Optimal oral hygiene is a team effort between you, your child, and your dental provider. In between routine dental exams, your child’s teeth should be cared for every day. Although your child may enjoy their sense of independence by brushing themselves, be sure to assist them. Our children lack the coordination to reach all tooth surfaces, so be sure to brush through a second time reaching the areas that they may have missed. Brush two times a day, morning and night, for two minutes in a circular motion.
Fluoride toothpaste helps strengthen and protect teeth enamel against cavities. Start with a grain-sized amount of toothpaste that is fluoridated for children under 2 yrs. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children 3 yrs. and older. Your child is still not old enough to brush alone, so you will need to help them brush.
Once your child’s teeth begin to touch one another, start using dental floss at least once a day. Flossing daily helps prevent dental plaque from building. Flossing helps remove food particles between teeth, where a toothbrush can’t reach. Your child’s dental provider can show you and your child how to floss.
Sucking is a normal part of growth that is comforting to children well into their first years of life. If you choose to have your infant suck on a pacifier, take the following safety precautions:
- Keep the pacifier clean.
- Never dip the pacifier into honey or anything sweet before giving it to a baby.
- Never attach a pacifier to your baby’s crib or body with a string, ribbon or cord.
- A pacifier’s shield should be wider than the child’s mouth. Discontinue use if the child can fit the entire pacifier in his mouth.
- Inspect pacifiers frequently for signs of wear; discard if the bulb has become sticky, swollen, or cracked.
For information on the pros and cons of pacifiers, check out the links below.
Cavities Are Contagious
It is not a well-known fact, but cavities are contagious, and can be spread from person to person. Cavity causing bacteria can spread to your child by the sharing of forks, cups, toothbrushes, etc. Teach your child to avoid inserting any object in their mouth that has been in somebody else’s mouth.
When sharing foods during meal times, be sure to use a clean utensil to cut pieces of food for your child instead of biting it off. If your child still uses a pacifier, clean it with a sterile wash cloth and water, do not use your own mouth to clean the pacifier.
Watch for Signs of Cavities
In between your child’s regular visits to a dental provider, it is useful to perform regular visual inspections of your child’s teeth:
- White and brown spots on your child’s teeth are early signs of cavities.
- Black spots, and holes in your baby’s tooth are signs of moderate to severe tooth decay.
When signs of moderate to severe tooth decay are visible, it is wise to schedule a visit with your dental provider, to prevent the infection from spreading.