Dental care is extremely important for children starting even before the eruption of teeth. Good oral hygiene actually affects other parts of the body as well including lowering your risk for heart issues, decrease the risk of bacteria getting into your bloodstream, and maximize your overall health. Starting proper (and lifelong) dental habits start with creating a routine and maintaining it. The more strict you are, the lower your child's lifelong risk for cavities, gum disease and Cardiovascular disease. Moms-to-be should also remember the importance of good oral hygiene as gum disease has been linked to premature birth. The good news is, these are things we can prevent in our children by following these stages of dental care:

Dental hygiene should begin shortly after a child is born. After every feeding a clean, warm washcloth should be used to gently cleanse the inside of the mouth.

Teething can begins around 3 months old but typically begins when your child is 6 to 7 months old. Signs of teething may include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Irritability
  • "Gumming" or biting
  • Appearance of a rash around the mouth, or on the face
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Excessive crying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feverish
  • Changes in bowel movements

Help ease the pain of teething by using a clean, cool washcloth to gently massage the gums. Offer the child a cool teething ring or a teething biscuit, if that is appropriate for the age of the child. Always supervise your child when using a teething biscuit because of the potential choking hazard. Talk to your doctor or dentist before using over-the-counter pain reducers or desensitizing gel.

Early Childhood Cavities (ECC), more commonly known as "baby bottle tooth decay" is a condition that affects children up to the age of three, or as long as they remain using a bottle. Although rare, ECC may indicate the potential risk for severe tooth decay when the child develops his adult teeth. ECC is caused by:

  • Sugars and carbohydrates in the child's diet
  • Beverages that contain sugar such as milk, infant formula, fruit juice, or any other liquid that contains or is sweetened with sugar.
  • Bacteria transferred from the caregiver to the child
  • The frequency of feedings
  • Allowing a child to fall asleep with bottle that contains any liquid other than pure water.

Prevent early childhood decay by offering a pacifier rather than a bottle during naps and bed time. Speak with your dentist for advice on how to expose your child to fluoride, if it is not available through your water supply. Fluoride is recommended by the American Dental Association to strengthen teeth, which may prevent tooth decay.
If using a bottle during periods of sleep, fill the bottle with only pure water.

Ages one and up
When it comes to brushing and flossing for kids, both tasks require good manual dexterity, or in other words, good control of the toothbrush and floss; something most kids do not develop until around age six. Until this point occurs, it is important for an adult to brush a child's teeth twice a day to ensure the removal of plaque to prevent tooth decay. Until the age of six children should be supervised while brushing. Brushing should last for at least two minutes. But in the case of children, it will generally require a bit more time and patience for the person helping the child. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Start by using a soft bristled toothbrush with a pea sized amount of toothpaste. Choose a toothpaste that is appropriate for the age of the child
  • Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle with the bristles pointed in the direction of the gum line
  • Gently brush the teeth with a circular motion. Brush the outside surface , inside surface and biting surface of the teeth
  • Flossing a child's teeth is often easy because they have fairly large spaces between them. Some children however, do have tight spaces, and require daily flossing to prevent tooth decay between the teeth. Consider using a flossing aide, they are easily used between the teeth, cleaning gently and effectively and allow the child to attempt to floss on their own.
  • Tour the dental office when they're a toddler
  • Change manual toothbrushes every three months and electric toothbrush heads every 4-6 months
  • Take children to the dentist every six months for a check up and cleaning

Make Brushing and Flossing Fun and Easy by:

  • brushing your teeth together, taking turns brushing each other's teeth
  • using one of the familiar cartoon character brushes
  • singing the theme song from your child's favorite cartoon or a nursery rhyme, while you brush their teeth
  • using toothpaste and mouth rinse that have pleasant flavors for sensitive taste buds ?
  • using syllables like "ahhhh" or "eeeeeee" to help your child open their mouth or move their lips away from their teeth while brushing.
  • using toothbrushes that play music as each song is the length of time they need to brush their teeth

As kids get older and learn to brush on their own, set up a chart in the bathroom to help them keep track of brushing and flossing. Click here to download a printable chart:

*Info courtesy of, and a pediatric dental hygienist.

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