Dental Hygiene for Kids

Caring for Kids' Teeth
Nothing is as special as your child’s happy, healthy smile. As a parent, you know it’s important to learn how to care for your child’s oral health.

You may have many questions about dental hygiene for kids as your child grows. When do you start brushing his/her teeth? Should children floss? How do you establish good oral care habits to reduce the risk of cavities and gingivitis as they mature? What are dental sealants?

Choose a question for information about some common kids’ dental health concerns.

How can I avoid baby bottle cavities?
How do I care for my baby's gums?
What should I know about teething?
When will my baby's teeth come in?
What is the relationship between enamel, fluoride, and good dental health?
How do I take the fear out of the first dental visit?
What types of toothpaste do children like?
What role does nutrition play in healthy dental development?
When should my child start flossing?

How can I avoid baby bottle cavities?

Once your baby's teeth begin to appear, you need to take extra care that these new teeth do not develop cavities. Babies can develop teeth cavities through "nursing bottle mouth," which is caused by extended nursing on milk, formula or juices, especially at bedtime or naptime. You should not use a feeding bottle as a pacifier. If you must give your baby a bottle at bedtime or naptime, make sure it contains plain water. You should not give a baby a pacifier that has been dipped in honey or sugar.

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How do I care for my baby's gums?

Good dental health should begin at birth. After each feeding, gently wipe the baby's gums with a soft, clean and damp washcloth or gauze pad.

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What should I know about teething?

The discomfort of teeth coming into the mouth can cause your baby to become irritable. You can ease some of the discomfort by lightly rubbing the baby's gums with a clean finger or a wet, soft cloth. A cool teething ring can also help to soothe your baby's tender gums.

When the first teeth appear, begin using a children's soft-bristle toothbrush to clean them on a daily basis. Give your baby regular oral cleanings after each meal to make dental health care a habit.

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When will my baby's teeth come in?

Teeth begin forming in your baby even before birth. Here is when you can expect to begin seeing them:
  • Central incisor (front two upper and bottom teeth): 6-12 months
  • Lateral incisor (the two teeth flanking the upper and bottom front two teeth): 9-16 months
  • Canines (pointy teeth in the upper jaw): 16-23 months
  • First molars (upper and bottom back teeth): 13-19 months
  • Second molars (upper and bottom back teeth): 22-33 months
All 20 primary teeth — also called baby teeth — are present in the jawbones at birth. The lower two front teeth are usually the first to erupt. This most often occurs somewhere around 6 months after birth. Do not be concerned if your baby is a little late. The numbers here are only an average. By age 3, all 20 primary teeth should be present.

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What is the relationship between enamel, fluoride and good dental health?

Enamel, the hardest substance in the body, is the outermost layer of the tooth and protects the tooth from decay and cavities. Fluoride, a naturally occurring substance, can strengthen tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. Some sources of fluoride that help prevent cavities are fluoridated drinking water, fluoride-containing toothpastes and fluoride mouthwashes. Your dental professional or physician may recommend or prescribe additional fluoride treatments for your child's dental health. Be sure to follow his/her instructions. Too much fluoride can change the structure of tooth enamel, resulting in discoloration.

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How do I take the fear out of the first dental visit?

Your child should visit a dental professional by age 1. You can make the first visit to the dental office enjoyable and positive. Before the visit, tell your child that someone will look at and clean his or her teeth. Allow the dentist and other members of the dental staff to introduce other dental health procedures. Your dental professional will examine your child's mouth for early signs of cavities or other dental health problems. He or she will also tell you many of the things you'll need to know about helping your child grow up free of cavities.

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What types of toothpaste do children like?

A good way to encourage your child's dental hygiene is by using a pleasantly flavored fluoride toothpaste. The taste and appearance of a toothpaste can make brushing a more enjoyable experience, so children are more likely to brush twice each day and brush for longer periods of time. Appropriate brushing can help prevent cavities, gum disease and other dental health issues. Children age 6 or less should brush twice a day using no more than a pea-sized dab of toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush to remove plaque and provide fluoride protection. Supervise children’s brushing until good habits are established. For children under 2 years of age, ask a dental professional.

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What role does nutrition play in healthy dental development?

Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Many snacks that children eat can lead to the formation of cavities. Try to limit your child's snacks. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt and low-fat cheese.

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When should my child start flossing?

You should start flossing your child’s teeth as soon as two teeth touch each other. As they develop dexterity, you can help them learn to floss. To stress the importance, floss for them regularly until they're able to do it themselves. Use floss, like Glide®, that doesn't hurt their teeth and is comfortable on their gums.

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