A healthy mouth is an important part of your overall health and wellness. Good oral hygiene begins in early childhood and sets the stage for a lifetime of oral health. Helping your child learn good oral hygiene habits early will help them continue these habits throughout their life.
There are a few key elements of a healthy oral care routine that are recommended by dentists and other experts in the field of dentistry. Here’s what you need to know to give your child a healthy start.
Brushing is an important part of good oral hygiene. Here’s how to handle brushing at each stage in your child’s life:
- 0-6 Months. Brushing should start in the first few months of your baby’s life. Even though they may not have any teeth until they are 6 months old or older, it is important to clean your baby’s gums. You can wipe their gums with a clean washcloth or use a silicone finger toothbrush to gently rub your baby’s gums. This removes bacteria from the gum tissue to prevent infection.
- 6-12 Months. Your baby’s first tooth will likely come in sometime between 6 months and a year. As soon as the tooth comes in you should start brushing it. At this age you can use a soft bristled toothbrush that is designed for infants. Brush both the teeth that are showing and the gums twice a day.
- 12-18 Months. Your toddler will most likely have a few teeth by the time they are between a year and 18 months old. At this stage it is safe to brush your child’s teeth with a pea-sized amount of children’s fluoride toothpaste. Teach them how to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. Once they have mastered spitting, you can use fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
- 18-24 Months. Your toddler may want to start holding the toothbrush on their own during this stage. Be sure to go over their teeth yourself with the toothbrush after they are done to make sure the teeth are clean. Continue to encourage them to spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
- 2-5 Years. Your preschooler should be able to brush their own teeth at this age, but it is still a good idea to help them and follow up behind them after they are done. Teach them proper brushing techniques to effectively remove plaque. Check to make sure they are spitting out the toothpaste and not swallowing it.
- 5 Years and Up. School aged children should be brushing independently with daily checks by their parents to ensure that their teeth are getting clean.
Flossing between the teeth is another important part of a good oral hygiene routine. Here’s a suggested timeline for flossing:
- 2-3 Years. Flossing between the teeth becomes important once the teeth start to fit more closely together. This typically occurs between the ages of 2 and 3 as the majority of the primary teeth have come in by then. It will be necessary to help your child floss their teeth at this age. Most pediatric dentists recommend using flossers in the beginning as most toddlers will not have the fine motor skills to handle string floss. Children should floss once a day starting at this age and continue daily.
- 3-5 Years. Continue helping your child floss once a day with a dental flosser. Consider introducing string floss if your child is ready.
- 5 Years and Older. Your child should floss independently with flossers or string floss daily. Check in with them occasionally to ensure they are flossing effectively.
Regular dental cleanings and exams are another important part of establishing and maintaining good oral health. Dental cleanings remove plaque from your child’s teeth that brushing and flossing leave behind. Exams and X-Rays identify potential dental issues like cavities that may need to be filled.
- 6-12 Months. Your baby should go to the dentist by their first birthday or within 6 months of their first tooth coming in.
- 1 Year and Older. After the first appointment, your child should see the dentist every 6 months for the rest of their life.
Get Started on the Right Track with Orange County Pediatric Dentistry
Establishing good oral hygiene habits from an early age will give your child the foundation they need for a lifetime of oral health. Children who start young and stay on track with their dental health are more likely to keep their permanent teeth in place throughout their life. Orange County Pediatric Dentistry is here to help your child get a healthy start.