Your Child’s Teeth: Helpful tips for parents and caregivers

September 27, 2022

Dental Care Basics for Your Child

Baby teeth can start to decay as soon as they appear

Other than water, sugar is in almost everything else that a baby drinks, including breast milk and formula. When teeth are in contact with liquids that contain sugar, decay can start. If decay is not treated, it can destroy baby teeth. That’s why it’s important for you to get in the habit of cleaning your baby’s teeth every day.

As your child gets older, they may start to eat a more varied diet which may contain fruit juice, sports drinks and even soda. It’s important to be aware that these sugary drinks are known to increase your child’s risk to develop tooth decay.

Tooth decay that’s not treated can lead to pain, loss of teeth, and loss of self-confidence. Children with tooth pain can’t eat or sleep properly and may miss days of school. Even worse, decay may lead to an abscess (pus-filled sac) formation, which can cause serious or even life threatening infections if it’s not treated.

Tooth decay can be prevented with good oral care. Taking time to prevent tooth decay from starting is less costly than repairing a decayed tooth.

Clean your child’s teeth to help prevent cavities

Brushing and flossing remove plaque, the sticky film of bacteria on your teeth. Brush your child’s teeth (and yours!) 2 times a day and for 2 minutes each time. You should clean between teeth with floss or another between-the-teeth cleaner every day.

How to brush your child’s teeth

Brushing teeth the right way is important. You should brush your child’s teeth until they have the skills to do it the right way on their own. If your child cannot tie their own shoes, then they are probably not ready to brush by themselves.

When you teach your child how to brush the right way, it may help to stand behind them and hold the brush while they watch in the mirror. Teach them to spit out all of the toothpaste after brushing.

Even after your child starts to brush their own teeth, you should still watch while they brush. This helps you make sure that they are cleaning their teeth the right way.

By around age 10-11, most children should be able to brush their teeth without supervision. If you’re not sure if your child is ready, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist.

Make choosing a toothbrush a fun activity for you and your child. Find a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles. Let your child pick the color and design. Make getting a new toothbrush a regular treat. You can also ask your dentist of hygienist if there is a powered toothbrush that is right for your child.

Clean between your child’s teeth every day

Cleaning between your child’s teeth with floss or a floss aid removes plaque where toothbrush bristles can’t reach.

Begin using floss or a floss aid when your child has 2 teeth that are next to each other. Flossing is not easy for children to do by themselves. The ADA recommends that you floss your child’s teeth daily until they can do it alone, around age 10 or 11.

How to properly floss your child’s teeth

A. Break off a good amount of floss and wind most of it around your middle or index finger.
B. Wind the rest of the floss around the same finger on the other hand. This finger will take up the used floss.
C. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and index fingers.
D. Guide the floss between your child’s teeth, using a gentle rubbing motion. Don’t snap the floss into their gums.

    • When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it so that it hugs the side of one tooth.
    • Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth and rub the side of the tooth.
    • Move the floss away from the gum with up and down motions.
    • Repeat these steps on the rest of your child’s teeth. As you move from tooth to tooth, unwind the clean floss with one finger and take up the used floss with the finger on the other hand. Don’t forget the back side of the last tooth.

E. Sometimes children as young as 5 years old can use a floss aid.

When your child is ready to floss, show them how to hold the floss so they can gently clean between their teeth. Just like with brushing, it’s a good idea to watch them floss to make sure they are cleaning between all their teeth-including those in the back, which may be harder to reach.

A healthy diet is important to your child’s teeth

Food choices and eating patterns can affect whether your child has problems like tooth decay and cavities. A healthy diet that limits sugary beverages and snacks is good for overall well-being as well as for healthy teeth. A steady supply of sugary foods and drinks, including sports drinks, sodas, and energy drinks, can damage teeth. Acid from sugary foods and drinks can attack teeth for 20 minutes or longer. Over time, tooth decay can happen and cavities can form.

Offer water when your child is thirsty and nutritious foods such as fruit, carrot sticks or cheese if your child is hungry. These are healthier options than giving them cookies, candy, potato chips, and other sweet or sticky foods. Save sweets as an ending for mealtime, when the mouth makes more saliva to help rinse out food particles. Be aware that constant snacking, even snacking on nutritious foods like oranges and dried fruit, can increase the risk of cavities because it means teeth are exposed to acid throughout the day.

Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter!

Fluoride is a mineral found in all natural sources of water-even the ocean. Fluoride helps protect tooth enamel from the acid attacks that cause tooth decay. It also helps repair weakened enamel before cavities form.

Children who drink tap water that has the recommended level of fluoride are less likely to get cavities than children who do not drink fluoridated water. If you are not sure your tap water contains fluoride, ask your dentist.

Children get added protection from fluoride by getting it from more than one source. Other sources of fluoride include fluoride toothpastes, fluoride mouthrinses, and fluoride treatments applied in the dental office. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about your child’s fluoride needs. Be sure to let them know if you use bottled water or a water treatment system at home.

Regular dental visits are important for healthy smiles

During a dental visit, your dentist and hygienist will check your child’s mouth for gum and tooth health (no decay!). Tooth alignment and growth patterns will be monitored to watch for problems with your child’s bite. Your dentist will also check to see that all of your child’s teeth are being cleaned properly.

How often should your child see the dentist?

Children’s needs differ, and your dentist is best able to suggest a schedule of visits for your child. The schedule of visits will depend on things like your child’s eating habits, how well their teeth are cleaned, past treatment needs, and water fluoridation in your area.

Having your child visit the dentist for regular cleanings, fluoride treatments, and sealants can prevent tooth decay and reduce the need for further dental treatment, General Dentist in Fort Lauderdale. Plus, it can save you money in the future because preventing a dental problem now costs less than treating one later!

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