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  • Valya Mertarchyan

How should parents take care of their child's teeth?

Author: Dr. Valya Mertarchyan

These are common questions people ask as they become parents:

  1. How soon should a baby see a dentist?

  2. What is the best way to brush baby teeth?

  3. When should kids start brushing their teeth?

  4. Do kids need toothpaste when they begin brushing their teeth?

  5. Is there a healthy diet for kids' teeth?

  6. What is the best toothbrush for your child?

Parents need to know that kids' dental hygiene starts as early as one week after birth. Plaque control begins at 6 months of age when the first baby tooth erupts. Before their first birthday, children should visit a dentist.

Oral hygiene is a foundational step to prevent oral diseases. For children, good oral hygiene is essential to the transition from primary to permanent teeth. Parents need to know that children's dental hygiene starts as early as one week after birth. Every day, parents should clean a baby's gums with moist gauze. Plaque control and dental visits begin at 6 months of age when the first baby tooth erupts.

For infants (0-1 years old), as soon as a baby tooth erupts, parents should clean it with moist gauze or a toothbrush.

Toddlers (1 to 3 years): This is the right time to introduce your child to a toothbrush. Initially, a parent or caregiver can brush a child's teeth using a toothbrush. When a child is 2 years old, a small amount of toothpaste should be added to daily brushing.

During preschool (3 to 6 years): Parents brush their children's teeth using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. It is time to start using dental floss. Children until 6 years old do not have the manual dexterity to brush their teeth. Before the age of six, it is parents' responsibility to brush and teach their children how to brush.

School-age (6 to 12 years): Brushing teeth is supervised by parents. They make sure that children brush thoroughly and regularly.

Adolescents (12-19): Parents should encourage teens to practice good oral hygiene and be patient as their behaviors change.

What is the best way to brush primary teeth?

Using circular motions to brush baby teeth is the most common technique- Fones technique: Rotate the toothbrush head and bristles in a wide, circular motion. The technique is easy to use for kids. This method can help remove plaque from teeth and gums. Be careful not to harm kids' gums or soft tissues.

What is the best way to brush permanent teeth?

One of the most often brushing methods for permanent teeth is the modified Bass toothbrushing method. Position the toothbrush 45 degrees to the teeth long axis. Place the toothbrush bristles slightly subgingival (under gums), gently clean under gingiva with back-and-forth motions, then move vertically forward the occlusal (chewing) surfaces of teeth.

(Darby & Walsh, Dental Hygiene, theory, and practice Fourth Edition)

Depending on parents' preferences, parents brush their children's teeth differently. Some parents prefer to stand behind their children when brushing their children's teeth, while others prefer to stand in front.

What is the best toothpaste to choose?

You need to know the purpose of the toothpaste you choose. For kids, the main purpose is to prevent cavities or reverse newly formed caries (demineralization) as well as prevent gum disease. Therefore, you should look for hygienic toothpaste- to clean teeth, and therapeutic toothpaste- to prevent cavities.

Look for the following ingredients while choosing toothpaste.

Cleansing agents: calcium pyrophosphate, dicalcium phosphate dihydrate, anhydrous dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate (chalk), sodium bicarbonate, silica, silicates, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, aluminum trihydrates.

Anticaries agents: Fluoride -Sodium fluoride (NaF). Calcium and phosphate derivatives: Recaldent, NovaMin, calcium lactate, pyrophosphates, glycerophosphates. and xylitol.

  • kids under age 3: use a smear size toothpaste

  • 3-6-year-olds: use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste

  • Fluoride is the most efficient caries prevention agent

Is diet important for dental health?

Diet plays a crucial role in the maintenance of dental health. During the first six months, breastfeeding is recommended, then complementary foods should be added to the diet. Feeding a child from a bottle at bedtime is not recommended. It is the main reason for baby bottle tooth decay.

The upper frontal teeth are the most commonly affected by nursing-bottle caries. A well-balanced diet is recommended to prevent dental caries. It is advisable to eat whole grain bread and cereals, dark green vegetables, and fruits. Consumption of milk and dairy products is highly recommended. Daily protein intake is essential. Between meals, sweets should be limited and avoided. Snacks should be healthy and sugar-free. Fruits, vegetables, and cheese are all healthy snack options. There is a direct relationship between caries activity and the consistency(sticky), frequency, and length of time carbs (sugar) stay in the mouth.

Caries prevention tips for kids
  1. Drinking from cups should begin around one year of age

  2. Be sure to know how much fluoride is in a child's drinking water

  3. Do not offer a bottle with juice or any liquid food other than water during bedtime

  4. Start oral hygiene as the first tooth is erupted (6 months)

  5. Kids should visit a dentist close to one-year-old age

Finally, parents should be aware that proper diet, hygiene, and visiting the dentist are essential to kids' oral health. Following caries prevention guidelines for children is the responsibility of both: parents and dental care providers. This article has provided several tips on caring for children's teeth. I am happy to answer any questions related to kids' oral health.

If you find this blog useful, please share it with other parents!



(Prevention and Management of Dental Caries in Children, Dental Clinical Guidance, Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme, April 2010)

(Darby & Walsh, Dental Hygiene, theory, and practice Fourth Edition)

(Vinay Kumar Srivastava, Modern Pediatric Dentistry, First Edition: 2011)

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