Helping Care for Your Children’s Teeth

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Tooth decay can be prevented with good oral care. Children learn their habits from their parents and caregivers. You can help your children learn healthy habits by setting a good example by brushing with them daily, taking them to the dentist regularly and giving them healthy foods.

Brushing and flossing remove plaque that leads to disease and breaks down the teeth. Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain, loss of teeth and loss of self-confidence. Children who have good oral care at home and regular dental visits can reach adulthood without suffering from tooth decay and other health problems.

How to Brush & Floss:Example of how much toothpaste to use for kids

(Left to right: For children under three years old, use no more than a smear or grain of rice sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. For children three to six years old, use only a pea sized amount.)

Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as the first tooth appears, start brushing morning and night. Use a soft bristled, child sized toothbrush and smear a grain of rice sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. You might want to sit with their head in your lap so you can see into their mouth easily. Begin flossing your child’s teeth when they have two teeth that touch.

Example of best toothbrushing techniquesIt’s important that an adult provide supervision while brushing for the first few years. If your children cannot tie their own shoes, they are probably not ready to brush by themselves. It takes dexterity to be able to properly reach all surfaces of the teeth and tongue, which most children do not have until age 10.

Flossing once a day removed plaque from between the teeth, where toothbrush bristles cannot reach. This technique can be hard for younger children to learn. The ADA (American Dental Association) recommends that you floss your children’s teeth until they can do it along, around age 10. Hand held flossers can work as aids while children learn to floss on their own.


Example of best flossing techniqueUse about a foot of floss. Wind most of it around the tips of both middle fingers. This allows you to use your thumbs and pointer fingers to move the floss around. Use gentle back and forth motions to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and guide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently rub the floss against both sides of the tooth. Repeat these steps for the rest of the teeth. As you move through your mouth, unwind the clean floss with one finger and take up the used floss with the opposite finger.

Natural Cavity Fighters

Depending on where you live, your tap water may already contain a naturally occurring mineral called fluoride. It helps make teeth strong and protects them from decay. Children who consume the recommended level of fluoride are less likely to get cavities than children who do not drink fluorinated water. Such statistics about your area can be found online at https://nccd.cdc.gov.