Tiny but Mighty: Tips for Taking Care of Children’s Teeth!

Written by Dr. Laura Ellefson Feb 22 • 5 minute read

February has been delightfully assigned “Children’s Dental Health Month” by the American Dental Association. It’s time to reinforce the importance of teaching good oral health habits at a young age so kids can grow up to be healthy adults. At Santa Rosa Dentistry, we’ve been looking forward to taking this opportunity to raise awareness. If there are children in your life, now is a great time to ‘brush up’ on some important facts and skills to get the little ones off to a healthy relationship with their teeth!

First tooth, First Birthday, First Dental Visit

It’s never too early for parents to ask questions, and typically by the time the first tooth erupts at around 6-12 months parents have some questions! During this initial visit the dentist will gently feel their gums and check on the erupted tooth or teeth. The baby can be held on a parent’s lap or laid down on the parent’s lap sitting knee-to-knee with the dentist. Questions will be answered and information on teething, brushing, and nutrition will be discussed. There will eventually be 20 baby teeth and they erupt gradually over the child’s first 2-3 years. Around age 5-6 years old the baby teeth start to shed and permanent teeth take their place, and the first permanent molars (in the way back) also erupt. The last baby teeth are usually lost around age 12. Baby teeth have a key role in saving space for the permanent teeth. They remain in a child’s mouth for 8-10 years and are also vital for chewing, speaking, and their cute smiles. Losing baby teeth too early from untreated tooth decay can have deleterious effects on the child’s nutrition, speech, and self-confidence! Untreated decay can also cause oral infections that enter the bloodstream and lead to other serious health problems, while also allowing bacteria to spread to other teeth in the mouth and starting new cavities.

Floss Like a Boss

Most parents and children brush twice per day and are doing well with that, but we have noticed how often flossing has been a struggle for families to incorporate into their routines. For that reason I’d like to focus this article more on flossing. While daily brushing is an important part of a child’s oral hygiene routine, bacteria that causes tooth decay can still linger between teeth where the toothbrush can’t reach. Removing food particles between teeth every day helps prevent cavities, bad breath, and most importantly, gum disease. Food trapped between teeth turns into a breeding ground for bacteria- gross! Flossing reaches those tricky spots, reduces the amount of bacteria and plaque in the mouth, and lowers the risk of cavities developing. That’s why it’s so important to help your kids incorporate flossing in their daily routine. If that sounds like a daunting feat, here are some tips to help:

- Start flossing once there are two neighboring teeth that touch sides, usually around age 2. Even if your child’s teeth don’t quite touch yet, you can still introduce the concept of flossing in addition to a good brushing routine. Getting your child used to the feeling of flossing can make the transition easier later. The earlier healthy habits start, the better, but it’s never too late either!

- Have them watch you floss. They will be more willing to try if they see what the concept is first. It’s ok to start with floss picks. It’s safer for your own fingers! It’s ok to only floss 1-2 teeth at first. Find a comfortable position for the kid, maybe on their own bed or with their head in your lap. Just try a couple of the front teeth first so they get used to it. Talk them through it and explain what floss is and why we do it. Patience and a gentle touch are key.

- It’s ok to let them help. If they want to hold the floss themselves, let them have a turn. Then have a second pick ready for “mommy’s turn.”

Order of Operations.

Children respond remarkably well to routines. Incorporating flossing into their bedtime routine will feel more natural after the first few days. Find a flow that works for you and do everything in the same order every night.

As soon as you feel like your child is comfortable with the idea of flossing and allows more to be done, switch to string floss. It will pick up more plaque and be better in the long run, especially a string floss that’s more textured and soft, like these: CocoFloss or Smart Floss

More Healthy Tips

- For babies, a wet washcloth can be your best bet to clean their gums and even around those first couple of teeth in the front if they can’t yet tolerate a toothbrush

- Once the baby molars erupt in the back definitely use a toothbrush to reach those areas and use a smear of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice)

- Children aged 2-6 years can use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste

- Children will still need help brushing until they’re about 8 years old, until then make it a team effort. Let them have a turn first, then step in and help brush those harder to reach areas.

- Snack healthy! Fruit juice, sports drinks, fruit snacks, and sticky candies all pose serious threats to your child’s teeth. Give kids calcium-rich snacks like cheese or low-sugar yogurt.

- Keep them hydrated! Avoid sugary drinks and stick to good old-fashioned water. Water helps to rinse away any sugar or food particles that can lead to cavities.

- It’s time to replace your child’s toothbrush (and your own too!) every 3-4 months. If they’re chewing on it and the bristles are splayed out the toothbrush is no longer effective. So you may need to change their brush more often if you see signs of bristle damage.

Taking proper care of baby teeth through regular brushing and flossing lays a strong foundation for a healthy smile. Santa Rosa Dentistry is here to help you and your family grow beautiful healthy teeth! We provide a warm and fun environment for kids and their parents using “tell, show, do” techniques to educate and help ensure healthy habits for years to come.

Recent Articles

Shining a Light on Oral Cancer: April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

This month, it's time to highlight a crucial aspect of dental health that often doesn't receive the ...

Navigating Oral Health Through the Aging Process: Understanding Changes and Combating Challenges

Navigating Oral Health Through the Aging Process: Understanding Changes and Combating Challenges As ...

Tiny but Mighty: Tips for Taking Care of Children’s Teeth!

February has been delightfully assigned “Children’s Dental Health Month” by the American Dental Asso ...

#kids oral hygiene#children#brushing#teeth

Connect With Us


Contact Us

Ready to come in for an appointment?
Contact us today!

Dr. Laura Ellefson & Dr. Kasia Marelich

We are dedicated to excellence in family and cosmetic dentistry, specifically prevention, crown & bridge, veneers, implants and teeth whitening. Located in Santa Rosa, California, the office serves patients throughout Sonoma County including neighboring cities such as Healdsburg, Windsor, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park and Petaluma.

Site Developed by