Many parents think that they don't need to worry that much about dental care until their children get their adult teeth-but the experts say that by then, it's often too late. In fact, it's important to start teaching your child good oral health from a very young age.

Start Young

From the time that your baby is born, he has critical oral health needs.  Even though actual teeth aren't physically showing yet, dentists recommend that you wipe a baby's gums with a soft cloth after feedings to prevent any residue from lingering. You can do the same thing with the first few early tooth buds. Once the teeth are in, you can graduate to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush.

How to Brush Teeth

As your child continues to grow and more teeth appear, you can teach him or her how to brush and care for teeth correctly. Follow the below tips from the American Dental Association (ADA):

  • Choose a soft, nylon bristled brush.
  • Dab a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste (ask your dentist at what age this is safe) and make sure your child spits (not swallows) it.
  • Use a circular motion to clean the teeth.
  • Start brushing teeth top to bottom and back to front, to get the job done.
  • Help your child get hard-to-reach teeth.
  • Encourage brushing twice a day.
  • Teach your child to also floss every day.

Make Good Choices

In addition to ensuring good dental care, you can also help make sure your child makes good choices throughout the day. For instance:

  • Limit your child's sugar intake. Too many sweet treats and drinks can wreck havoc on teeth.
  • Avoid letting your child sleep with a cup or bottle containing juice or milk, since the residue can sit on the teeth all night and cause decay.
  • Make sure your community has fluoride-enriched water. If not, talk to your dentist about getting your child fluoride treatments.
  • See the dentist for regular check-ups starting at age 1 and repeating every three months to a year or as often as recommended.

More than Helping You Eat

You may think that your child's baby teeth are there for cosmetic purposes, which is indeed true. But don't overlook the other uses for them, such as helping children to properly chew and eat their food. Baby teeth are also essential "space holders" in the mouth to save room for the big teeth that will eventually replace them. Further, baby teeth are also necessary to enable for speech development, so your child can learn to talk clearly.

With so much resting on the health of your child's mouth, it is important to give it the attention it requires.  Remember that a healthy mouth of strong, white teeth can help your child feel confident, while giving them something happy to smile about all year through.


American Dental Association (ADA)

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Kids Foundation

National Network for Child Care (NNCC)