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Fostering an early habit of good dental care is important for growing children. Parents have the responsibility of making their experience in oral hygiene pleasant and fun—so that their children won’t run into negligent habits and bad dental experiences down the line. Cleaning their child’s teeth in an age appropriate way throughout their first few years, will prepare them for success in their dental health, and in their time with the dentist.
Parents may be confused when to start their child’s oral hygiene, as most infants only develop their first baby teeth between 6 and 12 months, usually the bottom front teeth. Whether or not the infant’s teeth have already erupted, it is best to begin oral hygiene early. The parent can clean the gum area by gently wiping them with soft wet gauze, Spiffies are a great to use here. This should be done as early as two months of age and at least once per day. The parent should avoid being too vigorous as the process may irritate the baby’s gums and damage them.
Once more teeth have emerged—most particularly if the molars are already fully visible, the parent should swap the gauze for a very soft bristle brush. No toothpaste or other substance except warm water should be used during this time. The main goal of the exercise is equal parts the cleaning of the teeth and getting the infant used to the idea of brushing.
Starting at two years of age, it is advisable to introduce the use of fluoride toothpaste—but only in small, pea-sized amounts. Brushing should be done twice a day, preferably after a meal and at bedtime. The parent must supervise the child at every brushing as they aren’t able to brush properly during these years. They should also teach the child to only spit after brushing and never rinse, as well as keep them from eating or swallowing toothpaste. Once the child turns seven, they will already have formed the good habit of brushing and are able to do the task unsupervised.
Not only will starting early ensure your child has a healthy start, but it will also make their first dental cleaning more successful.