby or primary teeth, you should take your child to the dentist as soon as you can.

Adult Tooth-A baby tooth should not be implanted back in the mouth, but a permanent tooth should. Hold the tooth by the crown, and if it is dirty, rinse the root with water. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any of the attached bits of tissue. If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket with a clean wash cloth or gauze. If it isn’t possible, or if the child cannot safely hold the tooth in his/her mouth, put the tooth in a container with milk, saliva or water. Take your child to the dentist as quickly as you can. Don’t forget to bring the tooth and any tooth pieces you can find.

Chipped or Broken Tooth: Rinse the mouth with warm water to keep the area clean. Put a cold compress (like an ice pack or a washcloth with ice wrapped inside) on the face to reduce swelling. Go to the dentist right away. If you can find the broken tooth fragment, bring it with you to the dentist. Wrap the tooth piece in some wet gauze or wet towel if possible.”

When should I bring my child for their first dental appointment?

Talk to a dentist about scheduling your child’s first dental visit. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends your child’s first visit be within 6 months after the first tooth erupts, but no later than the first birthday.  This should be thought of as a well-baby dental check up.  Your child’s dentist can show you how to properly clean your child’s teeth, check for problems such as dental decay, and offer advice on your child’s diet and pacifier use. The goal is to set healthy habits for life.