It is important to start teaching children how to take care of their teeth early in life.
Good oral health can help prevent tooth decay, the single most common childhood disease. Without care, tooth decay can cause mouth pain, infection and speech problems. For many kids, these mean extra time away from school.
Here are some more ways you can help your child’s oral health:
- Wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding and right before bed. That will wipe away germs and sugars that can cause cavities.
- Don’t put your baby to sleep with a bottle. This promotes baby bottle tooth decay. Make sure your baby is put to bed with clean teeth.
- When teeth come in, start brushing twice a day with a soft, small, bristled toothbrush and plain water. Talk with your child’s dentist or provider about the use of fluoride toothpaste.
- Visit the dentist by your child’s first birthday to spot signs of problems early. After this first visit, take your child to the dentist every six months or as recommended by your dentist.
- Talk to your child’s dentist or primary care provider (PCP) about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.
- Fluoride varnish is an easy way to stop tooth decay in children. It takes less than three minutes to put on a child’s teeth and is safe for babies and toddlers.
For children younger than two, talk first with your doctor or dentist about the use of fluoride toothpaste.
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Children three to six should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and should always spit it out rather than swallow it.
- Watch your child brush if your child is younger than six. When helping your child brush their teeth, stand behind them and have them look up at you. This will allow you to help them brush more easily. Help your child brush until they have good brushing skills.
- Have your child drink tap water that contains fluoride.
- Ask your child’s dentist to apply dental sealants when appropriate. Dental sealants protect the chewing surfaces and prevent cavities. Applying dental sealants to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth prevent 80% of cavities.
- Take your child to the dentist every six months or as recommended by your dentist.
Tips for your child’s first visit to the dentist
Before the appointment
- Prepare a list of questions or concerns for the dentist.
- Tell your child about the appointment and what to expect. Play games to familiarize your child with the experience. Have them sit in a chair and pretend to be the dentist by counting and brushing their teeth. Then let your child pretend to be the
dentist with a stuffed animal or doll.
- Read books or watch videos about going to the dentist with their favorite characters.
- Schedule an appointment at a time your child will be the most comfortable, such as after a nap or after a meal.
- Be sure to brush their teeth prior to the appointment.
During the appointment
- Bring a list of any medications your child is currently taking in order to give a complete medical history.
- Have your child bring their favorite stuffed animal or toy for comfort.
Does your child see the dentist? Medi-Cal members: learn how to get dental care.