Tips on caring for your child's teeth at home based on age
Germs, Germs, Germs!
Your mouth contains germs that can cause your baby to get tooth decay. Your baby can catch germs from your mouth from contact with your saliva. Do not share spoons, cups or toothbrushes with your child. Avoid cleaning his/her pacifier with your mouth.
Start cleaning baby teeth as soon as they come into the mouth – usually around age 6 to 10 months.
- Use a baby toothbrush with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Brush twice a day: once in the morning and once at bedtime.
- You can brush your child’s teeth anywhere – not just in the bathroom. It can be easier to brush a baby’s teeth while he/she is lying down on a changing table or on the floor. Toddlers can have their teeth brushed while sitting up in a chair or while standing in front of you in the bathroom.
- Some children do not like having their teeth brushed. It’s OK if they cry because wide-open mouths make brushing easier! Gently brush your baby’s teeth. Remember that it’s the fluoride in the toothpaste that make the teeth stronger and prevents and even reverses early tooth decay.
Here are tips on caring for your child’s teeth and mouth based on his/her age:
The First Year
- Before Teeth: Even newborn babies need to have their mouths cleaned. Before your baby has teeth, clean the mouth with a clean, damp washcloth each day.
- With Teeth: Brush teeth twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Introduce a sippy cup when your child can sit up on his/her own. Limit juices, breast milk and formula to mealtime only.
- If you put your baby to bed with a bottle, fill it with water only. Milk, formula, juices, soda and breast milk all have sugar in them that can puddle around a sleeping baby’s teeth, causing tooth decay.
Age 1 to 3 Years Old
- Brush child’s teeth twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. If your toddler does not like having his/her teeth brushed, here are some ways to make it fun:
- Allow your child to decide where tooth brushing will take place.
- Watch a tooth brushing video online.
- Turn on a favorite television show during brushing time.
- Allow your child to choose his or her own toothbrush and toothpaste at the store.
- Ask your child’s medical doctor or dentist about a simple fluoride application that can be given at the office.
- Wean baby from the bottle by age 1. Now your baby should be drinking water from a sippy cup. Offer your child milk in a sippy cup during mealtimes as well as a maximum of 4-6 ounces of 100% fruit juice per day. When your child is not having a meal, the sippy cup should only contain water.
- Check your baby’s teeth for spots and stains. Ask his/her medical doctor or dentist about any problems you notice.
- Ideally, children should have their first dental check up by age 1. Schedule a visit with a dentist or ask your child’s medical doctor to look at his/her teeth.
Ages 3 to 6 Years Old
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Your child can now use a little more fluoridated toothpaste than before – the size of a pea.
- When purchasing toothbrushes, be sure that they are the correct size for your child. As your child grows, the toothbrush you use should grow too.
- Let your child start learning to brush his own teeth, but be there to help. Due to limits with coordination, children aren’t expected to brush properly until age 6 to 8 years.
- Ask your baby’s medical doctor or dentist about a simple fluoride application that can be given at the office.
- Limit juice drinks to 4-6 ounces per day to help prevent tooth decay.
- Start flossing your child’s teeth once a day as soon as he/she has two or more back teeth that touch.
- Schedule visits with your child’s dentist.