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Tips For Healthy Teeth And Gums In Children


How to clean your child's teeth:

  • A child younger than 2 years needs to have his teeth brushed twice a day. Brush your child's teeth with a children's toothbrush and water. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend that you brush his or her teeth with a small smear of toothpaste with fluoride. Make sure your child spits all of the toothpaste out. Before your child's teeth come in, clean his or her gums and mouth with a soft cloth or infant toothbrush once a day.
  • Children older than 2 years need to brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. They also need to floss once a day. Have your child brush his or her teeth for at least 2 minutes. You may need to help your child brush and floss his or her teeth until he or she gets older and can do it properly. For children between 2 and 5 years of age, apply a small amount of toothpaste the size of a pea on the toothbrush. Make sure your child spits all of the toothpaste out. He or she does not need to rinse his or her mouth with water. The small amount of toothpaste that stays in his or her mouth can help prevent cavities.

What you need to know about fluoride:

Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent cavities. Fluoride is found in some foods and in drinking water in certain areas. It is also available in toothpastes, alcohol-free mouth rinses, and fluoride applications at the dentist's office.

  • Children need fluoride starting at the age of 6 months. Ask your healthcare provider how much fluoride your child needs. Children under the age of 6 years can develop fluorosis if they get too much fluoride. Fluorosis is a condition that changes the way your child's teeth look. Fluorosis can occur when your child's teeth are forming under his or her gums.
  • Children between 6 months and 2 years can get fluoride from drinking water. Ask your dentist if your drinking water contains enough fluoride. If it does not contain enough fluoride, your child may need a supplement. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend that you brush his or her teeth with a small smear of toothpaste with fluoride.
  • Children over the age of 2 years can get fluoride from drinking water and toothpaste.
  • Starting at the age of 6 years, children can also get fluoride from alcohol-free mouth rinses.

Other ways you can help your child prevent tooth decay:

  • Put only formula or breast milk in your baby's bottle. Do not put sweetened drinks, such as juice, in his or her bottle. Limit juice to 4 ounces per day after your baby turns 1 year old. Your baby should be able to drink fruit juice out of a cup.
  • Do not put your baby to bed or nap time with a bottle. Breast milk and formula contain sugars. If your baby falls asleep with a bottle, these liquids can sit in his or her mouth and cause cavities. Instead, hold your baby while you feed him or her and then put him or her down to sleep.
  • Provide healthy foods and drinks to your child. Choose foods and drinks that are low in sugar. Read food labels to help you choose foods that are low in sugar. Limit candy, cookies, and soda. Do not dip a child's pacifier in sugar, syrup, or any other sweetened liquid.

When your child should see a dentist:

Your child should start seeing a dentist at 1 year of age. Your healthcare provider may instead recommend that your child sees a dentist within 6 months after the first tooth comes in. After 1 year of age, your child should go to the dentist for a checkup every 6 months.

Other things you can do to help keep your child's teeth and gums healthy:

  • Ask about thumb sucking. Thumb sucking can affect the way your child's teeth line up. Talk to your child's dentist or healthcare provider if your older child still sucks his or her thumb. The provider can tell you if your child's teeth are being affected by thumb sucking. He or she may also give you ideas on how to help your child stop.
  • Have your child wear a mouth guard if he or she plays sports. A mouth guard can help protect your child's teeth from injury.
  • Talk to your older child about the risks of piercing. A piercing in the tongue, lips, or other areas of the mouth can cause health problems. Examples include infection, tooth fracture, and bleeding.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.