Good Oral Health Habits Begin with Parents
02/12/2003

Many people are unaware of the role that dental care plays in a child’s overall health. In order to help protect the health of your children’s teeth, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents take action early to encourage good oral health habits.

Parents can help their children enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles by setting good examples, such as brushing their own teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day. It is also important that parents teach their children proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Tips to help your children maintain healthy teeth and gums:

  • Begin clearing your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque.
  • Never allow your child to nurse or breastfeed for prolonged periods and don’t give him or her a bottle with milk, formula, fruit juice or sugar water during naps or at bedtime.
  • Take your child to see the dentist regularly, scheduling a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, no later than the child’s first birthday. Parents should explain to their children that the dentist is there to help them care for their teeth and not to harm them.
  • Brush the child’s teeth with water as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
  • Floss when two of the child’s teeth begin to touch.
  • Brush and floss your child’s teeth daily until the child can be taught to do it alone.
  • Make certain that your child gets the right amount of fluoride needed for decay-resistant teeth. Ask your dentist how this can be done. According to the ADA, children who drink water that contains fluoride from birth have up to 40 percent fewer cavities, and many of them remain cavity-free through their teens.

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