Kids' Teeth: How to Take Care of Them
Protect Those Little Pearly Whites
There's nothing like that first tooth in a baby's gummy smile. Taking care of your kids' teeth starts even before they are born, and they'll need your help longer than you might think. So how can you give your child a lifetime of healthy smiles?
- Start early. Your baby's teeth start to form in the first months of pregnancy, so good nutrition and regular prenatal care is important. See your doctor - and your dentist! -throughout your pregnancy.
- Practice on yourself. Take good care of your teeth and gums. The bacteria that cause cavities are usually passed from mother to child. If your mouth is healthy, your child will run a lower risk of developing cavities.
- Make it a habit, for you and your baby. Starting when your baby is about 3 months old, help him get used to having his mouth cleaned by gently rubbing his gums with an extra-soft toothbrush or a wet cloth every time he finishes eating.
- See a tooth, brush a tooth! As soon as the first tooth pokes through, start brushing. Talk to your dentist about whether you should use a smear of toothpaste, or just water on an extra-soft toothbrush.
- Set a schedule. Kids who "graze" all day are more likely to get cavities, partly because their teeth don't have time to go through the natural restoration process before the next onslaught of decay-causing foods. Serve drinks on a schedule, too -- serve milk or juice in regular cups at meal times, and reserve sippy cups for water only.
- Follow the "Rule of 2s."
- Brush teeth twice a day.
- Allow 2 hours between meals and snacks.
Kids' Dental Care
Celebrate your baby's first birthday with a trip to the dentist. A pediatric dentist specializes in treating babies and children, and can give you tips about your baby's oral health, pacifier use, or thumb-sucking habit. Although those baby teeth only need to last your child a few years, cavities and other problems still need to be fixed. If a dentist says he won't fill a cavity in a baby tooth, find a new dentist.
[Read: Your Child and the Dentist]
As your toddler begins to test his (and your!) limits, brushing his teeth might become a challenge. Don't give up! Count his teeth, sing a silly song, or distract him with a video while you brush. Let him play with the toothbrush, or give him another to hold as you scrub away. By age 2, use a smear of toothpaste on the edge of the toothbrush bristles.
[Read: Brushing and Flossing a Child's Teeth]
Continue to brush your child's teeth until age 6 to 8. Until then, kids don't have the dexterity to brush well. When your child can tie his own shoes or write in cursive, he can brush his own teeth.
[Read: Dental Care: 3 Years to 6 Years]
Your child's smiles are priceless. Teach good habits early to keep his pearly whites sparkling for a lifetime.