Oral Hygiene for Infants and Children
Infants may begin getting teeth as early as 4 months old. It is very important to begin practicing good oral hygiene with your infant as soon as the first tooth has erupts. Wipe the teeth gently with a clean, moist, and soft cloth or gauze. Toothpaste at this age is not necessary or recommended. As your child grows and more teeth erupt, use a small brush with a non-fluoridated cleaning agent sometimes referred to as “teaching toothpaste.” It is important not to use fluoridated toothpaste until your child understands not to swallow it. Excessive ingestion of fluoride from toothpaste can cause the staining of their developing permanent teeth.
Children should use a toothbrush that is size appropriate and has soft, rounded bristles. While you should encourage independence about healthy brushing habits, it is important to ensure the complete removal of food and plaque that can cause decay. As your child develops better hand control, teach them the following brushing method recommended for adults:
- Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle towards the gum line
- Move the brush in a small circular motion at the gum line covering 1-2 teeth at a time
- Brush the length of the tooth using a sweeping motion. Repeat this sweeping motion 3-4 times, or until all plaque is visibly removed, making sure to brush the fronts and backs of all teeth
- Brush the chewing surfaces by placing the toothbrush flat on the chewing surfaces and using a back and forth scrubbing motion
- Gently brush the tongue to remove debris
For most toddlers, the act of teeth brushing can be challenging. Here are some suggestions that may help:
- Brush your teeth at the same time
- Give your child toothbrush choices for different days
- Let your child brush first, then follow behind them for complete plaque removal
- Educate your child about why healthy teeth are important
- Make tooth brushing a family affair
- Create a routine
Flossing should begin as soon as your child has teeth that touch each other. This varies in age because children’s teeth vary. In the early years, it is best if you floss entirely for your child. As they increase in age and independence, help them make it a habit to floss every day. Floss aids with handles make holding the floss and cleaning between teeth easier. As with brushing, it is important for you to follow up until they can remove all debris themselves.