In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, we’ve compiled a list of tips from a dental expert that will take you from newborns to braces.

Ages 0-1
Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. A baby’s front four teeth usually push through the gums at about 6 months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until 12 or 14 months.

Teething
Most baby teeth begin to appear generally about six months after birth. During the first few years of your child’s life, all 20 baby teeth will push through the gums and most children will have their full set of these teeth in place by age 3. A baby’s front four teeth usually erupt or push through the gums at about six months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until 12 or 14 months. As their teeth erupt, some babies may become fussy, sleepless and irritable, lose their appetite or drool more than usual.

Ages 1-2
For children younger than 3 years, caregivers should begin brushing children’s teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing to ensure that they use of the appropriate amount of toothpaste.

MH_eruption_primary.ashxAges 3 & up
Brushing
Here are a few tips on how to brush your child’s teeth and the best way to teach them to brush:

  • Use a pea-sized dab of toothpaste. Take care that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.
  • Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, brush the inside surface of each tooth first, where plaque may accumulate most. Brush gently back and forth.
  • Clean the outer surfaces of each tooth. Angle the brush along the outer gum line. Gently brush back and forth.
  • Brush the chewing surface of each tooth. Gently brush back and forth.
  • Use the tip of the brush to clean behind each front tooth, both top and bottom.
  • Brush the tongue
  • Rise and spit

Flossing
Flossing helps remove food particles from between the teeth. It’s a good rule of thumb to start flossing your child’s teeth by age 4. By age 8, they should be able to floss their teeth themselves. Dental experts recommend the following technique to teach your child:

  • Take about 18 inches of floss and loosely wrap most of it around each middle finger leaving an inch of floss between.
  • Gently slide it down between your teeth with your thumb and index fingers holding the floss taut. Be careful not to snap it down on your gums.
  • Curve the floss around each tooth in a “C” shape to “hug” the tooth and gently move it up and down the sides of each tooth, including under the gum line.
  • Unroll a new section of floss as your move from tooth to tooth.
  • After you’ve completed flossing between every tooth, rise and spit.

First Dental Visit
As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, it’s time to schedule a dental visit. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that the first dental visit take place within six months after the first tooth appears, but no later than a child’s first birthday. Don’t wait for them to start school or until there’s an emergency. Get your child comfortable today with good mouth healthy habits. To make the visit positive:

  • Consider making a morning appointment when children tend to be rested and cooperative.
  • Keep any anxiety or concerns you have to yourself. Children can pick up on your emotions, so emphasize the positive.
  • Never use a dental visit as a punishment or threat.
  • Never bribe your child.
  • Talk with your child about visiting the dentist.

During this visit, you can expect the dentist to:

  • Inspect for oral injuries, cavities or other problems.
  • Let you know if your child is at risk of developing tooth decay.
  • Clean your child’s teeth and provide tips for daily care.
  • Discuss teething, pacifier use, or finger/thumb-sucking habits.
  • Discuss treatment, if needed, and schedule the next check-up

Here are five additional ways the ADA recommends to help prevent child tooth decay.

Brushing with Braces
Remove elastics, bands, or removable parts of orthodontic appliances.
Rise out your mouth to remove any major lose food particles.
With the brush, carefully clean around wires and pins of your braces.
Brush each wire. Move top to bottom, and all the way around upper and lower teeth.Brush your teeth.
Make sure to clean all areas of the tooth. Dental professionals recommend brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice daily. That means each quadrant of your mouth gets 30 seconds. Some people find they get the best clean going tooth by tooth.
Floss once a day. Use waxed floss and thread it carefully under the main wire before passing between two teeth. Don’t snap it—simply move up and down gently, remove, and move on to the next pair of teeth. Waterpiks can also help to make this easier.
Rinse thoroughly. Examine teeth and braces in the mirror, and remember to look for any remaining food particles.

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