In addition to following the basic guidelines for good oral health, infants and children require special care and attention. According to the Surgeon General, dental decay (cavities) is the most common chronic disease of childhood.
Start brushing early
The most important thing is to teach proper oral health habits in the early years.
Baby to age 3
- Clean your baby's mouth and gums with a cloth or soft toothbrush after every feeding.
- As teeth begin to break through the gums, use a smear of fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
- It is best to clean them right after breakfast and before bedtime.
Child ages 3 and older
- Increase the amount of fluoride toothpaste to a pea-sized amount.
- Brush twice a day for at least two minutes with fluoride toothpaste.
- You will need to help your child brush their teeth until they are at least 7 or 8 years old.
- Teach your child to spit out toothpaste and not swallow it after brushing.
Choosing a toothbrush
- Choose the right toothbrush for your child's age.
- Choose one with soft bristles.
- Replace a toothbrush when the bristles are worn or about two to three months.
Visit a dental professional
Your child should begin visiting a dental professional around his or her first birthday. Your child's oral health care professional will check oral hygiene and the development of your child's teeth, and will suggest a schedule of regular visits.
Infant feeding tips
- Always hold your baby during bottle or breast feedings.
- Never prop the bottle or leave it in the crib or bed with your child. Allowing a child to suck freely on a bottle can lead to baby bottle tooth decay. If you do, use water only.
- Introduce a cup at 6 months of age, and wean your baby from the bottle at 12-18 months old.
- Encourage rinsing the mouth out with water after giving your baby food or sugary juice.
Child Feeding Tips
- Avoid sweet, sticky snacks (fruit leather, candy).
- Limit sugary juice.
- Only give soda, candy and other sweets for special occasions.
- Choose fresh fruits, vegetables or whole grain snacks.
Dental sealants are thin liquid coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of your child's teeth. Ask your dental professional to determine if sealant applications would benefit your child. Dental sealants prevent about 40%-75% of decay in the treated teeth for about nine years.