Brushing and Flossing Your Child's Teeth
Teeth should be cleaned as soon as they emerge. By starting early, your baby gets used to the daily routine. A soft washcloth wrapped around your finger can substitute for a brush at this time. Ask your dentist when you should switch to a toothbrush. Some dentists suggest waiting until four teeth in a row have emerged, others recommend waiting until the child is 2 or 3 years old.
Simple brushing tips and considerations include:
Most children lack the coordination to brush or floss their teeth on their own until about the age of 6 or 7. Up until this time, remember that the best way to teach a child how to brush their teeth is to lead by example. Allowing your child to watch you brush your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene. Not only does this set a good example, it's also a good oral hygiene practice. By reducing your own oral bacterial count, parents reduce the risk of passing cavity-causing bacteria to the child.
Fluoride is safe for children. Fluoride is a natural mineral that protects and strengthens the teeth against the formation of cavities. Using it early in your child's life will provide extra protection for developing teeth. Find out if your tap water contains fluoride by calling your local water authority. If your tap water does not contain fluoride, ask your dentist about the need for fluoride drops for infants or other fluoride supplements.
There is a wide variation in water filters. Some do filter out fluoride; others do not. Check with the manufacturer of the filter you have purchased or have the water tested by a laboratory that does this type of testing.
Many children's toothpastes are flavored with child-pleasing tastes to further encourage brushing. Select your child's favorite. Also, look for toothpastes that carry the American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance. This indicates that the toothpaste has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness. Finally, read the manufacturer's label. Some toothpastes are not recommended for children under a certain age.
Generally, mouthwashes are not recommended in children who are incapable of spitting and rinsing ? skills that occur around the age of 6. It's important to note that mouthwashes are not a substitute for brushing. Mouthwashes do not help clean the teeth.
Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005 6:18:33 AM