Good oral hygiene habits start when children are babies. We explain why it’s important to teach habits early through instruction and reinforce them throughout childhood.
Oral Hygiene for Infants (up to age 2)
Excellent oral hygiene begins before your baby’s teeth have broken through the gumline – healthy teeth grow from healthy gums. At around six months of age, your child’s first teeth (usually the lower front teeth) will begin to come in.
Here’s how you should care for a baby’s teeth and gums:
- After feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a soft washcloth to remove bacteria, which cause tooth decay.
- Once teeth begin to arrive, brush twice daily with a grain-sized amount of toothpaste on a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Book your baby’s first dental appointment before their first birthday or after his or her first baby tooth has come in - whichever arrives first.
- Limit soother use to nap time or bedtime starting at one or two years old.
Oral Hygiene for Children (aged 3 to 9)
A lot happens in these years as your child grows, and their oral hygiene plan needs to keep up. Baby (primary) teeth should all be in by age three and will start falling out around age six when their adult (permanent) teeth start growing in. Most permanent teeth arrive by age 13.
Here are some age-appropriate oral care lessons for children aged three and up:
- Brush and floss together. Kids love copying adults, so take advantage of this by having them watch you brush and floss while explaining the process. Build good habits by starting to floss once a day when teeth touch (around 6 years of age).
- Choose a special brush and toothpaste. Make brushing fun by choosing a brightly coloured, soft-bristled toothbrush and flavoured toothpaste your child loves (use a pea-sized amount).
- Teach the importance of diet for healthy teeth. For excellent oral hygiene, calcium-rich foods like green vegetables, cheese, and yogurt are key.
- Limit sugary foods, fruit juices, and soda, which get stuck in the crevices of kids’ teeth and become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Oral Hygiene for Pre-Teens (aged 10 to 12)
As kids enter their pre-teen years and grow more independent and active, their dental health needs become more similar to adults. At this age:
- Discourage tobacco use. Not only are smoking and tobacco terrible for your lungs, but tobacco can also lead to many diseases, such as gum disease and oral cancers.
- Remind your pre-teen to drink water, and keep your fridge full of healthy snacks.
- Remind them how great a healthy, white smile looks. Appeal to appearance-conscious pre-teens by reminding them that maintaining excellent oral health will keep their teeth strong and their smile white.
- Continue regular dental visits.