What you need to know
Preventive dentistry is essential for children’s growth. Children with healthy teeth:
- can chew food more easily and better absorb the nutrients that promote growth
- have an easier time expressing themselves and greater self-confidence
- are more likely to be healthy, since mouth diseases have an impact on overall health
Brushing for very young children
You should start cleaning your child’s mouth as early as possible after birth. It is important to get him or her used to the process, while keeping his or her mouth as clean as possible.
To start, clean your child’s gums with a clean damp cloth wrapped around your finger. This removes food debris while massaging the gums.
Dental plaque can stick to the surfaces of teeth as soon as they appear, so it is important to start cleaning them right away with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Later, you will need to floss between teeth that touch.
As children grow
It is important to teach them how to look after their teeth by brushing and flossing regularly.
Children lack the dexterity to brush properly, and so should be supervised and helped by a parent when brushing. In time, children will want to brush their teeth on their own. It’s still important for you to check that they have cleaned all surfaces. In fact, it is the teeth that are hardest to clean that tend to develop cavities first.
- Brush your child's teeth twice a day. Brushing before bedtime is the most important.
- For small mouths, use a toothbrush with a small, rounded head so as to reach all the tooth surfaces. Remember to clean the tongue, too.
- Dab on a small quantity of fluoridated toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice for children under three, and a pea for children from three to six.
- Make sure your child doesn't swallow fluoride toothpaste.
- When the primary teeth are in contact, start flossing.
- Rinse the toothbrush and leave it out to dry, with the head up. Keep it away from other toothbrushes to avoid germs.
- Replace the toothbrush when the bristles are bent, every month if necessary.
Prolonged contact between milk or sweet liquids and children’s teeth can lead to cavities, so it is never a good idea to let children sleep or fall asleep with a bottle, unless it contains only water. It is also strongly recommended that children be weaned from the bottle once they reach about 12 months, and instead drink from a glass. This prevents the continuous and prolonged contact between liquids and teeth that can cause cavities.
Sweets: some recommendations
Whenever children eat or drink sweet food or beverages, particles stick to their teeth. If they aren't removed by brushing and flossing, bacteria in the mouth transform the sugars in the particles into acids. These acids attack the tooth enamel and over time create a cavity.
- It is best to eat sweets after a meal. There is more saliva at that point, which helps to eliminate the excess sugar and neutralize some of the acids that attack the teeth.
- Ask your children to brush their teeth right after eating sweets, if possible. Otherwise, give them a glass of water, as that will help to dilute some of the sugars and acids.
- Avoid soft, sticky candies that get stuck between the teeth.
- Remind your children to brush their teeth and floss before bedtime.