Healthy Teeth For Children
When will my baby’s teeth appear?
From birth to 12 months
- Wipe your baby’s gums with a soft, clean, damp cloth twice a day.
- As soon as the first teeth appear, clean them at least once a day (usually at bedtime) with a soft bristle toothbrush designed for babies. Lay your baby on a flat surface or with his head cradled in your lap to brush teeth.
- Avoid leaving your baby in bed with a bottle.
- After 6 months:
- Introduce a sippy cup.
- Avoid juice. If you do offer it, limit juice to no more than 125 to 175mL (4 to 6 oz) per day, in a cup rather than a bottle and only as part of a meal or snack.
- If a bottle is needed at nap time, offer water rather than milk or juice.
- If you breastfeed before naptime, be sure to clean your child’s teeth before he goes to sleep.
- Never sweeten a soother.
Don’t put a soother or bottle nipple in your own mouth for any reason. Bacteria (including those which cause tooth decay), viruses and yeast infections can be passed between you and your child this way.
From 1 to 2 years
Limit soother use to nap and bedtime.
From 3 to 4 years old
If your child continues to suck her thumb as permanent teeth begin to appear, talk to your doctor or dentist.
For all ages
- Wash your hands before and after brushing teeth.
- Rinse toothbrushes thoroughly after brushing and ensure that each one can dry without touching others.
- Replace toothbrushes every few months, when the bristles become flattened with use.
- Between meals, quench a child’s thirst with water. Do not offer candy, dried fruit (including raisins) and sugared drinks or juices.
Take your child for regular dental visits (every 6 months, unless otherwise suggested by your dentist).
How can I help my teething baby?
When your child is getting her teeth, her gums may be swollen and tender.
- Rub the gums with a clean finger.
- Offer her something to chew on. A wet facecloth placed in the freezer for 30 minutes can be helpful, or a teething ring made of firm rubber.
- Use gel that can be rubbed on your child’s gums. Your child may swallow it.
- Give her teething biscuits, which may contain sugar.
- Ignore a fever. Getting new teeth does not make babies sick or give them a fever. If your baby is younger than 6 months call a doctor. Older children can be treated at home, as long as they get enough liquids and seem well otherwise.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral that is found in soil, water and in various foods. It is necessary for tooth mineralization (a process that helps to harden and protect the teeth). Many communities in Canada add fluoride to the local water supply to help prevent tooth decay. It can also be found in many types of toothpaste, mouthwash and varnishes (polish applied to the teeth by a dentist).Children who start using products with fluoride from an early age have fewer cavities than those who don’t.
How does fluoride work?
Fluoride helps prevent cavities and decay by coming in direct contact with the tooth enamel (the outside of the tooth) and promoting mineralization.If you consume fluoride from sources such as drinking water, it gets absorbed in your bloodstream. Then it becomes part of the enamel on the inside of the tooth.If too much fluoride gets into the inside of the tooth, it can cause a condition called fluorosis
What is fluorosis?
Too much fluoride in the early years can damage teeth as they are forming, and can lead to a condition called fluorosis. Fluorosis causes white spots or blotches on teeth. But white spots on teeth can also be a sign of early cavities. Your dentist will have to look at your child’s teeth to know for sure.
In more severe cases of fluorosis, these spots can stain or become dark. The teeth can become brittle, chipped or “pitted”.
Cases of fluorosis are quite rare, and most cases are mild.
How much fluoride does my child need?
The right amount of fluoride will prevent cavities, but not cause fluorosis.
- The best way to prevent cavities is to add fluoride to drinking water.
- The right amount is about 0.7 parts per million (ppm) in drinking water, which is enough to prevent cavities but not too much so as to cause obvious fluorosis. You can check with your local municipality to find out how much fluoride is in your drinking water supply.
- Natural sources of water may also have fluoride. If your water comes from wells or springs, you can have it tested. If it contains 0.7 ppm of fluoride or less, it is safe.
- If the level of fluoride in your water supply is 0.3 ppm or less, ask your dentist or doctor whether a supplement is needed.
- If the amount of fluoride in the water is more than 0.7 ppm, there is more chance that a child will develop fluorosis. Children younger than three years of age should not drink water with fluoride levels of much more than 0.7 ppm.
What about fluoride from toothpaste & supplements?
Start brushing your children’s teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste by the time they are 3 years old. If your child is under 3 years of age and you think she may be at risk for early childhood tooth decay, talk to your dentist to find out if it is a good idea to start using a small amount (the size of a grain of rice) of fluoridated toothpaste.
Fluoride is available as drops or lozenges, but most children don’t need extra fluoride.
If there is a reason to give your child fluoride supplements, your dentist or doctor will recommend them. If you use drops, dilute them with water (follow instructions on package) and squirt them on the teeth. Tell your child not to swallow the drops.