Keep That Beautiful Smile!
As a parent, seeing your child smile is one of the best feelings in the world, from those early toothless baby grins to gap-tooth smiles.
Cavities (also called tooth decay) happen when the enamel on teeth breaks down. “They can be caused by germs that feed on sugary foods and drinks left behind by poor brushing and flossing. Fortunately, you can keep your little one’s smile beautiful with simple, daily care,” says Debbie Lehman, RD, registered dietitian at Texas WIC.
The Tooth Care Timeline
Helping to ensure that your child has a beautiful smile starts early.
Up to 3 years
While wiping your baby’s gums with a clean washcloth is sufficient in the beginning, you will need to do more when your child gets his first tooth. When you see that first tooth growing in, start to brush his mouth twice a day with a smear (the size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste on a soft toothbrush.
3 to 6 years
Kids within this age range still need lots of help with their teeth. Let them brush their own teeth for practice. But you should follow up to make sure they are clean. Brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste twice a day — after breakfast and before bed.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Be a good role model.
The best way to teach your kids to take care of their teeth is by taking care of your own. Make sure you brush twice a day and floss once a day. Let your kids watch you brush your teeth. Don’t forget to visit the dentist twice a year!
Don’t spread germs.
Germs that cause cavities can be passed from person to person in saliva. It’s a bad idea to share forks, spoons, cups, toothbrushes or to chew your child’s food.
Start flossing your child’s teeth when the sides of the teeth start to touch and can’t be cleaned by a toothbrush. This might be with baby teeth or when your child’s grown-up teeth start to come in.
See the dentist.
Your health care provider or pediatrician should also check your child’s teeth and gums during well-child visits. Take your child to see the dentist by 1 year old and continue going twice a year after that.
Many cities add fluoride to their tap water to protect citizens’ teeth. Your dentist can tell you if your child needs an additional fluoride supplement.
More tips for a Beautiful Smile
- Avoid putting your child to bed with food or any liquids other than water after toothbrushing. Sugars in foods and liquids can lead to cavities.
- Provide meals and snacks at regular times.
- Teach your child to drink from a cup by 15 months.
- Limit your child to no more than 4 ounces of juice a day and never give juice in a bottle.
- Offer a variety of foods to your child and limit sweet and sticky foods.