Instilling Good Oral Hygiene

Dental health is a good indicator of overall health, and it's important to take good care of your children's teeth and gums. Practice proper oral hygiene habits with your children from birth to instill good practices early and reduce the risk of tooth decay and other dental problems. Here’s how you can help your children with oral hygiene.


Good dental hygiene practices start before your baby cuts their first tooth, which is usually around 6 months old. Use a moist, clean washcloth to wipe your baby's gums after every feeding. This removes bacteria that could cause gum irritation and tooth decay. 

If you feed your baby with a bottle, remove the nipple from their mouth as soon as they're done drinking. Milk contains sugar, so if you leave the bottle in your baby's mouth or put them to bed with a bottle, the liquid sitting against their gums and teeth can cause tooth decay.

Your baby should visit the dentist for an initial examination by their first birthday. Make an appointment with a pediatric dentist once your baby gets their first tooth and follow up with regular visits every six months. 

The dentist won't clean your baby's teeth or use any protective treatments at this age, but regular visits get your child used to the dentist and let the dentist monitor for early signs of cavities and other dental problems.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

Tooth decay is a significant problem in toddlers and preschoolers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 28 percent of kids have at least one cavity by the time they're 3 years old. Though your child will lose their baby teeth eventually, it's still important to prevent cavities in them as much as possible so that they don't damage their permanent teeth.

Teach your child to brush and floss their teeth properly at least twice a day. Use a tiny amount of toothpaste — about the size of a grain of rice — on a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Help your child brush each tooth thoroughly, including the front and back in quick circular, up and down, or back and forth motions for at least two minutes to remove food particles and plaque.

Try to work on teaching your child to spit out the toothpaste, as swallowing too much toothpaste with fluoride in it can cause discoloration on the permanent teeth. Most children won't be able to rinse and spit effectively until the late preschool or early elementary years, but it's best to practice early. 

Use flossers with an attached handle to make cleaning between your toddler's teeth easier. 

As your child transitions to solid food and drinks other than milk, minimize the amount of sugar they consume. Excess sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of preventable tooth decay in young children. Limit juice and sweets and add lots of vegetables and whole grains to your child's diet.

Dentist visits become more involved during your child's toddler and preschool years. Your dentist may start cleaning your child's teeth and applying fluoride treatments to prevent tooth decay. Your child will also begin getting routine X-rays to check the development and placement of their teeth.

Your child's dentist or pediatrician may prescribe chewable fluoride tablets or liquid fluoride drops if you live in an area that doesn't have fluoridated water. 

Older Children

Continue to assist your child with brushing their teeth until they are six to eight years old and can brush thoroughly without help. Some children who have developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder, or fine motor difficulties may need help brushing for longer. 

Older kids who are able to avoid swallowing toothpaste can start using a larger pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride to help prevent cavities. Purchase a new toothbrush for your child every three to six months or after they've been sick.

Keep up with regular dental visits, and ask your child's dentist about sealant treatments for their teeth that can further reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Treasured Smiles Pediatric Dentistry serves children of all ages in Frankfort, Illinois, and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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