Registered dental hygienist Anaid Deti shares her best oral hygiene tips for kids from babies to toddlers.
Oral hygiene is a priority the moment your baby is born (yes, even before they have teeth!) and it’s important to create a good foundation for teeth to grow strong and healthy in the years ahead. But what baby teeth need is not the same as what mature adult teeth will need, so knowing how to tailor your child’s dental health routine (and your own!) will help to maintain glowing smiles for ages to come.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that baby and toddler teeth are not as important because they “just fall out anyway.” This sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth.
Starting your child off with good dental habits—even before teeth make an appearance—can help keep their smile healthy, strong and protected. Baby teeth preserve the spacing for the permanent ones, and not caring for them properly can lead to tooth decay and/or gingivitis. This can affect the spacing of the permanent teeth.
A cavity develops when a tooth is frequently exposed to acid—for example, if you ingest foods or drinks containing sugar and starches—the repeated cycle of acid attacks can cause the enamel to continuously lose minerals. A white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is a sign of early decay. Although enamel can be repaired from the minerals in your saliva and the fluoride in your toothpaste, it can also weaken and break down over time, creating a cavity.
Here are a few ways to avoid cavities and tooth decay:
- Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice—the sugar will stick to teeth.
- Don’t leave a bottle in a child’s mouth for a long period of time, especially if they are not feeding from it.
- For kids who are old enough, give them a drink of water after every meal/bottle.
You can begin an oral hygiene routine early, beginning to clean your baby’s mouth a few weeks after birth. Using a clean, damp washcloth, just wipe the gums—do not use toothpaste until your child has teeth. Once teeth have begun to appear, use a very soft bristled child-sized toothbrush with a very small amount of toothpaste twice a day; if teeth are touching, make sure to also gently floss on a daily basis.
After the age of three, you can increase the amount of toothpaste used to the size of a pea while reminding your child to try not to swallow. They still need to be supervised in their oral hygiene routines but by the age of 4 to 5, they should be getting a good grasp of brushing correctly—in a circular motion for twice minutes, twice a day. (Tip: Pick a song that’s approximately two minutes long and play it as part of the tooth-brushing routine, so kids know when to stop.)
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