Children and healthy teeth

A skill that is equally important to teach growing youth.

Good dental care is very important. Teeth help children chew, help develop speech and hold a space for adult teeth. Good teeth give a child their smile and can affect their self-esteem says Michigan State University Extension. Parents can help by brushing twice a day, limiting soda and juice, not letting the child fall asleep with a bottle, limiting snacks between meals, limiting the number of times a child has a bottle or cup throughout the day, and having regular dental checkups.

Good dental care does not have to start when a child’s first tooth appears. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a parent can start dental care from birth to 12 months by wiping gums with a wet wash cloth, or brushing with a wet children’s soft bristle toothbrush. Parents can brush their child’s teeth by placing them on a changing table or floor and holding the child’s head on their lap. Once the teeth appear, a parent can check with the child’s doctor if the child is getting enough fluoride. According to Healthy Children, many experts recommend no fluoride up to the age of two; parents are encouraged to ask their doctors.

For children 12 to 24 months parents should continue to brush their children’s teeth twice a day with water using only a children’s toothbrush. Brushing after breakfast and before bed are the ideal times to brush. As mentioned, with younger children it is easier to brush their teeth if the child is placed on a changing table or floor with the child’s head on the parents lap.  Front teeth are not too difficult to brush, but a parent may encounter resistance when reaching for the back teeth. Making a game out of finding the hidden tooth may make it a bit easier, or pretending to look for hidden treasure in a tooth.

At 12 months children should have their first dental checkup to make sure their teeth are developing normal and that there are no dental problems. The dentist may apply a topical fluoride solution to provide extra protection. If the child lives in an area where water is not treated with fluoride, they may prescribe fluoride drops. At 24 months, children are encouraged to start brushing their own teeth with a pea size of toothpaste. Parents can teach their child to spit out toothpaste and not to swallow it. Typically, children have not developed the skill to spit at 24 months. Parents should go over the brushing because children most often do not do a thorough enough job at brushing. Children become more adept at brushing well from ages six to eight years old. Also, children do not need flossing at this age however, if teeth are touching they may be flossed. As a rule of thumb, teeth should be brushed following the consumption of chewy, surgery food. Children are discouraged from drinking surgery liquids from sippy cups.  If a child does not like the toothpaste, parents may want to try a different flavor.