Tips to Prevent Cavities in Young Children
Teaching young children the importance of proper dental care cannot be understated. The American Dental Association (ADA) has issued a statement advising parents to begin teaching their children about proper dental care at a very early age—even before their first tooth emerges. Studies have shown that early lessons in dental care are valuable for preventing cavities in children. The ADA has compiled an expert tip sheet for parents to instill good dental care habits in their children.
Babies, Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers
- Following feeding, parents may use a clean, soft cloth or gauze to wipe your baby’s gums. This allows your baby to begin to become familiar with the sensations associated with routine dental care.
- Preventing cavities in baby teeth is as crucial as prevention for secondary teeth. As soon as your child’s first tooth emerges, begin brushing with a child’s toothbrush and plain water. (Ask your pediatric dentistry specialist before using toothpaste.)
- You may begin to teach your child about flossing when two teeth emerge side by side.
- Begin routine pediatric dentistry visits by the age of one. If you suspect your child may be struggling with any dental issues, begin seeing the dentist right away.
- Beyond the age of two, you can begin using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to brush your child’s teeth. Children should be supervised while brushing to keep them from swallowing the toothpaste.
School-Age Children and Adolescents
- Children should brush twice per day with a child-sized toothbrush until the age of six or seven, using no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- Continue to assist your child with flossing. Around the age of ten, your child should be able to use string floss and handle flossing on their own with minimal supervision.
- Around the age of six or seven, your child should be capable of brushing his or her teeth twice per day with supervision. At age ten, most children will complete the task appropriately with minimal supervision. Your pediatric dentistry practitioner can help you assess whether your child is brushing and flossing properly.
- Routine dental visits should remain consistent throughout your child’s life. When your child is old enough, teach him or her to schedule and attend dentist appointments on their own.
- Dental sealants are a protective coating that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth and are often essential to preventing cavities in children. Ask your pediatric dentistry expert if sealants would be the right choice for your child.