It's never too early to teach children how to take care of their teeth, dentists say. In fact, many parents don't know that the time to start daily cleanings is before babies have any teeth at all. Here are some tips from Bruce DeGinder, a Williamsburg, Virginia, dentist and former president of the Academy of General Dentistry:
- Wipe an infant's gums with a damp cloth or piece of gauze. Try this at least twice a day.
- When the first teeth come in, brush with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Use only a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste before a child is able to spit.
- Try to wean a child from the breast or bottle by age 1 and limit pacifiers and thumb sucking. Too much sucking can cause decay and push teeth out of place, especially after age 4 or 5.
- Don't give a child a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened liquid at bedtime. The sugar will lead to tooth decay.
- Help a young child brush their teeth and tongue at night, which is the most important time to clean. Let the child brush alone at first to build self-confidence and then do another round yourself. Count to 20 as you brush the outside of every tooth and then for the inside of teeth. » Be sure children floss once permanent teeth start coming in, or if two teeth are touching without a gap between. » Encourage children to brush after meals.
- Set up a child's first dental visit about six months after the first tooth comes in.
Alison Freehling's "How to" is a weekly feature on health, nutrition and fitness. To suggest a topic, call 247-4789 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun