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Advice From Our Experts

Ensuring Lifelong Oral Health

Brushing your child’s teeth is never easy. Let’s face it, for many of us it’s a stress-provoking task. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends that children have their teeth brushed twice a day for two minutes. As parents, you try and follow all the rules to ensure their health. But how can you get them to brush regularly without the tears and tantrums?

Establishing an oral-care routine starts at infancy with gum care. As soon as you get home from the hospital is the right time to start! Start your baby’s oral care with a fresh piece of gauze or a clean washcloth. Wet with cool water and gently wipe gums to remove bacteria and prevent plaque build-up. Wipe down your baby’s gums at least twice a day, especially after feedings and before bedtime. Exposing your baby early and consistently to this sensation can prevent them from developing an oral aversion.

Many parents ask if they still need to clean their baby’s mouth if they are tube-fed. Great question—the answer is yes! Even when a child does not drink milk or formula, they are still developing bacteria, which need to be cleaned away regularly. It is also important to stimulate the gums and the mouth. Massaging gums helps desensitize a likely hypersensitive area and normalize sensations in the mouth. This is very important for children who are not typically using their mouths for exploration and eating.

And then there were teeth! When your baby’s first teeth erupt, it’s time to get a small, soft-bristled brush. Again, it is important to keep the routine consistent with times of day so your child can learn to anticipate the task and keep it familiar.

Ask the Expert

Families frequently ask about fluoride toothpastes for their children. Jose Polido, DDS, MS, chief of Division of Dentistry and Orthodontics at CHLA, says that children should use a fluoride toothpaste, but in very specific amounts for their age. Place a smear on the toothbrush for children under 3 years old. For children 3 to 6 years, use a pea-sized amount. Parents should put toothpaste on the brush for their children to assure safe amounts. For medically complex children and those drinking a lot of Pediasure, Polido recommends consulting your pediatric dentist early for specific recommendations.

Tips for Success

  • Consistency. Routine is key!
  • Bottle behavior. Avoid falling asleep with a milk or juice bottle.
  • Interactive brushing with parents. Let your kids try brushing your teeth.
  • Positive reward system. Using a sticker chart to reward after each brushing.
  • Regular dental exams. The first dental exam should be at 1 year of age.
  • Use a toothbrushing app! There are kid-friendly 2-minute timers with cartoon characters that brush with you!
  • Start flossing when two teeth touch, usually between 2-6 years.

Your child’s good oral care routine starts with you, so make sure you are doing everything to give them a great head start to a healthier mouth!