Good oral hygiene comes down to habits. If you have great oral hygiene it’s likely that you have had diligent oral care habits for most of your life. Kids traditionally do not have the best oral hygiene, but parents can encourage it. And the benefits of kids developing good oral hygiene habits can be exponential. So how do you begin? When do you need to start brushing your child’s teeth? What should kids’ oral hygiene routine look like?
Dental care begins with infants as you keep their mouths clean and gently sooth them during teething. Have your pediatrician check your infant’s teeth at each visit and look for indications of oral problems, and see a pediatric dentist accordingly. Do not put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup, as it can cause buildup and deterioration to the teeth. Begin limiting the binky by age two and completely eliminate it before age four to decrease the likelihood of dental malformations due to sucking on pacifiers.
Begin brushing teeth with a soft-bristled brush as soon as they appear. You can start with just the brush until your infant is used to it, then begin using a rice-sized drop of child’s toothpaste.
Continue good brushing habits twice a day with toothpaste. You can increase to a pea-sized amount and begin using fluoride. Do your best to teach your child to not swallow toothpaste and how to spit it out. You should start flossing their teeth once they have enough teeth touching. You can use picks or flossing tools to make the job easier.
You should do most of the brushing for the early toddler years. Talk to your toddler about how you’re brushing their teeth, and why. Take some time to model proper brushing in your own mouth, but pull them up to the bathroom counter or get down on their level so they can see. Between age three and four they should begin brushing their teeth themselves. You can even use plaque tablets after they brush to show them where they are missing plaque during their brushing.
By age four or five your child should be properly brushing and flossing. Be sure you’re taking regular trips to the dentist to be sure teeth are in good condition. Around age 6 you can consider using mouthwash at the direction of your dentist for added fluoride or cavity prevention. Around this time your child may start losing teeth, so brush carefully and be gentle.
Give your child the gift of healthy oral health for their life by developing good habits now.