How to Protect Children’s Teeth

by Guest Writer

Teaching your children at a young age to care for their teeth can help them avoid many dental problems as they get older, suggested the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

The care of children’s teeth and gums should begin before the teeth break through the gums.

1.  How Should You Care for a Baby’s Teeth?

Clean your baby’s gums after every meal by wiping them with a damp cloth.  This removes bacteria and food particles from the gums.

Once teeth begin to develop, place a pea-size of toothpaste on a damp cloth and gently clean the teeth.

Don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice, since this can develop severe tooth decay.  Milk contains lactose or milk sugar.  If you put a baby to bed with a bottle, make sure it contains water.

2.  How Should You Care for a Toddler’s Teeth?

Let your child imitate you as you brush your teeth.  You can even try brushing each other’s teeth.

3.  When Should You Floss Your Child’s Teeth?

Begin flossing as soon as there are 2 teeth side by side.  Floss gently once a day.

4.  How Can You Prevent Cavities?

Limit how much candy, sugary foods and snacks your child eats.  Sugary foods attract bacteria, and this can cause cavities.

Brush after giving your child medicines, since cough syrups can contain sugar.  This produces acids in the mouth, which can erode the protected top layer of a tooth.

Choose a variety of healthful foods for family meals.  Insure there are good sources of calcium, such as milk, broccoli, yogurt, etc.

Avoid giving your child soft drinks, and encourage them not to drink these beverages on their own. A small can of soda contains 6 teaspoons of sugar.  If drunk regularly, this can put on weight.

Visit your dentist regularly.  The first visit should be around your child’s first birthday.  Regular check-ups can prevent future dental problems.   Have X-rays only when needed.

Don’t have your child’s teeth professionally cleaned until they are at least 2 years old.

How to Use a Toothbrush

Since children are often afraid of brushing their teeth, here are some useful tips from Head Start.

1.  Get a special step stool so the child can see the bathroom mirror.

2.  For rinse cups, choose a disposable brand with a fun logo or cartoon on the side.

3.  Let the child choose a soft-bristled toothbrush with a favorite character from TV or movies on the handle.

4.  Brush your teeth at the same time as your child.  Let them go first, but then show them how easy it is.

5.  For fun, sing a  special tooth-brushing song or jingle.

6.  Teach them how to spit into the sink by saying the word “spitooey,”

7.  After finishing, admire each other’s smile.

How to Properly Brush or Floss

Cute Smiles 4 Kids recommends gently sliding the floss between the teeth, curving it around the base of the tooth as you move it up and down.  This dislodges food particles stuck between the teeth.  Never force the floss, since this can cause irreparable gum disease.

Brush for at least 2 minutes to insure that all areas of the mouth have been covered.

Short brushing strokes are effective as long as you tilt the brush at a 45-degree angle, and reach the gumline and all major surfaces.

Brushing hard is detrimental to the health of a tooth.  Brush gently and don’t forget to brush the tongue.

What About Fluoride?

Although some dentists recommend sodium fluoride, a key factor is how much of the chemical is ingested, according to Alexandra Zissu, editorial director of Healthy Child, Healthy World, Beverly Hills, California.

If you get too much, she said, there is the risk of flurosis, which is stained and pittted teeth, which is affecting 41% of kids 12 to 15.  High fluoride exposure has been linked to neurological dysfunction, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease, she said.

“Ultimately it is up to parents as to whether their child gets fluoride beyond the amount that is in the local water supply,” she continued.  “Whether or not the family uses fluoride-free toothpaste and drinks bottled water, the chemical is readily available in dental products. foods canned in fluoridated water, and other sources.  The risk of flurosis decreases after the age of 9, but potential neurological effects remain.  As with all parenting decisions, this one isn’t all black and white.”


“Caring for Your Child’s Teeth,” Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, 2009.

“Keep Them Smiling: Children’s Dental Health,” Head Start, Nov. 13, 2014.

“How to Properly Brush and Floss Your Child’s Teeth,” Cute Smiles 4 Kids,” July 17, 2014.

Zissu, Alexandra.  Healthy Child, Healthy World, Beverly Hills, CA; Feb. 4, 2013.

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