Tooth Care Starts at Birth

by Dr. Anson Hooper, DDS, Hooper Family Dental

Being a parent can come with its challenges, but it can also be very rewarding. There is no playbook or manual for what to do when life gets busy with the hustle and bustle of trying to keep up.

The same is true when it comes to oral hygiene. It’s even easier for kids to forget. If they are anything like mine, brushing their teeth is the last thing on their to-do list! As parents, offering guidance is helpful.

Since visits to the dentist often come with fear and hesitation for young children, preventing cavities is often the preferable approach. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to other problems.

Parents often have a tough time judging how much dental care their children need. They know they want to prevent cavities, but they don’t always know the best approach to take.

For infants

  • Wipe their gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after their first feeding and right before bed to stimulate the gums and wipe away bacteria and sugars consumed.
  • When teeth come in, start brushing twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush and plain water.
  • Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday or after the first tooth has come in, to spot signs of problems.
  • Talk to your dentist or doctor about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as their first tooth appears.

For children

  • Brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Help your child brush their teeth until they have developed their brushing skills.

If your child is younger than 6, supervise their brushing. Offer suggestions on technique. Make sure they use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, and always have them spit it out rather than swallowing it.

  • Ask your child’s dentist to apply dental sealants when appropriate.
  • Drink tap water that contains fluoride.

If your drinking water does not have enough fluoride to prevent cavities, fluoride supplements such as drops, tablets or lozenges are available from most pediatric health care providers.

Avoid habits such as putting your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup and thumb sucking. These habits can be challenging to break in the future and can be an obstacle to a healthy set of teeth.