Kids Dental Care: Keeping Smiles Healthy And Bright

There are few things more precious than your child's smile. By practicing good preventive dental care, you can keep that beautiful smile healthy, right from the start.

Most babies get their first tooth at around six months and will have all 20 primary teeth by the age of three. Then, at about six years old, their permanent teeth begin to arrive. By developing strong dental care habits early, you set the stage for a lifetime of good dental health. With that in mind, here's 15 ways to keep that little smile bright!

Start cleaning baby's mouth even before that first tooth appears. After a feeding, wipe their gums with a clean washcloth or our dentist-invented Tooth Tissues. This not only removes plaque, but gets them familiar with the sensation of having her mouth cleaned.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, guarding against baby tooth decay, or "caries," is serious business. Tooth decay develops when the teeth and gums are exposed to drinks and foods for long periods. The best preventive strategy is to limit prolonged feedings and clean little mouths in between meals.

For this reason, experts warn against putting babies to bed with a bottle of formula or milk—one of the primary causes of "baby bottle caries".

Start teaching your child to drink from a cup at around one year. Drinking from a cup limits the liquids that collect around the teeth. (Similarly, always give juice—which is high in sugar—in a cup instead of a bottle.) Our training cups can make the transition easier.

Avoid allowing your child to carry and sip from a bottle all day. Reserve the bottle for mealtime, and you'll limit the exposure to baby's teeth.

Once baby's teeth start erupting, brush them twice a day with a gentle, soft-bristled toothbrush. Most dentists recommend using a little water—not toothpaste—until kids reach age two. If baby's having a tough time with teething, see Soothing Solutions for Teething Babies.

Once your child has two touching teeth, ask your dentist if you should begin flossing.

Make brushing an enjoyable part of your child's daily routine. Turn it into a game. Sing songs. Brush your teeth as a family. Parents rave about our LED "Wash and Brush" Timer, which keeps kids brushing for two full minutes.

Schedule baby's first dental visit as soon as his first tooth arrives, and definitely before his first birthday. Your dentist will check for decay, evaluate your child's dental development, and offer advice specific to your child.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, a nutritious, balanced diet lays the groundwork for healthy tooth and gum development. To make fresh, homemade baby food the easy way, try our Food Mill or Homemade Baby Food System. For healthy, yummy recipes, check out our kid-friendly cookbooks.

Once your child is about two, encourage them to brush their teeth independently. But to make sure teeth are really clean, brush them again yourself. (Most kids don't have the manual dexterity to brush alone until they're five or six.)

What about thumb sucking? Most kids stop on their own by about age two, and that's fine. But when kids are still sucking on their fingers after age four, it can lead to orthodontic problems. One solution: dentist-invented appliances like our Thumb Guard and Finger Guard.

Toothbrushes can be breeding grounds for germs and bacteria, so replace yours often (many dentists recommend every three months). In between, you can sterilize the family's brushes with a portable toothbrush sanitizer.

Ask your pediatrician or dentist about fluoride. Fluoride, a natural chemical, builds strong teeth, but too much can lead to fluorosis (discolored enamel). Plus, it's not something kids should consume. Many dentists suggest starting fluoridated toothpaste at age two, when kids can spit instead of swallow under careful supervision, of course.

Encourage your child to have a healthy, positive attitude about their teeth, whether gaining them, losing them, or brushing them. Our Tooth Fairy collection, which consists of the Tooth Fairy Book and Tooth Fairy Friends, make losing teeth fun instead of scary.

When it comes to dental health, an ounce of prevention can make all the difference. By starting good dental habits early, you'll give your child a gift that will literally last through his or her lifetime.

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