As a parent, you are your child’s first contact when it comes to learning how to properly care for their teeth. Primary (baby) teeth are just as important to care for and maintain as permanent (adult) teeth. There is so much information available, so let’s focus on the essentials…
A very common question is “When do I start brushing my child’s teeth?”, the answer is now… before they even have their first tooth! Start “brushing” your baby’s mouth before they have teeth – simply use a damp, warm washcloth and gently wipe their gums. This can help get both you and baby into the habit of brushing once teeth start to come in.
Any children under the age of three (3) should have their teeth brushed by an adult. Younger children do not have the dexterity or patience to properly brush. According to the Canadian Dental Association, the best way to know if your child is ready to brush their own teeth is if they can write (not print) their name.  When using toothpaste, be sure to only use a very small amount similar in size to that of a grain of rice! Once children are a bit older, six (6) years and up, you can graduate to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Do you use fluoridated toothpaste? Hang on to that question, we’ll get there!
Be sure to brush your child’s teeth three times a day. Bedtime is the most critical time to brush your child’s teeth, as any bacteria or sugar – both guilty of causing cavities – can linger on teeth. Flossing with young children might be a challenge, but just like brushing it is a habit you’ll want to start practicing with your little one sooner rather than later.
Not all parents welcome the use of fluoride in their child’s dental care routine. Studies have shown that fluoride can make teeth more resistant to tooth decay, but in children aged six and under it is important to monitor the levels of fluoride they might be ingesting. Since younger children are more likely to swallow the toothpaste, it is best to start off with a fluoride-free option – there are many varieties available at your local store. Speak to your dentist for more information and recommendations specific to you and your child’s needs.
Pacifiers & Thumb-Sucking
As children age, their need to suck is lessened. If your child is prone to thumb-sucking, try to encourage the use of a pacifier instead. By the time your child reaches the age of five, they should be weened off the use of a pacifier as there are possibilities it can have long-term effects on the growth of your child’s teeth and/or jaw.  If you are finding it challenging to wean your child off of their pacifier, speak to your dentist for any tips.
First Dental Visit
The Canadian Dental Association recommends your child’s first dental visit take place at 12 months of age, or when the first tooth erupts, whichever comes first.  This initial visit is not much more than a quick check to ensure healthy dental growth and habits. It is a great way for your little one to visit the dentist before there are any issues, hopefully making that first visit a positive one.