Every child’s baby teeth are just as important as their future adult teeth. The good dental habits that children develop in their first 8 years will follow them through their transitional dentition and into adulthood. Knowing how best to guide your kids on this important journey can sometimes be challenging or difficult. Here are answers to the questions parents frequently ask about their children’s dental needs.
When should I start brushing my child’s teeth?
Begin cleaning your child’s teeth and gums as the first tooth emerges. Cleaning should be done twice daily, with a wet wash- cloth or gauze. When your child is 1 – 2 years of age, change to a soft bristle children’s brush, and brush in small gentle circles. At around 18 months of age, you can add a light smear of low-fluoride toothpaste on the brush. Between ages 2 and 4, a pea-sized portion of toothpaste is appropriate. And by age 5, a portion about the size of a bean is advised.
When can I let my child brush on their own?
There’s really no set age for your child to have the skills to brush on their own. Every child develops at a slightly different rate, so it’s a good idea to allow your child to brush for them- selves as soon as they show a willingness to do so. Although this will be supervised brushing, it can be empowering for your youngster to perform this task themselves. Most children will require supervision or assistance until around age 6.
What if my child refuses to brush?
This is one of the toughest questions to answer. First, do your best to understand the child’s reason for refusing. The way forward is rarely the same for every child. If war breaks out every day at brushing time, it’s better to be creative than to be insistent. To encourage brushing, always use positive reinforce- ment. Associate brushing with a fun activity like bath time or a bedtime story. If you can create a positive association between those activities and brushing, you will win the war.
When should I take my child to the dentist?
Most children should have their first dental visit between ages 1 and 3. These initial visits are typically more informative than therapeutic in nature. They will, however, help your child become more familiar and at ease with their dental profes- sional, especially as they reach 3–4 years of age. By then, most children need little more than a polish, so these “fun visits” can set the stage for a lifetime of stress-free dental care.