I often meet parents who are surprised to learn that babies also need to take care of their oral health. I am going to tell you how and when to clean a small child’s mouth. Did you you know that you should start to take care of baby’s oral health even before they have teeth? Read on for my tips on how to keep the little mouths clean and healthy.
Newborns to 12 months
After feedings wipe baby’s gum with a washcloth (or gauze) wet with plain, clean water. After baby’s first tooth comes in, you can clean those with the washcloth as well, or use a soft baby toothbrush. Also, with the first tooth, talk to your baby’s doctor if it is the right time to schedule their first dentist visit. Your child’s doctor will also check their mouths during regular health checkups.
1 year to 2 years
By age 1 year, your child should be well into establishing the twice a day brushing routine with water and a soft baby toothbrush. The ideal time would be after breakfast and before bed. This routine can be started as soon as
3 years to 6 years
Continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day. At this age, either help them brush or repeat the brushing after they are done doing it themselves. You can incorporate this as “touch-ups”. It is important for them to learn to brush their teeth, but they can’t do a really good job yet. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste smeared into the bristles of the brush. Teach kids not to swallow toothpaste. Start flossing in between teeth that touch each other. Continue with regular dental checkups.
6 years and up
By age 6 years, kids should now be able to brush their own teeth. The twice a day routine should be well established. Continue to use fluoride toothpaste and flossing every night after brushing. And finally, continue the regular dentist checkups.
Additional tips for toddlers and preschoolers
So, now that we are clear on when you need to do what… how do you do it? It can be especially hard when you have a 3-year-old kid fighting the toothbrush like it is their worst enemy. You are certainly not alone. This is a very common problem, and creating the habit early can partially help but is no magic bullet.
Incorporating brushing time into their routines is a good idea to create some structure and make kids anticipate the event. The more you stick to a routine, and normalize it, the easier it will be with time. An example of a routine is bath, brush, book, bed. See how it is jammed in there with other things kids like? For older kids, creating a positive reinforcement calendar can also be helpful. For example, they get a sticker to place on the calendar for each time they brush.
Sometimes kids just don’t like minty toothpaste or are otherwise unexcited by the whole process. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different other flavors of toothpaste, or oblige to get them a toothbrush with fun colors, or one with their favorite character. You can also sing along your kid’s favorite tooth brushing song each time. Make it fun!
Cavities in children
Other than brushing a child’s teeth adequately there are other ways in which parents can help their kids avoid tooth cavities. Cavities are holes on the tooth’s protective surface. They are caused by acid that bad bacteria make when they mix with sugars from food and drinks. Cavities may look like white or brown spots on teeth. They can also look like white lines on the teeth, near where they meet the gums.
Make sure you have healthy teeth and gums. The bacteria that cause cavities can be passed from you to your child by haring food or drinks. Also, if you can avoid sharing food and drinks you can reduce the risk of passing the bacteria significantly. Another source of germ transfer is when you lick your child’s spoon or pacifier.
To prevent cavities:
- Don’t put a child to sleep with a bottle in their mouth
- Don’t let your child suck on a bottle or sippy cup with other than water, except during meal time.
- Avoid giving your child snacks like candy and cookies. Also, remember crackers and chips have sugar too, and they are extra damaging when kids snack on them a lot. These are best reserved for meal time.
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