Early practices of dental hygiene for babies and toddlers is crucial. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that infants see a pediatric dentist within 6 months of getting their first tooth or by their first birthday. After the first visit, the dentist will recommend a regular visits based on the oral care needs of the child.
Birth to 6 months of age:
Practicing healthy oral habits can help in the prevention or reduction of tooth decay in infants and children.
- Clean your infants gums after each feeding
- Wrap a cool wet washcloth around the index finger and gently massage the gum tissues.
- Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle or prop it in their mouth.
- Teething may begin around 4-6 months of age.
6 to 12 months of age:
- The first tooth may appear between 6-9 months of age.
- Once the first tooth erupts, start using a soft, rounded bristle child sized toothbrush with water only to clean the gums and teeth.
- Brush the teeth twice a day- morning and night
- Be familiar with the normal appearance of the teeth and gums. If you notice any white or brown spots on the teeth schedule an appointment with the dentist.
12 to 18 months of age:
- Schedule an appointment to have your child’s first dental exam
- Continue to brush teeth twice daily with plain water and soft bristle toothbrush
18 months to age 5:
- At the age of 2, you may introduce fluoridated toothpaste. Apply a smear to pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the brush. There are special low –fluoride toothpaste specially developed for young children.
- Teach your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing
- Store the toothpaste out of the child’s reach. Some children love the taste and if given the opportunity will eat the toothpaste
- Begin to teach children how to brush their own teeth. Most children will need help because they will not have the hand coordination to brush effectively.
- Use a circular motion to clean the front surfaces of the teeth and gums.
- Brush the biting and grinding surfaces of the teeth with a gentle back and forth motion.
- Aim to brush the teeth for a total on 2 minutes
- Flossing can be started. Flossing can be done daily or at least twice a week.
- Slide the floss between the teeth, and gently work it up and down against the surfaces of the teeth.
- If you find flossing difficult at this age, ask your dentist to show you how to do it.
- Consult with the dentist if your child is regularly sucks fingers, thumb or pacifier after the age of 3.
5 to 8 years of age:
- Your child should brush twice daily
- Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste
- Daily flossing to prevent tooth decay between the teeth
- Dental sealants are recommend around the age of five or six
- Schedule dental check ups every 6 months
8 to 10 years of age:
- Brush twice daily
- Floss daily
- Ask your dentist if an evaluation by an orthodontist is needed. Some children experience crowding or irregularities with the way the permanent teeth are positioned in the mouth.
- Replace the toothbrush every 3 months or when bristles are frayed
- Do not forget to brush the tongue to remove decay causing bacteria
- Consider a battery-powered toothbrush
- Monitor and watch to make sure your child are brushing all the teeth including the molars.