What do you know about your child’s dental health? Brush up on how to keep your child’s teeth clean from infancy and on.

How to Care for Your Baby’s Teeth

  • Even before your baby starts teething, run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria.
  • When your baby gets teeth, brush them with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of  fluoride toothpaste. Use fluoride toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. For children younger than 2, consult first with your doctor or dentist regarding the use of fluoride toothpaste.
  • When two of your baby’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing between them.
  • Even babies can get tooth decay. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle can harm a baby’s teeth. Sugars from juice, formula or milk that stay on a baby’s teeth for hours can eat away at the enamel (the layer of the tooth that protects against tooth decay).

How to Brush Your Child’s Teeth

  • Apply the right amount of toothpaste. The ADA recommends a rice-sized smear for children ages 0-3 and a pea-size amount for children ages 3 and older.
  • Angle the toothbrush 45°. The toothbrush should be facing towards the gums of the upper or lower teeth.
  • Move the brush gently back and forth with short, tooth-size strokes. Continue this technique for the interior, exterior and chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  • Hold the toothbrush in a vertical position to brush the front teeth. Make sure to clean the front and back.
  • Brush the tongue to remove bacteria from the surface.
  • If your child is younger than 6, watch them brush. Help your child until they have good brushing skills, and remind them to spit toothpaste rather than swallow.

How to Prevent Cavities

Cavities happen when bacteria and food left on the teeth after eating are not brushed away. Acid collects on a tooth, softening its enamel until a hole – or cavity – forms.

  • Start good oral habits early. Teach kids to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and to floss regularly.
  • Get enough fluoride. Regular use of fluoride toughens the enamel, making it harder for acid to penetrate.
  • Limit or avoid some foods. Sugary foods, juices and candy can erode enamel and cause cavities. If your kids eat these foods, have them rinse their mouth or brush their teeth afterwards to wash away the sugar. The same goes for taking sweetened liquid medicines; always have kids rinse or brush afterward.

4 Apps to Keep Kids Brushing

  • Disney Magic Timer by Oral-B: Kids can brush with their favorite characters, keep track of their progress, and unlock games and stickers.
  • Mimizaur Tooth Brushing Timer: Cartoons featuring Mimizaur the dinosaur, fun music and rewards encourage brushing.
  • Pokémon Smile: Brush along with Pokémon to defeat cavity-causing bacteria, collect awards and become a Brushing Master in this fun app.
  • Toothsavers Brushing Game: Kids have two minutes to brush away a magic spell cast by the evil sorceress — as they progress, they’ll unlock new characters.

A Brush for Little Hands

Help young kids develop good brushing habits with the Quip Kids Sonic Toothbrush. The kid-sized replaceable brush head has soft bristles, and sonic vibrations help clean effectively. A built-in 2-minute timer with 30-second pulses helps them brush for the recommended time. The brush is battery powered, with no wires or chargers to get in the way, and the slim design fits smaller hands. Available on amazon.com for $24.99.

The Tooth Fairy: By the Numbers

  • The tooth fairy visits each child around 20 times (that’s how many baby teeth children have).
  • In 2023, the average cash gift of the tooth fairy was $6.23.
  • Today’s American tooth fairy began to appear in popular culture in the early 1900s.
  • National Tooth Fairy Day is celebrated on February 28.

Tooth Truths

  • Orthodontists recommend having a child’s teeth evaluated at age 7.
  • One in five children has an untreated cavity.
  • Nearly four million kids have braces; most are between 9 and 14 years old.
  • Sharing utensils, cups or food can transmit cavity-causing bacteria from one person to another.
  • Third molars, or wisdom teeth, usually erupt between the ages of 17-21.

Resources: cdc.gov, familydoctor.org, kidshealth.org, deltadental.com, aaoinfo.org, adea.org, colgate.com, axios.com, ada.org, cavityfreekids.org

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