Parents to Brush Up on Healthy Teeth — Simple Steps for
knows that a healthy smile is a sign of a happy child, and oral health
experts agree that creating those healthy smiles begins in infancy. In
observation of National Children’s Dental Health Month (February),
experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have
released a set of pediatric oral health tips, Brush Up on Healthy
Teeth: Simple Steps for Kids’ Smiles.
The simple steps assist
parents in taking care of their children’s teeth as well as aid in
teaching proper dental habits. Proper dental health practices such as
drinking fluoridated water and brushing with a "pea-sized"
amount of fluoride toothpaste can greatly improve oral health in children.
Fluoride works by stopping or even reversing tooth decay. Research has
shown that brushing with toothpaste that contains fluoride lowers the risk
of decay by 15-30 percent, and drinking fluoridated water lowers the risk
by 18-40 percent.
health care in infancy, along with the proper use of fluoride, reduces the
risk of tooth decay and improves overall health," said Dr. William R.
Maas, Director of the CDC’s Division of Oral Health. "There are
effective measures that parents can take that are safe, effective and
simple, but it’s important that parents understand oral health and begin
The CDC recommends the
following Simple Steps for Kids’ Smiles:
Start cleaning teeth
the first tooth appears, begin cleaning by wiping with a clean, damp
cloth every day. When more teeth come in, switch to a small, soft
toothbrush. Begin using toothpaste with fluoride when the child is two
years old. Use toothpaste with fluoride earlier if your child’s doctor
or dentist recommends it.
Use the right amount
of fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride is important in fighting cavities. But if children
younger than six years swallow too much fluoride, their teeth may have
white spots. To keep this from happening, use only a small amount of
toothpaste (about the size of a pea). Teach your child to spit out the
toothpaste and to rinse well after brushing.
Brush your child’s teeth twice a day until your child has
the skill to handle the toothbrush alone. Then, continue to closely
watch brushing to make sure your child is doing a thorough job and using
only a small amount of toothpaste.
Talk to your child’s
doctor or dentist.
Check with the doctor or dentist about your child’s
specific fluoride needs. After age two, most children get the right
amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities if they drink water that
contains fluoride and brush their teeth with a pea-size amount of
fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
Parents of children
over the age of six months should ask about the need for a fluoride
supplement if drinking water does not have enough fluoride. Also, do not
let a child younger than six years old use a fluoride mouth rinse unless
the child’s doctor or dentist recommends it.