Toothbrushing Is Important
Good oral hygiene is important and recommended for children of all ages and from the time their first teeth erupt. Brushing teeth removes plaque, keeps the mouth clean and healthy, and improves a child’s breath and sense of taste. In addition, using toothpaste with fluoride helps fight caries (cavities) while strengthening the tooth. Recent research also shows that regular brushing may help protect your heart from bacterial infection.
What is dental plaque?
Dental plaque is a clear, thin and sticky film composed of bacteria, food debris and salivary components. Plaque accumulates on teeth and is linked with both dental caries and gum disease. Mechanical removal of plaque by brushing is the most effective method of cleaning teeth and preventing gum disease.
Start cleaning teeth early
Infants. Wipe their gums and teeth with a clean moist cloth after meals and again before bed.
Toddlers and Preschoolers. Start teaching them to use a toothbrush when they are about 2 years old. Young children want to hold the toothbrush and participate in toothbrushing. Since they do not have enough fine motor control, they need your help.
School-Age Children. Supervise and help them until age of 8—the age most children acquire fine motor skills such as the ability to tie their shoelaces or completely dress themselves.
Instruction and supervision are important to establish effective toothbrushing habits in children. Children, like adults, should brush their teeth at least twice a day, preferably after breakfast and before bed at night.
Start by brushing their teeth for them. Place them in your lap with both of you facing the same direction, so that you can see their mouth and they feel secure. Cup their chin in your hand with their head resting against your body, and clean their teeth as you would your own. Try to clean all tooth surfaces—brush at the gum line and then behind the teeth.
Supervise children as they get older. Teach and encourage them to brush their own teeth, but keep in mind that you will need to help them for a few years. Due to their limited fine motor skills, children should scrub their teeth using small circular motions. Teach children to brush lightly (to avoid hurting their gums) and spit out the toothpaste.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.
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