Just for Kids
Caring for Your Child's Teeth: For Parents & Caregivers of Children 3 and under
Baby teeth play an important role in your child's development. They facilitate chewing, create spaces for the developing adult teeth below, and influence speech development which affects self-esteem and confidence. As parents and caregivers, you play an important role in your child's dental health. Establishing positive dental health care habits early will help to set your child up to maintain healthy teeth for life.
An educational CD entitled How to Take Care of Your Child's Teeth was created through a partnership between the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport and the BC Dental Association (BCDA). This new teaching tool is intended to help educate parents and caregivers of children three years of age and under about the importance of early dental health care. Developed by dental professionals, the CD and supporting tip sheet and poster, provide valuable information on caring for a child's dental health, when the child's first dental visit should take place, how to prepare a child for the dental visit and understanding what to expect.
Caring for your Child's Teeth tip sheet and poster:
The educational CD and a supporting tip sheet and poster are also available through public health offices and at local libraries.
More information on dental health care for babies and toddlers is available at kidsmiles.ca.
Speak to your dentist about any questions you may have on your child's oral health care. Looking for a dentist? Click on Find a Dentist to locate a dentist near you.
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Children are susceptible to dental disease, such as cavities and gum disease which can cause significant discomfort. A cavity is a hole in the tooth caused by tooth decay. Taking care of a cavity early on will aid in preventing further decay. Most people consider gum disease an adult condition but it does occur frequently in children. In fact, most children have some degree of gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease. This may cause tenderness or bleeding of the gums.
More on cavities and gum disease
The good news is that both cavities and gum disease are highly preventable. Regular dental visits will help to identify and deal with any signs of concern early on. Daily cleaning and a healthy diet are equally important.
Active children may also be susceptible to mouth injuries. One way for kids to reduce the chances of damage to their teeth, lips, cheek and tongue is to wear a mouth guard when participating in sports or recreational activities that may pose a risk. Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels and hard candy, which can crack a tooth. Most dental injuries occur between the ages of 1 1/2 and 3. Here are some tips on how to treat the most common dental injuries:
- Broken Tooth – Rinse out your child’s mouth with warm water and use cold compresses to minimize swelling. See your dentist.
- Cracked Tooth – See your child's dentist
- Jaw-Possibly Broken - Go to the emergency room
- Knocked Out Tooth – Clean the tooth by holding it by the crown (not the root) and rinsing gently. If possible, re-insert tooth into socket and hold in place until you reach your dentist's office. If that’s not possible, place the tooth in a glass of milk and bring it with you to the dentist.
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Dental heath prevention tips for kids
- use only a pea-sized portion of fluoride toothpaste for children over 3 years of age and a smear for those under 3 to minimize swallowing
- brush with a soft toothbrush and fluoride containing toothpaste twice a day
- visit your dentist regularly – the first visit should be within 6 months of when you see the first tooth or at one year of age.
- teach your children about the benefits of flossing around the age of 7
- eat a healthy diet and limit candy and other sweets. Food such as cheese, nuts, carrot and celery sticks, fresh fruit or plain yogurt are all good examples.
- replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 months
More about fluoride
Fluoride is beneficial even before your child's teeth begin to erupt. It strengthens the tooth enamel as the teeth are forming. While some municipal water supplies contain fluoride, the vast majority of BC communities do not. To find out whether your water contains fluoride, call your local water district. Use fluoride toothpaste remembering to limit the amount to a smear for children under 3 years (size of a grain of rice) and a pea-sized portion for children over 3. If your child is not getting enough fluoride, talk to your pediatrician or dentist about fluoride drops for your baby.
Choosing a toothbrush for kids
There is a lot of choice when it comes to purchasing a toothbrush, which makes it difficult to know what to look for. A good starting point is to ask your dentist for a recommendation.
- Choose a toothbrush for your child that has a small brush head which makes it easier to get to the hard-to-reach places
- Let your child choose his/her toothbrush from the ones you know are appropriate for him/her
- Choose a soft toothbrush with non-slip grips which make them easy for children to hold.
- Replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 months, after a cold or illness, or when the bristles lose their shape.
Fun kids links
Check out the following links to engage your kids in fun activities relating to their dental health!
It is never too early to establish good habits for your kids – including regular brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and eating nutritious foods to support good dental health.
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