February is National Children’s Dental Health Month – tips to help keep your child’s teeth healthy
A smile is one of the first things that people notice about you – and one of your most memorable features. As a parent you can start perfecting your child’s smile even before you see their teeth!
“When your child is born they already have 20 teeth, you just can’t see them!” says Jasa Talarico, MD, pediatrician at Dayton Children’s Hospital. “So parents can start good dental hygiene by wiping their baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth at bath time.”
Once those pearly whites break through the gums, here are five tips to making the most of brushing them well.
- Brush with a toothbrush made just for infants.
- Use a ‘smear’ of toothpaste with fluoride (about the size of a grain of rice) and a little water. This may be a change for many parents, especially if you have older children. The American Dental Association updated it’s guidelines in 2014 after a review of the research showed a quarter of all kids had a cavity by the time they entered kindergarten. The ADA says a small amount of fluoride toothpaste is safe and can help prevent these cavities.
- Brush twice a day - once in the morning after breakfast and once before bed are common times.
- Begin flossing when your child gets enough teeth that they are touching. This should be done once a day.
- Visit the dentist by the time your child turns 1 year old. At this appointment, the dentist can go over everything you need to know to keep your child’s mouth healthy. Routine visits should continue every six months.
When your child is around 2 years old, he can begin learning to spit out the toothpaste while brushing. When your child turns 3 years old, she can start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. But beware of using too much. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 40 percent of kids age 3 to 6 were using too much toothpaste, which could lead to streaks on the teeth.
“While kids should learn to brush their teeth themselves, parents should stay in the room to monitor until the child is at least 8 years old,” says Dr. Talarico. “That way they can ensure the right amount of toothpaste is being used, the child isn’t swallowing too much and that the child is continuing to develop good brushing habits.”
“It’s also a good idea to limit sugary foods, juices and candies,” says Dr. Talarico. “Sugar is a big contributor to tooth decay.”
With a little effort and guidance from you, your child will have a great grin for years to come!