For Patients & Families
Basic Oral Hygiene
Consumer Health Information
Although tooth decay is preventable, it is the most common chronic disease among US children
- The baby teeth are important for eating, talking, smiling and confidence and the development of permanent teeth as they function as space holders.
- The use of tooth paste is NOT necessary for children without teeth. Water works just as well for tiny infants without teeth.
- Bed time is the worst time to miss brushing. If you do not get rid of the bacteria and sugar that cause cavities, they have all night to do harm.
- Start cleaning your child's mouth even before their teeth come in. Wipe the gums off after each feeding with a warm, wet washcloth or a dampened piece of gauze wrapped around your finger.
- Clean baby’s teeth (or tooth) after feedings and bedtime with a baby toothbrush, finger brush or washcloth. Massage gently over the teeth and gums in a circular motion.
- Baby teeth have a much thinner layer of enamel compared to adult teeth; therefore baby teeth are more at-risk for tooth decay and it usually progresses quicker than in adult teeth.
From 6 to 12 months old
- You need to start a routine of cleaning your child's teeth twice a day: in the morning and at night.
- Choose an age appropriate size soft toothbrush, you can find them broken down by growth stages.
- Use a soft, circular motion when brushing baby teeth.
- Brush your baby's teeth without toothpaste until your child is 2 years old, if you can't stand the idea of not using toothpaste on child’s teeth, use a fluoride-free children's toothpaste that can be safely swallowed.
- You should take your infant to a pediatric dentist at six months.
- By age 2, the child should start learning to brush. On a small soft-bristle toothbrush, place a pea-size drop of fluoride and brush child teeth. You will need to brush after your child until good oral habits are developed.
- Replace toothbrush bristles that look frayed and worn, when the child has been ill with a cold/ flu or bacterial infection, or if the toothbrush is 3 months old
- Begin flossing at an early age. Floss gently and carefully once a day, starting as early as when two teeth grow in that touch each other. Parents typically need to floss their children's teeth for them until they are about 9 years old.
- The most serious dental problem for young children is called "bottle-mouth syndrome" This is tooth decay caused by the constant presence of sugars from milk, formula, or fruit juice in a child's mouth. It happens when a child takes a bottle to bed, or has a bottle for extended periods during the day. Use pacifiers or bottles of water at these times to prevent this severe decay of baby teeth, and always clean your child's teeth and gums immediately after each feeding.
- Follow-up visits to the dentist are typically recommended every six months; however, most pediatric dentists tailor the children’s visits to their individual needs and risk
- Regularly, lift your child's lips to check for suspicious small white or brown spots on his/her teeth. If you see these white or brown spots, which may indicate dental decay (cavities), schedule an appointment with your dentist right away.
For further information, please contact the Nicklaus Children's Hospital Dental clinic at (786) 624-3368