How to Keep Your Child's Teeth Healthy

The Steps to a Healthy Smile for Life

Smiling little girl
Kristen Curette/Stocksy United

The importance of introducing your child to good oral health at an early stage in their development will give their teeth the best possible chance to be healthy for life. As soon as your baby’s first tooth erupts, you need to start taking good care of it.

Making oral hygiene fun is one of two big keys to success—the other being setting a good example as a parent. Remember that children often do as they see rather than as they are told.

Below are some suggestions on how you can help your children learn about the importance of oral hygiene.

Brushing Teeth for Babies and Kids

Once your baby starts sporting his or her very first tooth at around 6 months of age, it's time to buy baby’s first soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste. Make sure you choose a specially marked children’s toothpaste suitable for their age, as it will contain less fluoride than regular toothpaste, or you can simply brush with water to begin with.

All you need to use is a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. If your child is too young to brush their own teeth, you can start by brushing the inside surface of your child’s teeth (which accumulates most of the plaque), then the outside, using gentle, circular motions. It can be a fun game trying to brush your child’s tongue!

You should supervise your children while they brush their teeth until they are around 8 years of age, and they should only be left to their own devices once you’re sure they’re capable of managing a thorough brushing on their own.

Kids and Dental Floss

Introducing dental floss from a young age is a great idea, because it helps them to associate flossing with their normal dental routine. You may have to do the flossing for your child until they are older (around 12-13 they will have transitioned from mixed to a full adult dentition), but it will definitely be worth the effort for healthy teeth and gums.

Diet and Your Child’s Dental Health

A healthy diet is directly linked to a healthy smile. If your child has unhealthy eating habits, it increases his or her risk of dental problems including dental plaque, decay, and gum disease.

It is especially important to avoid added sugar in snacks, which bacteria (from plaque) thrive on. This is then converted into acid, which erodes tooth enamel.

Some children tend to be graze and snack, which can be a difficult pattern to change, especially when your baby is teething! However, the more frequent the snacks, the more frequent the acid attacks from plaque. Its best to avoid unnecessary snacks where you can, else increase the dental routine to help keep plaque and bacteria at bay.

Keep Up to Date With Dentist Check-Ups

Getting your baby familiar with the family dentist from the very first tooth can be so beneficial. This is because they’ve had time to see that a trip to the dentist can be safe and fun event.

Any time you (or your other children if you have them) have an appointment, see if the dentist can have a quick fun check of your child’s teeth, so that when the time comes for a proper check-up, its not so daunting—and they’ve seen that you do it too.

Your child’s first dental check-up should ideally be around 6-12 months, and no longer than 24 months.

Dental Sealants

Something you can discuss with your child’s dentist is the possibility of dental sealants.

The fissures, or deep pits in your child’s teeth, are the most likely place that dental decay can pop up first. Dental sealants similar to a glue that bonds to the crevices in your child’s back teeth. They help give them extra protection against cavities. They have been safely used for decades and will last on a tooth for years.

Sealants or not, it is still important to establish and maintain a daily oral health routine from your child’s very first tooth—your child’s healthy smile will thank you for it!

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