Dental Care Instructions

Dental Care: After Your Child's Visit

Your Care Instructions

Basic dental care for your child involves brushing and flossing teeth regularly. It also means getting regular checkups and cleanings, and eating healthy foods.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Birth to 3 years

  • Make sure that your family practices good dental habits. Keeping your own teeth and gums healthy lowers the risk of giving tooth decay bacteria to your child.
  • If you bottle-feed, don't put your baby to bed with a bottle of juice, milk, formula, or other sugary liquid. This raises the chance of tooth decay.
  • Start cleaning your child's gums with a soft cloth or gauze pad. As soon as the teeth come in, clean them with a soft toothbrush. Use a very small amount (a smear) of fluoride toothpaste. When your child is age 2 years, it's okay to start to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
  • Experts recommend that your child see a dentist by his or her first birthday. If your doctor feels that your child will have dental problems, your child should see a dentist before his or her first birthday or 6 months after the first teeth appear, whichever comes first.

Ages 3 to 6 years

  • Your child can learn how to brush his or her own teeth at about 3 years of age. Children should be brushing their own teeth, morning and night, by age 4. You should still supervise and check for proper cleaning.
  • Give your child a small, soft toothbrush. Use fluoridated toothpaste, about the size of a small green pea. Encourage your child to watch you and older siblings brush teeth. Teach your child not to swallow the toothpaste.
  • Talk with your dentist about when and how to floss your child's teeth and to teach your child to floss.
  • Help children age 4 years and older to stop sucking their fingers or thumbs. If your child can't stop, see your dentist. A children's dentist (pediatric dentist) is specially trained to treat this problem.
  • After your child's permanent teeth begin to appear, usually around age 6, talk with your dentist about having dental sealant placed on the molars.

Ages 6 to 16 years

  • A child's teeth should be flossed as soon as they touch each other. Flossing can be hard for a child to learn. Talk with your dentist about the right way to teach your child how to floss.
  • If your child has cavities, your dentist may advise the use of a mouthwash that contains fluoride. But teach your child not to swallow it. Fluoride can be harmful in large amounts.
  • Use disclosing tablets from time to time. They can help you see if any plaque is left on your child's teeth after brushing. These tablets are chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after the child brushes. You can buy these at most drugstores.
  • After your child's permanent teeth begin to appear, talk with your dentist about having dental sealant placed on the molars.

All children

  • If your child needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend a supplement, or a gel or varnish that he or she would apply to your child's teeth. Use supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be harmful and can stain a child's teeth.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house. Tobacco smoke may lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Teach older children about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.
  • Give your child healthy foods, including whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as pastries, pasta, and white bread. Healthy eating helps to keep gums healthy and make teeth strong. It also helps your child avoid tooth decay.
  • Children play hard, sometimes hard enough to knock out or break a tooth. Learn how to prevent injuries to teeth and what to do in a dental emergency.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has an injury to the face, jaws, or teeth.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's gums bleed when you press on them or bleed often when he or she brushes.

Care instructions adapted under license by Slm. This care instruction is for use with your licensed healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.