Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small strip of fluoride toothpaste, unless the child is under the age of 3. If a child is younger than age 3, parents should clean their child's teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. After age 3, parents should supervise brushing. Use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and make sure children do not swallow excess toothpaste.
When your child brushes his/her teeth, have them move the brush in small circular motions to reach food particles that may be under the gum line. Hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush slowly and carefully, covering all areas between teeth and the surface of each tooth. It will take your child several minutes to thoroughly brush his/her teeth. Brush up on the lower teeth, down on the upper teeth and the outside, inside and chewing surface of all of the front and back teeth. Have your child brush the tongue and the roof of mouth before rinsing.
Brushing teeth four times daily will avoid the accumulation of food particles and plaque:
- In the morning after breakfast
- After lunch or right after school
- After dinner
- At bedtime
As soon as the bristles start to wear down or fray, replace your child's toothbrush with a new one. Children should not swallow any toothpaste; have your child rinse his/her mouth thoroughly with water after brushing. It is important to carefully floss and brush daily for optimal oral hygiene.
For areas between the teeth that a toothbrush can't reach, dental floss is used to remove food particles and plaque. Dental floss is a thin thread of waxed nylon that is used to reach below the gum line and clean between teeth. It is very important to floss between teeth every day.
Pull a small length of floss from the dispenser. Have your child wrap the ends of the floss tightly around their middle fingers. Guide the floss between all teeth to the gum line, pulling out any food particles or plaque. Unwrap clean floss from around the fingers as he/she flosses so that they have used the floss from beginning to end when finished. Make sure your child flosses behind all of his/her back teeth.
Flossing at night makes sure your child's teeth are squeaky clean before going to bed. When your child first begins flossing, his/her gums may bleed a little. If the bleeding does not go away after the first few times, let a staff member know at your child's next appointment.
The teeth, bones and soft tissues of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups help minimize and avoid cavities and other dental problems. Consumption of foods that contain sugars and starches should be decreased. These foods can include candies, cookies, chips and crackers. Healthier foods, such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, help promote stronger teeth.
Your child should visit the dentist twice a year (once every six months). In order to maintain a healthy smile, it is vital to have professional cleanings and regular checkups. Your child's dentist will examine his/her teeth and provide an evaluation of existing dental problems and proposed treatment. If your child has a dental emergency, you should call the dentist immediately.
The grooves and depressions that form the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to clean of bacteria and food. As the bacteria reacts with the food, acids form and break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Recent studies indicate that 88 percent of total cavities in American school children are caused this way.
Tooth sealants protect these susceptible areas by sealing the grooves and depressions, preventing bacteria and food particles from residing in these areas. Sealant material is a resin typically applied to the back teeth, molars and premolars and areas prone to cavities. It lasts for several years but needs to be checked during regular appointments.
Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. Regularly drinking water treated with fluoride and brushing and flossing regularly ensures significantly lower cavities. Dentists can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops), if necessary.