Start your child on the path to good dental health by teaching him the proper brushing and flossing procedures. It's important to get into the habit of practicing good dental hygiene now, because tooth decay and gum disease can begin as soon as your child's first tooth appears.

WHAT IS GOOD DENTAL CARE?

Careful and thorough brushing is necessary to remove plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the surface of teeth. Sugar and other components of food and drink work with the plaque to form acid, which attacks the tooth enamel and can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

Young children should brush twice daily. If your child is tired and cranky at the end of the day, he may not be cooperative, so you might need to be creative. Try making up a special brushing song, or include teeth brushing in your child's bath-time routine.

WHY IS DENTAL HYGIENE IMPORTANT AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE?

Good dental hygiene is important at this age because baby teeth are space holders for developing permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is lost due to decay or an accident, the adult tooth may come in crooked. And, of course, preventing gum disease can never start too early.

Preschoolers transmit bacteria through sharing food, chewing on toys and even kissing. Tooth decay not only causes your child pain, but also can seriously affect the overall health of her gums and the development of her adult teeth.

WHAT'S A GOOD ORAL HYGIENE ROUTINE?

To prevent cavities, get into the habit of brushing your child's teeth twice a day — once after breakfast and once before bedtime. You should:

  1. Choose a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. Fluoride toothpaste can be used from age 2, but use only a small amount (about the size of a match head), and teach your child to spit out the toothpaste and rinse with water.
  2. Help her with brushing to ensure a good job. Most kids require supervision up to age 7 or 8. Hold your child in your lap, or kneel on the floor in front of her, to help with brushing.
  3. Help her floss between teeth to remove trapped food particles. Check the drugstore for flossing tools for children. Ask your dentist to demonstrate correct flossing technique.

HOW CAN I KEEP HER INTERESTED IN BRUSHING?

Make your routine into a game and let her watch you brush first. When it's her turn, let her manipulate the brush; it'll make her feel like a big girl and get her used to maneuvering it. Or try sitting knee-to-knee, brushing each other's teeth. (Just don't share brushes.) Brush teeth for approximately two minutes and follow up with a wipe from a soft cloth. Your child will most likely be ready to take over this task herself by the time she's 6 or 7.

WHEN SHOULD WE VISIT THE DENTIST?

A preschooler should visit the dentist regularly. These appointments aren't only to examine his current teeth, but also to help raise your awareness of how to prevent tooth decay. Unless there are problems, your child should visit the dentist twice a year.

WHY DOES MY CHILD NEED REGULAR VISITS TO THE DENTIST?

Regular visits to the dentist are important for several reasons:

  1. Preventative care and early detection of problems
  2. Professional instruction on dental care
  3. Building a relationship between your child and the dentist

If your child has an accident or requires dental treatment at a later date, she'll feel more relaxed if she knows her dentist.

HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD FEEL COMFORTABLE WHEN VISITING THE DENTIST?

Prepare your child for a visit well before her appointment.

  1. Check the local library for storybooks about visiting the dentist
  2. Talk about what will happen at the dentist's office.
  3. When you get to the clinic, perhaps you could have your own teeth examined first, while she watches.

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