Taking care of your child`s smile

Taking care of your child`s smile
Taking care of
your child’s smile
s soon as your baby’s teeth break through the
gums, they need attention and care.
In fact, the American Dental Association
recommends that you bring your baby to the
dentist soon after the first tooth comes in and no later
than the child’s first birthday. This visit gives your dentist
a chance to check for tooth decay and discuss other conditions or habits, such as thumb sucking, that may affect
the teeth. The dentist also can show you how to clean
your baby’s teeth properly.
As soon as the first tooth comes into place, start
brushing your child’s teeth with a toothbrush designed
for children. For children younger than 3 years, place
on the toothbrush only a smear of fluoride-containing
toothpaste or an amount about the size of a grain of rice
(Figure, left). For children 3 to 6 years of age, you should
place no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoridecontaining toothpaste on the toothbrush (Figure, right).
Brush the child’s teeth gently twice every day (morning
and night) or as directed by your dentist.
Fluoride is an important cavity fighter. It can be swallowed (also called “systemic”) or applied to the surface of
the tooth (also called “topical”). Systemic fluoride, such as
that contained in water and other beverages and in prescription fluoride supplements, interacts with teeth before
they come through the gums—or erupt. It strengthens the
developing tooth enamel, helping it fight tooth decay in
the future. After teeth erupt, topical fluoride, such as that
in fluoride toothpastes and
rinses, helps rebuild weakened tooth enamel from the
outside. In this way, topical
fluoride even can reverse the
beginnings of tooth decay.
Although fluoride toothpaste is a good source of topical fluoride, it should not be
swallowed. It contains more
fluoride than fluoridated water or fluoride supplements,
and swallowing it every day can affect the color on the
developing permanent teeth that have not yet erupted.
Toothpaste is not candy. Use only the recommended
amount on the brush and tell your child to spit out—not
swallow—the foamy paste.
Caring for permanent teeth
Permanent teeth should start coming in when your
child is 6 or 7 years old, and they will continue to erupt
504 JADA 145(5) http://jada.ada.org May 2014
Figure. When brushing your child’s teeth, use a toothbrush made for
children. For children younger than 3 years, place on the toothbrush
a smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste or an amount about the
size of a grain of rice (left). For children 3 to 6 years of age, place
no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste
(right) on the toothbrush.
throughout the teenage years and possibly even into the
early adult years. Brushing twice a day for two minutes
with a fluoride-containing toothpaste and cleaning between the teeth once daily with floss or another
interdental cleaner will be important habits for your
child to adopt. Regular dental checkups also are essential for good oral health. Checkups allow your dentist
to identify problems, such as tooth decay, and begin
treatment as soon as possible. They also allow for professional cleanings and fluoride applications that will keep
your child’s teeth strong.
Your dentist may suggest applying dental sealants to
the chewing surfaces of your child’s back teeth (premolars and molars) to help protect against tooth decay.
These chewing surfaces have deep pits and grooves in
which food and plaque can build up and destroy the
enamel surface of your child’s teeth.
Caring for your child’s mouth from the start is key to
good oral health. Talk with your dentist about ways to
give your child a healthy smile for life.
Choosing dental products
When shopping for products to help you care for your
child’s teeth—or your own—look for the ADA Seal of
Acceptance on the package. This Seal is given to products that have met the ADA’s guidelines for safety and
effectiveness. n
Prepared by the American Dental Association (ADA) Division of
Science. Copyright © 2014 American Dental Association. Unlike other
portions of JADA, the print and online versions of this page may be
reproduced as a handout for patients without reprint permission from the
ADA Publishing Division. Any other use, copying or distribution of this
material, whether in printed or electronic form and including the copying
and posting of this material on a website, is strictly prohibited without
prior written consent of the ADA Publishing Division.
“For the Patient” provides general information on dental treatments to
dental patients. It is designed to prompt discussion between dentist and
patient about treatment options and does not substitute for the dentist’s
professional assessment based on the individual patient’s needs and
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