The habits children learn when they are young can lead to a lifetime of healthy teeth. And it’s never too early for kids to start learning how to care for their oral health.
By the time they are three years old, most kids have all of their baby teeth, also called primary teeth. Around the age of 6, these will start falling out and being replaced with adult teeth, or permanent teeth, most of which should be in place by the age of 13.
Infant oral health care is different than toddlers’. While babies have all of their primary teeth when they are born, they are below the gum surface so they can’t be seen.
At about six months, these teeth will begin to break through. So it’s important that parents start taking care of their infant’s teeth even before they start coming in.
After feeding, wipe the infant’s gums with a soft washcloth to remove any bacteria that could lead to future tooth decay. When teeth start to appear, brush your child’s teeth twice daily with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Smear toothpaste in an amount no more than a size of a grain of rice on a child-sized soft-bristled toothbrush.
Try to avoid leaving a bottle in your baby’s mouth after he or she is finished feeding. A condition that is known as “baby bottle tooth decay” can occur when milk, formula, or juice from a bottle is allowed to remain on the teeth’s surface while sleeping or for other extended periods of time.
It’s a good idea to schedule your child’s first dental appointment prior to their first birthday or even when their first tooth becomes visible. Like a well-baby visit with your pediatrician, this first checkup with your family dentist can help set the course for a lifetime of health.