Dental care is an essential component of overall health regardless of age, but many parents seem to underestimate the benefits of developing positive dental habits in their children from a young age. There’s so much information available regarding the “proper” timeline for toddler dental care, but the truth is, even the most well-intended parents can sometimes make mistakes that could negatively affect dental health. However, adult teeth typically start to come in around age six
. Until then, baby teeth act as placeholders for the permanent teeth, and damage to them can cause substantial problems later. So, here it is: a quick and easy two-minute guide for infant and toddler dental care that any parent can understand.
Children should begin regular dental visits at age one
. Not only does this timeline provide the best quality of care, but studies have shown that prioritizing early preventative care can also save parents on dental care costs in the long run.
“A CDC report shows that dental care costs are nearly 40% lower over a 5-year period for children who see a dentist by age five,” says WebMD
However, at-home dental care should actually begin before your child even has teeth. Parents should be gently brushing their child’s gums; not using toothpaste, but using water on either a baby toothbrush or a soft washcloth.
There are also gum wipes available for infants, which are recommended for daily use.
“The literature shows that even before a child has teeth, there are cavity-causing bacteria in the folds of the tongue. Ideally you’ll do this after breakfast and after dinner,” Lezli Levene Harvell, D.D.S., board-certified pediatric dentist in Newark, New Jersey told Parents Magazine
Don’t forget To floss
No, contrary to popular belief, flossing isn’t
something that should begin only when adult teeth emerge. Most dentists agree that parents should initiate and ensure proper flossing habits
as soon as their child’s teeth are touching one another. And make sure to emphasize technique and floss around all sides of each tooth. It’s okay to use the small plastic flossers, but proper technique is an absolute must. It’s usually best to start flossing for your children until they’re old enough to floss themselves with supervision.
Ultimately, teaching your children positive dental care habits will ensure they maintain their healthy smiles for years to come. Of course, it may not be easy at first, but Dr. Harvell says to keep at it for best long term results.
“Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes,” says Dr. Harvell. “My 2-year-old has bitten me before, and it hurts! Any way you can motivate your child, go for it.”