Children’s Oral Health

Healthy teeth and gums — oral health — is very important to a child’s overall health.

Tooth decay is one of the most common health problems for children in America. It can cause children to have pain and infections that can lead to problems eating, speaking, playing, and learning. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable. You can help your children take simple steps to protect their teeth and keep their beautiful smiles.

Begin brushing your infant’s gums with a washcloth or infant toothbrush even before her first baby teeth appear. Breastfeed your infant and put her to bed with a pacifier instead of a bottle, which can cause tooth decay.

From the time your child gets her first tooth until she is three years old, choose a soft-bristled toothbrush designed for an infant or child. Use a drop of fluoride-free toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. Taking care of your child’s baby teeth is very important. It allows her to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and ensures her permanent teeth come in straight.

When your child is three to six years old he should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste that contains fluoride. Choose toothpaste that says “ADA accepted,” which means it is approved by the American Dental Association. Teach your child not to swallow toothpaste, but to spit it out after brushing. Help your young child brush his teeth so you can make sure he brushes all the surfaces of each tooth.

Children should brush their teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes each time. You can sing a song or use a timer to help make sure they finish the full two minutes. Children who brush their teeth daily with fluoride toothpaste will have healthier teeth. Children should also floss their teeth daily to remove food from between the teeth. You can buy child-friendly dental floss products that are easy for children to hold and use.

Your child should visit a dentist for her first check-up before her first birthday. After that, children should visit the dentist twice a year to have their teeth cleaned and checked. Your child’s dentist may recommend sealants for your child’s teeth. Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from tooth decay. The sealants keep germs and food particles out of these grooves like umbrellas keep the rain off your head. Sealants are most often put on the permanent molars that children get at about age six and age twelve. Your dentist may also recommend your child take a fluoride supplement.

Help your child maintain good oral health and overall health by brushing and flossing teeth daily and by visiting a dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.