Parents are responsible for ensuring the health of their children’s teeth by practicing good dental hygiene. Parents must introduce proper oral care early in a child's life—as early as infancy. Primary (baby) teeth are important for good nutrition, self-esteem, proper formation and eruption of permanent teeth and overall health. The American Dental Hygiene Association states that a good oral hygiene routine for children includes:
- Thoroughly cleaning your infant’s gums after each feeding with a water-soaked infant cloth. This stimulates the gum tissue and removes food.
- Gently brushing your baby’s erupted teeth with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and using a pea-sized amount of ADA approved non-fluoridated toothpaste. Flouridated toothpaste should not be used until 2 years of age.
- Teaching your child at age 2 or 3 about proper brushing techniques and later teaching them brushing and gentle flossing at age 7 or 8 years old.
- Regular visits with their dentist beginning at age 2 or 3, to check for cavities in the primary teeth and for possible developmental problems.
- Encouraging your child to discuss any fears they may have about oral health visits, but not mentioning words like “pain” or “hurt,” since this may instill the possibility of pain in the child’s thought process.
- Determining if the water supply that serves your home is fluoridated; if not, discussing supplement options with your dentist or hygienist.
- Asking your hygienist or dentist about sealant applications to protect your child’s teeth-chewing surfaces
- Asking about tooth bottle decay, which occurs when teeth are frequently exposed to sugared liquids, including milk and orange juice. Do not put your child to bed with a bottle containing anything but water.