February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! 

Because February is known for celebrating everything sweet, it is a great time to brush up on dental tips for parents with young children. The earlier a child is exposed to proper brushing and flossing the easier it will be to prevent tooth decay or cavities.

Parents of young children are often confused about the right age to start cleaning or brushing their child’s teeth. At birth a newborn has all 20 primary teeth present in the jawline, and around six months the baby teeth can start to expose. A newborn will not have any visible teeth present, but a parent can start dental care shortly after birth by gently wiping the gums with a clean, moist cloth.

Decay can begin in infancy while the first tooth normally appears at around 12-14 months. The proper time to begin brushing is when the first tooth shows. A parent should use a smear of fluoridated toothpaste twice a day while brushing every tooth present until their child reaches age 3. When a child reaches age 3 to 6 years the amount increases to pea size with parental supervision to prevent ingestion of toothpaste.

The American Dental Association recommends that parents schedule a dental appointment for their child right before the first birthday. The first dental visit is considered a well-baby or preventive checkup, and will cover proper brushing, and check for any abnormalities. Parents are recommended to follow the normal schedule of regular dental visits at six month intervals for their child, or at their dentist’s advice. Future visits to the dentist will help the child to become more comfortable, address age appropriate care such as the application of dental sealants, and set a routine for visits throughout adulthood.

Brushing and flossing are not the only tools used to prevent tooth decay. Limiting sugary drinks or snacks will also help overall dental health. Proper nutrition can also limit the chance of gum disease or tooth decay. As a child grows, a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, and grains is important to maintain health and a great smile!