Grow Up Strong — Teach Proper Dental Care Early

Not only will a healthy smile, fresh breath, and strong teeth contribute to your child’s overall health, confidence, and self-esteem, but good oral health also will help him avoid gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss and a host of other serious health problems in adulthood, including heart disease.

By starting good dental habits early, even before the first tooth appears, your child will find it easier to stick with those good habits forever.

Take the time to instruct, supervise, and motivate your child to establish good oral-health habits early. That includes regular trips to the dentist, beginning with the appearance of the first tooth.

Because brushing alone is not enough to tackle the bacteria and plaque that build up between your child’s teeth, he or she should begin flossing — with your help — once the primary teeth have come in, usually around age 3.

And be aware that even though your child will lose his or her first set of teeth, these little chompers still need to be taken care of. Early decay of the primary teeth can cause them to fall out early, before the permanent teeth are ready, which increases the likelihood that the permanent teeth will be crowded or crooked when they come in.

Beware! Neglecting daily oral hygiene allows dangerous bacteria-filled plaque to grow, causing gum inflammation and gum disease as well as arterial clotting, which increases the likelihood of a child suffering a heart attack or stroke when he or she is an adult.

Toothbrushing Tips

How much toothpaste? Although commercials show a big S-shaped bit of toothpaste on the entire brush, all kids need is a pea-sized dab or the length of their pinky nail.

How long? Dentists generally recommend brushing 3–4 minutes, but 2 minutes will do the trick.

Reality check: Most people only spend 30 seconds brushing.

Tip: Try using a kitchen timer or hourglass to measure your child’s brushing time. Or play your child’s favorite song and have a rule that she can’t stop brushing until the music’s over.

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