Establish good dental care habits now, and enjoy your little one’s healthy smile for years to come
It’s never too early to begin caring for your child’s teeth. Here are a few guidelines to help parents manage their child’s dental care needs from infancy and throughout early childhood.
Birth – 12 months
Parents of infants can help set the stage for healthy teeth and gums in the first year of a child’s life.
- After feedings, brush the child’s mouth with water using a soft-bristled baby toothbrush or a soft washcloth.
- Schedule regular check-ups with your child’s pediatrician, who will check your baby’s mouth as part of the examination.
- The American Dental Association recommends a first visit with the dentist by 12 months of age.
12 months – Age 2
Once a child’s baby teeth have come in (the first tooth usually appears between four months and 12 months; and all baby teeth, including molars, should come in before age three), proper brushing and dental care becomes even more important.
- Begin to teach your child proper brushing habits by cleaning his or her teeth twice a day, morning and evening. Parents, you will need to do the cleaning at this age, but this routine will also help prepare your child to brush alone when ready.
- Brush your child’s teeth with a soft-bristled brush and non-fluoride toothpaste designed for toddlers. Brush the fronts and backs of teeth, as well as your child’s tongue. (Children at this age are too young for fluoride toothpaste, but they should get adequate fluoride from your community’s municipal water supply.)
- Schedule a check-up with your dentist. Good preventive care at this age can help prevent more serious dental issues later. This visit is also a good time to discuss your child’s bite, pacifier use and other mouth-related issues.
Age 2 and older
With your help and encouragement, your child’s dental care habits should be well established by age two. Keep up the good work!
- By age two, you may begin using a fluoride toothpaste for your child, but be sure to use only a small amount. A pea-sized dollop on a soft brush should do the trick.
- Also by this age, your child’s teeth are likely growing closer together. Once two teeth touch, it’s time to start flossing your child’s teeth daily.
- Limit juice and offer more water to drink. Juice can be high in sugar, which can lead to tooth decay. It’s important to maintain healthy baby teeth while a child’s mouth prepares for the permanent teeth that will come in later.
In our next edition, we’ll discuss good dental habits for older children. In the meantime, please feel free to send us any questions about your child’s dental health via our contact page.