Tips for Helping Your Child Maintain Healthy Teeth

From Dr. Bevin Malley, Charlotte, NC Pediatric Dentist

  • If your child is old enough to spit out toothpaste, clean the mouth after each meal by brushing thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste. If your child is still a baby, you can clean the inside of your baby’s mouth by wiping the gums and budding teeth with gauze moistened with water. When a few teeth have erupted, begin using a baby toothbrush with 2-3 rows of very soft bristles and seek advice from your pediatric dentist or pediatrician about when to start using toothpaste.
  • Floss or use another kind of interdental cleaner daily. This will remove plaque from between the teeth and under the gums.
  • Keep in mind that many children’s medicines contain sugar. It may be a difficult task to accomplish a thorough brushing when your child feels miserable, but do your best. Rinse thoroughly with water.
  • See a dentist regularly and have the teeth professionally cleaned at the dental office on a schedule prescribed by the dentist.
  • How long carbohydrates stay on the teeth is a factor in tooth decay. The rule of thumb is to clean the mouth immediately after eating. If this is not possible, say after eating a snack on the playground, then drink water to rinse food off of teeth.
  • Are you putting your baby to bed with a bottle? Only water should be in that bottle or carbohydrates from the bottle will be in lengthy contact with your baby’s teeth, creating an environment for tooth decay.
  • Because your child is more likely to clean her or his teeth after meals, keep between meal snacks to a minimum or limit them to nutritious foods low in sugar and starches. Ideally offer vegetables and fruits that are high in water content. Examples are pears, melons, and celery. Brush teeth immediately after eating fruits rich in sugar such a raisins and bananas. High carbohydrate foods such as potato chips are a problem if the food residue is not cleaned away. Intentionally work at minimizing sticky foods such as candy and syrup.
  • Your growing child needs lots of calcium to build strong teeth and bones. Serve foods high in calcium like milk, cheese, yogurt, and broccoli. Cheese is a great snack because it triggers saliva production in the mouth that assists in washing food particles off of teeth.
  • Offer milk and water in place of sugar drinks but remember that milk naturally contains some sugar. Clean and rinse the mouth after drinks containing sugar and those that are acidic. These include milk, soft drinks, juices, ice tea, and rehydration sports drinks. Ginger ale and root beer are low in acid, but keep in mind their sugar content requires a follow up cleaning of the teeth.
  • Chewing gum increases saliva flow, washing food particles away from teeth, but you should offer only the sugar-free and xylital-sweetened varieties. Xylital-sweetened chewing gum has been shown to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth.

Readers of these tips obviously care about doing the healthiest things for their children. To get your children get off to the right start, consult with a pediatric dentist in Charlotte. Even if you do your best to maintain your child’s oral health, it is still very common for children to get cavities. Periodic checkups allow your child’s dentist to “nip any problems in the bud” and provide optimal preventive care and treatment.