Caring for your child’s teeth is an important part of keeping your child’s body healthy—and as soon as your child starts teething, it’s time to get started! Healthy baby teeth help your child talk, eat healthy foods, and develop strong permanent teeth. Children with healthy teeth are better able to learn and focus in school, maintain strong bodies, feel good about themselves, and build lifelong healthy habits.
As a parent, there are lots of simple things you can do to help your young child learn that her teeth are important, and how to take good care of her mouth. Below are tips to help your child begin good oral hygiene habits right from the start:
Choosing the right tool: Consider whether it is appropriate to switch from using a soft cloth to a toothbrush for your child. Look for children’s toothbrushes that have small heads and soft bristles. You can have your child choose the color to help him get excited about brushing. Help keep germs away by rinsing his toothbrush after brushing and standing it up to help it air dry. Remember to change your child’s toothbrush about once every three months. If the bristles are no longer straight and firm, or if your child has been sick, change the toothbrush right away.
My turn, your turn: Remember to help your child brush her teeth at least twice a day—after breakfast and before bed. Young children are still developing the muscles and skills to brush on their own so it is important to guide them at first. Remind her to use the right amount of toothpaste on her brush (just a smear for children under age 2 and a pea-size amount for children ages 2 to 5). Then help him brush his teeth. Show your child how to brush in gentle circles, remembering to include the front, back, inside, and outside of his teeth (even the ones that are hard to reach!), and how to open up to brush the tops of teeth. Encourage her to imitate your actions. Then help your child brush for about two minutes. Play music or sing a song. You can repeat the song a few times to complete the two minutes. Then remind him to rinse and spit out the toothpaste.
“Sometime” and “Anytime” Foods: Talk to your child about “anytime” and “sometime” foods and how eating healthy foods can help keep their teeth strong. “Anytime” foods have lots of nutrients and can be eaten any time. They’re good for your teeth, and they give your child the energy she needs to learn and play, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. “Sometime” foods, are usually too sugary, salty, or fatty. They should be eaten only once in a while, and not before bedtime. Avoid sticky foods such as candy and other foods that have high sugar content that sticks to enamel.
Getting Ready for the Dentist: By talking to your child about visiting the dentist, you can help your child be less anxious. Try role playing a trip to the dentist when you are at home. Explain that the dentist or dental hygienists counts and checks teeth to make sure they are strong. Describe to your child what will happen, including sitting in a big chair, having their teeth counted, and then having the dentist brush their teeth. You can also talk about some of the tools the dentist might use, such as a light, small mirror, and a silver tool to touch each tooth. Then take turns being the dentist and patient!
Teeth Team: After a dental check-up, praise your child and let him know you are proud of him for visiting the dentist, especially if he was feeling anxious or nervous. Talk to your child about how it is important to visit the dentist to keep teeth healthy and strong. And see a dentist promptly if there are any problems.