February is NATIONAL CHILDREN’S DENTAL HEALTH MONTH! Dental health is critically important to the overall well-being of your child. Developing good oral hygiene habits early will prevent gum disease, cavities and tooth decay in the future.
KEEPING YOUR BABY’S MOUTH CLEAN
Taking care of your baby’s mouth is essential, even before the first tooth erupts around age 6 months. Growing Together Pediatrics recommends you use gauze or a clean, moist washcloth to wipe your baby’s gums twice a day, especially after a night feeding.
Never “clean” a pacifier or bottle in your mouth before offering it to your baby because germs that cause gum disease and tooth decay can pass from your mouth to your baby’s mouth. Clean the pacifier with mild soap and water and get a new one once it is worn or broken. Never dip your baby’s pacifier in honey, syrup or other sweet foods because the sugar can lead to tooth decay.
BRUSHING AND FLOSSING
Encouraging good brushing and flossing habits is one of the most important ways to keep your child’s teeth healthy. Once your child can spit, you can switch to a soft-bristled, baby or child size toothbrush with a small amount of toothpaste. Children under age 3 should use fluoride toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice while children age 3-6 need to use fluoride toothpaste about the size of a pea. Start flossing your child’s teeth as soon as two teeth touch. To prevent cavities, brush in the morning then brush and floss before bed.
It can be challenging to find a comfortable position to brush and floss your child’s teeth, but two positions to try are standing behind your child in front of the mirror or sitting on the floor with your child’s head in your lap. If your independent toddler wants to brush by themselves, you can use a song, a counting game or a colorful timer to be sure they brush for 2 minutes. Create excitement by allowing your child to decide what flavor toothpaste to buy or let them pick a toothbrush with a favorite character on the handle. Replace toothbrushes every 3 to 4 months. Remember, a child under age 8 can’t brush their teeth correctly so you need to brush their teeth, too. Periodically check your child’s teeth for white, yellow or brown spots and/or lines because these can be early signs of tooth decay.
Please discuss any concerns or questions about your child’s basic dental care with us!