Oral Hygiene for Infants and Children
Infants may begin getting teeth as early as 4 months old. It is very important that you begin practicing good oral hygiene for your infant as soon as the first tooth has erupted into the mouth. Wipe the teeth gently with a clean, moist, soft cloth or gauze. Use of any toothpaste at this age is not necessary or recommended. As babies grow 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 staining of developing permanent teeth.
Children should use a toothbrush that is size appropriate and have soft, rounded bristles. While you should encourage independence about healthy brushing habits, it is important that you ensure 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. Some suggestions that may help your toddler be more receptive to brushing are:
- Brush each others teeth at the same time
- Give your child toothbrush choices for different days
- Let your child brush first, then follow behind 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 create a habit of flossing. 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 collectively.