Good oral hygiene is not only important to keep a pearly white smile and great smelling breath, but also important for maintaining good overall health. Oral issues (like tooth loss due to cavities or infection) not only reduce an individual's quality of life, but may also lead to problems in other areas of the body. Thus, starting good oral hygiene practices early in life is important!
Before teeth erupt, clean your child’s mouth and gums with a soft cloth. This helps keep the mouth clean and prepares your child for tooth brushing when teeth erupt. Once teeth erupt start brushing your child’s teeth using an age appropriate toothbrush with soft bristles. Use only a smear of fluoride toothpaste on the brush until the age of 3. After the age of 3, increase the amount of toothpaste to a pea size dollop. Parents should assist in brushing until the age of 8 years old. Until then, children typically do not have the manual dexterity to adequately brush all tooth surfaces.
When brushing, move the brush in small circular motions to reach food particles that may be under the gum line. Hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush slowly and carefully, covering all areas between teeth and the surface of each tooth. It will take 2 minutes to thoroughly brush all teeth. Remember to brush the tongue before rinsing since bacteria can live on the tongue too!
Teeth should be brushed for at least 2 minutes 2 times a day (in the morning and at bedtime) to avoid the accumulation of food particles and plaque.
As soon as the bristles start to wear down or fray, replace your toothbrush with a new one. Do not swallow toothpaste. Have your child spit out toothpaste or assist in wiping toothpaste out of the mouth with gauze.
When your child’s teeth are touching, it is important to help floss. Flossing helps clean between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. It is very important to floss between the teeth every day. Help your child floss at night to make sure their teeth are squeaky clean before bed. When you first begin flossing, the gums may bleed a little. If the bleeding does not go away after the first week, let your pediatric dentist know. Your pediatric dentist and their staff can give tips on flossing your child’s teeth.