Practicing good oral hygiene starts at birth. As a parent, it’s important to know the oral health guidelines for young children. The health of your child’s baby teeth sets the stage for the health of their adult teeth.
A baby’s teeth start to develop before birth. In most cases, a child gets their first tooth around six months and most children have all 20 primary teeth by the age of three. A child’s first dental visit should be no later than their first birthday.
When a baby’s teeth start to come in, they will most likely experience some discomfort. Some signs of discomfort include:
- Crying and crankiness
- Slight fever
- Red cheeks
- Loss of appetite
- Sucking or gnawing on toys
To help relieve discomfort, dentists recommend rubbing your baby’s gums with your finger, after washing your hands, of course. You can also give your baby a teething ring. Ask your dentist before using any pain reliever medication or gel and never give aspirin to an infant or toddler.
How To Brush Your Baby’s Teeth
Once your baby’s teeth start to grow in, brush them with a baby tooth brush. This kind of toothbrush should have a small head and very soft bristles. For the first 18 months, only use water to brush their teeth, twice a day. After the age of 18 months, you can use toothpaste but look for low-fluoride toothpaste. Only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and make sure your child spits it out after brushing. As a safety precaution, store toothpaste out of your child’s reach.
Teaching Your Child To Brush Their Own Teeth
When your child is four or five, you should start teaching them how to brush their own teeth. While they can’t effectively clean their teeth until around the age of eight, you can still start teaching them the proper technique. Have your child sit in your lap or a position where you have a good look at their mouth. Gently brush in small circles to clean the front surfaces of your child’s teeth. Avoid side-to-side brushing, as it can damage your child’s gums. Clean every surface of every tooth and brush for at least two minutes. By the age of eight your child should be brushing their own teeth under your supervision and by 10 they should be able to brush completely on their own.
While we would all like to think that our toddler would grow up loving to brush their teeth, most of the time this is not the case. Here are a few suggestions if your child resists brushing their teeth:
- Consider an electric toothbrush. This might entertain your child while brushing their teeth.
- Play your child’s favorite song while you brush their teeth. Try to brush the duration of the whole song.
- Offer them a reward, every time they allow you to brush their teeth for the full two minutes.
- Encourage your child to practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth with your child and have them imitate your movements.
Make flossing and brushing as fun as you can. If your child enjoys practicing oral hygiene, you won’t have to worry about oral health issues later down the road.
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