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Overview

Healthy teeth and gums are essential for a healthy body. From their first baby teeth to their adult teeth, you can help your children enjoy a lifetime of good oral health with proper care at home, a balanced diet and regular dental visits.

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Care for Your Infant

  • Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after each feeding to remove plaque and residual food that can harm erupting teeth.
  • When your child’s teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child’s size toothbrush and water (toothpaste is used for children two and older).
  • To prevent tooth decay, infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottle before going to bed.
  • If you use a pacifier, use a clean one. Never give a baby a pacifier dipped it in sugar or honey.
  • With your child’s first birthday, begin regular dental check-ups for “smile” insurance.

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Prevent Tooth Decay

  • Maintain a balanced diet for your child by selecting foods from the five main food groups—fruits, vegetables, meat, grains and dairy.
  • Limit between-meal snacks. If your child needs a snack choose nutritious foods from the main food groups rather than cookies, candy and other sweets.
  • Ensure that school food services and vending services offer nutritious selections.
  • Encourage children and adolescents to drink water.

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Encourage Brushing & Flossing

  • Brushing twice a day and flossing are necessary to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
  • A pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children two and older is all that is needed.
  • Make sure your child spits out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it.
  • For young children, select a child-size toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Children should be able to brush alone by age seven.
  • Replace toothbrushes every three to four months.
  • Use floss as soon as the child has two teeth that touch.
  • Ask your dentist or hygienist to demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques.
  • Supervise your child’s brushing and flossing until you are satisfied they are doing both properly.

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Make Dental Visits Enjoyable for Your Child & You

  • Schedule the dental appointment for a time when your child feels rested and cooperative. Avoid nap and mealtimes if possible.
  • Don’t let anyone tell your child scary stories about dental visits.
  • Don’t let your child know if you feel any anxiety about going to the dentist.
  • Don’t bribe your child to go to the appointment.
  • Never use a dental visit as a punishment or threat.
  • Do try to make your child’s dental visit an enjoyable outing.
  • Set a good example by taking care of your oral hygiene and health.

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Additional Resources

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Videos
When Should Children Get Braces?