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Health library

Protect your child's teeth

Keeping your child's teeth clean and teaching good habits can help ensure a healthy smile for a lifetime.

It's never too early for good dental hygiene. By taking care of your children's teeth and gums from the very beginning, you can help ensure they'll have healthy teeth for life.

The American Dental Association offers this advice on caring for your child's teeth:

  • Take your child to the dentist regularly. The first visit should occur within 6 months of the time the first tooth appears and no later than the child's first birthday.
  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday. This can help prevent tooth decay.
  • Start brushing your child's teeth with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, as soon as the first tooth appears. Use a child-size toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Start flossing your child's teeth as soon as two teeth begin to touch. Supervise brushing and flossing until you're sure your child is doing both properly. And set a good example by making sure you brush and floss regularly too.
  • Make sure your child gets the right amount of fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Sometimes fluoride is in the water your child drinks. But he or she may also need fluoride from other sources. Ask your child's dentist.
  • Talk to the dentist about applying sealants to your child's teeth. Sealants protect normal depressions and grooves in the teeth—areas where tooth decay often develops.
  • Make sure your child stops sucking his or her thumb by the time permanent teeth come in. Thumbsucking is normal at early ages, but later in life it can cause the mouth and teeth to develop improperly.
  • Be certain your child wears a mouth protector when participating in activities such as hockey, football, in-line skating, bicycling and riding a scooter.

Reviewed 9/5/2023

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