Houston Health Department
Guide to Children's Oral Health
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Good oral hygiene needs to begin even before a child’s first tooth emerges. Without it, children could develop tooth decay as soon as their teeth erupt. On the other hand, it could mean natural teeth that last 100 years for those who start following the recommendations of their dentists or dental hygienists from an early age.
Poor oral health can lead to bad breath, cavities, and gingivitis, gum inflammation accompanied by redness, swelling and frequent bleeding. It could also lead to periodontal disease, infections resulting in inflammation and destruction of the soft tissues and bone that supports the teeth.
Baby teeth help children learn to speak clearly, chew naturally and hold the place for permanent teeth until they are ready to erupt. Below are questions and answers about oral hygiene habits that will give children a good start to a lifetime of healthy smiles
When it comes to infants, you clean from the get go. Wipe the gums with a clean, damp cloth and begin brushing when teeth start to show.
Use a child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush and a small smear of fluoride toothpaste to clean a baby’s teeth.
Don’t let children swallow fluoride toothpaste.
Schedule a dental appointment within six months of the eruption of a child’s first tooth and no later than the first birthday. The dentist will check for early tooth decay or other problems and show parents how to properly clean their child’s teeth.
Checkups every six months ensure children get regular dental cleanings and fluoride treatments. Regular visits help prevent cavities and allow dentists to find unusual tooth growth or poor oral hygiene. Overall, a dentist may recommend more frequent visits based on a child’s oral health.
Parents can begin showing their children proper brushing techniques between ages 2 and 3. However, children may need some supervision and help until 7 or 8 years of age. Good hygiene includes brushing – the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces and the chewing sides—after every meal or at least twice a day.
Flossing removes plaque and food particles trapped between the teeth, areas that a toothbrush can’t reach. Daily flossing can begin as soon as it can be introduced. Teaching children to floss can begin as early as age 2 or 3. They should be flossing by themselves by the time they are 8 or 9, when they have the dexterity to do it alone.
A flossing routine is best if established at bedtime to prevent plaque from damaging the teeth throughout the night. Children need reminding to floss behind the last molars where there are no adjacent teeth.