Although a baby’s first visit to the dentist should be by his or her first birthday, parents must also be vigilant about their child’s oral health at home. Do not wait until your child has multiple teeth before establishing a routine. At the first emergence of a tooth, parents should keep it clean by gently rubbing it with a terry cloth washcloth or clean piece of gauze once a day. As more teeth grow in, parents may begin to use a soft-bristled baby toothbrush. Most babies that are at least five months old can use the infant toothpastes sold at drugstores.
For young children, remember to never put more than a small smear of toothpaste on the toothbrush, as swallowing too much can be dangerous. If your child is too young to brush his or her teeth independently, it may be helpful to sit behind the child and tilt his or her mouth back toward you so you can see every section of the teeth and gums. The British Dental Health Foundation suggests brushing in small circular movements and focusing on one area at a time. In addition, it is important to remember to brush behind the teeth as well as on the gums.
Although most children ages 4 and older can start brushing their teeth on their own, parents should supervise the routine until at least age 7 to make sure the child is brushing thoroughly. If you have difficulty getting your kids to brush their teeth, try establishing a routine that is consistent and fun. Regular, direct praise can go a long way in encouraging children to keep their teeth clean and healthy. For more information about oral hygiene and young children, talk to a pediatric dentist on your dental plan. He or she can help you find a routine that fits your family and give you advice to keep your children’s smiles sparkling.