Siblings of different ages with happy, healthy smiles.

As a parent, we know your top priority is ensuring your children’s health and well-being. While you may already have a good handle on their physical health, it is important not to overlook their dental health. Oral health is a critical aspect of overall health, and poor oral hygiene can lead to a range of problems, including cavities, gum disease, and even systemic health issues.

Dental Health by Age

Fortunately, protecting your kids’ dental health doesn’t have to be complicated. By following a few simple tips and staying consistent with good oral hygiene practices, you can help your children maintain healthy teeth and gums at every age.

Infants and Toddlers

Most babies are born with no teeth, just those adorable, gummy smiles. Your biggest concern at this age may be teething. Common signs of teething in your child include fussiness, excess drooling, loose stools, and interrupted sleep. Your baby may also chew on her hand more often than normal or get a low fever.  Using a cold washcloth to massage the gums or placing a pacifier or teether in the fridge can help.

Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, it’s a good idea to start practicing good oral hygiene. This means wiping their gums with a clean, damp cloth after feedings to help remove bacteria. This also gets them used to the sensation so that it is easier to develop brushing habits down the line.

Once your child’s first tooth does come in, you can switch to using a soft-bristled toothbrush designed for infants. When it comes to toothpaste, use only a very tiny amount (about the size of a grain of rice) until your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste on their own. This is typically around age two or three.

As your child begins to eat solid foods, encourage a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats. You should schedule your child’s first dental exam at age one or when they get their first tooth, whichever is first.

Preschoolers and Young Children

As your child grows and becomes more independent, they can start taking on more responsibility for their oral hygiene. Encourage your child to brush their teeth twice a day. At this stage, they can graduate to using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Also, help them floss between their teeth once a day.

Get them involved by letting them choose their toothbrush at the store. And consider using a fun timer or playing music to help them brush for the recommended two minutes.

At around age 5, your child may also start to lose their baby teeth and grow in their permanent teeth. It is important to continue to schedule regular dental checkups to ensure that their teeth – even baby teeth – are developing properly and to catch any issues early on.

Additionally, be sure to limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks, as these can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities. Children tend to be picky eaters at this age, so continuing to promote healthy choices is crucial.

Preteens and Teenagers

As your child enters their preteen and teenage years, it may become more challenging to encourage good oral hygiene habits. However, it’s important to stress the importance of maintaining healthy teeth and gums, both for their appearance and their overall health. Like younger children, your teen should be brushing their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing once a day. Additionally, make sure they are eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.

Keep a lookout for signs of wisdom teeth, which often start to erupt around age 17, but can come in sooner or later than that. Wisdom teeth often become impacted, so keeping regular dental appointments to monitor them is essential.

It is also important to talk to your teen about the dangers of tobacco use and drug abuse. These can have serious consequences for oral health, including gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancer.

Special Considerations

If your child has special healthcare needs or is at higher risk for dental problems, there may be additional steps you can take to protect their oral health. For example, children with sensory issues may benefit from using adaptive toothbrushes.

If your child is an athlete, consider a mouthguard with your dentist to protect their teeth and gums during sports activities. And if your teen is getting orthodontic treatment, remember that oral hygiene is extremely important during that time.

Make Dental Exams Part of Your Child’s Routine

By starting good oral hygiene habits early and staying consistent, you can help your child maintain healthy teeth and gums. Remember that everyone in your family should have regular dental checkups at 6-month intervals. If it’s that time for your child, call us to schedule today.