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Childhood Dental Care

Take care of your childís teeth to protect your child from tooth decay (cavities). Tooth decay can:
  • Cause your child pain
  • Make it hard for your child to chew
  • Make your child embarrassed to talk or smile

Your childís first teeth are important. Baby teeth hold space for adult teeth.

Take simple steps to prevent tooth decay.
Start good tooth care habits now so your childís smile will last!
  • Start cleaning your childís teeth with the first tooth.
  • Teach your child to brush 2 times a day.
  • Protect your childís teeth with fluoride.
  • Give your child healthy, low-sugar foods and drinks.
  • Take your child to the dentist for regular checkups.
Is my child at risk for tooth decay?
Tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases. Almost half of kids ages 2 to 11 have had decay in their baby teeth.

Bacteria in the mouth use the sugar in food to cause tooth decay. Eating and drinking lots of sugary foods and drinks puts your child at risk for tooth decay. Good tooth care can prevent tooth decay.

These steps will help you take good care of your childís teeth.

Start with the first tooth.
Once your babyís teeth come in, clean them with a clean cloth or a soft childrenís toothbrush. Clean them after feeding, especially right before bedtime.

Teach your child to brush 2 times a day.
Around age 4 or 5, kids can start to brush their own teeth. Watch to make sure your kids brush all their teeth and use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Remind your kids not to swallow the toothpaste.

Make it fun.
Getting kids to brush their teeth can be hard. Here are some ideas that may help.

  • Let your child choose a toothbrush in a favorite color or with a character from a TV show or movie. Just make sure itís the right size for your childís mouth.
  • Make a checklist and have your child add a sticker after each brushing.
Protect your childís teeth with fluoride.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps protect teeth from decay. Here are some ways to make sure your child gets enough fluoride.
  • Fluoride is added to the drinking water in many towns and cities. Check with your town or childís doctor if you arenít sure whether there is fluoride in your water.
  • If your water doesnít have fluoride in it, a doctor or dentist can give your child fluoride drops. The doctor or dentist may also paint a fluoride varnish on your childís teeth.
  • Start brushing your childís teeth with fluoride toothpaste by age 2. Use just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. If young children swallow too much fluoride, their adult teeth may have white spots.
Give your child healthy foods and drinks.
Give your child milk to drink. Milk has lots of calcium, and calcium is another mineral that helps make teeth strong. After age 2, slowly switch your child from whole milk to low-fat or fat-free milk.

Get tips to help you make healthy, kid-friendly snacks.

Avoid sweet drinks between meals.
Never give your child sweet drinks between meals. Milk, formula, and juice all have sugar in them. If sugar stays on your childís teeth too long, it can lead to tooth decay.

Donít put your baby to bed with a bottle.
Milk or formula will stay on your childís teeth all night and increase your childís risk for tooth decay.

Take your child to the dentist.
Take your child to the dentist for a checkup by age 1, and at least once every year after that. Ask your childís doctor for the name of a dentist who is good with kids.

Going to the dentist for the first time can be scary. It might help your child to see you sitting in the dentistís chair first. You can also ask the dentist to let your child sit in your lap during the checkup.

Source: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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