Care and Prevention
Caring for Teeth Early
Starting dental care early is essential for the long and healthy life of teeth. You should begin brushing as soon as the first tooth erupts. For equipment, you should use a brush with soft bristles to avoid irritating gums and causing discomfort. You should also select non-fluoridated toothpaste until your child can spit the excess on their own around 3 years of age. A dab of toothpaste the size of a pea is perfect.
You should brush for your child until the age of four or five, after which they can brush on their own with supervision. By eight, they should be able to brush on their own. Every child is different, however, and Dr. Laura and Dr. Cheryl may recommend more or less supervision based on their ability.
The Importance of Proper Brushing
Brushing correctly is essential for the long health of teeth. Brushing removes plaque from the various tooth surfaces. To teach your children proper brushing technique, put the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and move it gently in circles. Brush the outside all around first, then the inside surfaces, then the chewing surfaces. You can finish by brushing their tongue to freshen breath and clear bacteria.
Proper Flossing Technique
Flossing is essential because it removes plaque that the brush can’t reach. As soon as your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing. Continue flossing for your child until they can do it on their own without damaging their gums.
To floss correctly, use about a foot and a half of floss. Wind most of it around your middle fingers, leaving just enough between your hands that you can reach around the teeth, holding it lightly. Gently move the floss back and forth to slide it between the teeth — pushing down too hard will snap it into the gums, which is painful. Once between the teeth, curve the floss against the tooth and scrape upwards to remove plaque. Repeat for each tooth, including the very back teeth.
The point of tooth care is removing the bacteria, food and material that cake against the teeth and cause decay. Here are some tips for early tooth care in infants and children.
- Use damp gauze or a wash cloth to wipe away leftover formula from teeth and gums
- Don’t put your child to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water
- Brush your older children’s teeth twice a day, at minimum
- Minimize the number of sugary and starchy snacks your children eat
- Consult Dr. Laura and Dr. Cheryl about sealants and fluoride treatments