Oral Hygiene Advice for Parents of Very Young Children

Jamie J. Alexander on February 13, 2015

I have two children age two and four. Parents often ask me questions about what toothpaste they should use with their young children and how to establish the habit of good oral hygiene. I typically respond by saying, “This is what I do with my own children.”

My Oral Hygiene Advice for Parents

Each morning and night we have a routine. They pick out the toothbrush they want to use (color) and the toothpaste flavor they like best. (We believe in giving our children some choices so they come to realize early on that they are active participants in their oral health care. Besides, this way, we make it fun.)

We help them brush and then we let them brush by themselves to establish independence and discovery. I believe in fluoride toothpaste for children, and we allow our own children to use it, spit, and rinse—and then spit again.

We also believe in teaching by example, so teeth brushing time for the kids includes teeth brushing time for mom and dad. The family that brushes together… well, you get the idea!

Oral Hygiene for Your Child’s Primary Teeth

Your child will have all of her or his primary (baby) teeth by age three. By then, your child will be ready for a full dental exam, and I will be delighted to do it! In the meantime, be sensitive to pain in the mouth, and if you suspect a cavity, have it examined by a dentist who works with children. Some children begin going to the dentist before age three and become comfortable with it very early on. I started accustoming my children to the dental chair at age one.

The primary teeth are very important to facial and secondary teeth development, as well as proper chewing for nutrition and the development of speech. Premature tooth loss in childhood can lead to oral health problems in late childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood. It is important to preserve tooth enamel, have good nutrition, and treat any dental decay. Starting at age three, your child should be examined by a dentist every six months.

Stop Bad Oral Hygiene Early!

To avoid baby bottle tooth decay and teeth misalignment due to sucking, never put your child down to sleep with a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened liquid as a pacifier. If your child is a thumb sucker, encourage your child to stop thumb sucking before age five through rewards and not stressful punishment—because stress tends to strengthen their attachment to the thumb.

Those are my thoughts for now. Thank you for being diligent in keeping your children safe, healthy, and pain-free. It is possible for a child to grow up today without ever having a cavity. I hope my children and yours are so fortunate, but if not, I am here to help with compassion and gentle dental treatments.