Dental Health

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Proper dental care begins even before a baby's first tooth appears. Parents play a big part in helping their children develop healthy teeth. Early monitoring by a pediatrician or dentist is important.

Following are some tips to make sure that children have good dental health:

  • Run a damp washcloth over an infant's gums following feedings to prevent buildup of damaging bacteria.
  • If children need a bottle for comforting, it should contain only water. Eventually, substitute other comforters such as a stuffed toy, soft cloth, or pacifier.
  • At first, you can just use a wash cloth to clean your infant's teeth. As he gets more, you can use a soft children's toothbrush.
  • Because children tend to swallow toothpaste, put only a small (pea-sized) amount of fluoride toothpaste on your child's toothbrush and press the toothpaste into the bristles. Taking in too much fluoride while brushing can result in fluorosis. Encourage children to spit out toothpastes at a young age.
  • Despite the protests and the fight your child may give you, it is extremely important that you brush their teeth. Since young children are unable to clean their teeth efficiently, parents are responsible for making sure their children's teeth are clean until the child reaches five to six years of age.
  • Make sure your child consumes a balanced diet, including one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat fish and eggs. Limit the servings of sugars and starches as it will aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay.
  • Sticky snacks that stick on teeth also cause cavities. Chewing gum and chewy candies are never recommended. Children should brush their teeth or rinse their mouths after eating some otherwise healthy snacks like raisins and dried fruit.
  • Flossing is an important part of good dental hygiene. You can usually begin flossing once your child is about 3-4 years old, but they likely won't be able to floss on their own until they are 8-10 years old.
  • Brushing at least twice a day and routine flossing will help maintain a healthy mouth. Tooth brushes should be changed at least every three months.
  • If your child has a toothache, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. Give the child acetaminophen for any pain, rather than placing aspirin on the teeth or gums. Finally, see a dentist as soon as possible.
  • A dental check-up every six months is recommended in order prevent cavities and other dental problems.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,