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Oral Health Buzz

Dental Hygiene for Preschoolers

Elizabeth SanFilippo

Dental hygiene for preschoolers should be a priority, even though baby teeth don't stick around for long. After all, children can develop cavities and tooth decay in their baby teeth if they're eating sugary foods and not following proper oral care.

Good dental hygiene in preschoolers starts with you. Lead by example by brushing and flossing every day.

Tips for Brushing

Make brushing fun by starting with a toothpaste that has a flavor your kids will enjoy, such as Colgate's watermelon or strawberry-flavored toothpaste. Involve your child in picking out a toothbrush to get them excited about toothbrushing. Toothbrushes should be soft-bristled to avoid damaging the gums. They can be used for about 3 months, and then they should be replaced. If your preschooler gets sick, pediatricians recommend replacing his toothbrush once he is healthy again.

After age two, your preschoolers can use a pea-size drop of fluoride toothpaste (rather than just water and a toothbrush). You can ask your child to open wide so that you can brush your children's teeth for them, or you can teach your kids to brush from left to right for two minutes. Set a timer for brushing to help ensure that they brush every tooth, from the incisors to the molars. Make sure your kids spit out the toothpaste when they are finished. Fluoride toothpaste can only be swallowed in very small amounts.

Brushing should be done at least twice a day. If your child eats something sugary, he should brush when he is finished, or, at the very least, rinse his mouth with water.

Mouthwash should not be used until your child has learned to spit it in the sink and rinse his mouth properly, which typically happens around age six.

Start Flossing Early

Flossing is also an important part of dental hygiene for preschoolers; it is another way to prevent cavities, keeps gums healthy and removes plaque. Even before your child grows two teeth right next to each other, it's time to start flossing.

While your children are preschoolers, pediatricians recommend flossing your children's teeth for them. Pediatric dentists may recommend using a floss holder, as that may make the process easier. Whether you use floss or a floss stick, sit your child on your lap and face a mirror. Start in the back of his mouth, and gently move the floss back and forth between all of his teeth so there is fresh floss to use and you are not reusing the same area again.

When your child is ready to floss on his own, start by guiding him with the floss to make sure he is adequately flossing, touching the gumline with the floss and removing any stuck food or plaque.

Pediatric dentists can offer further guidelines for taking care of your children's pearly whites so that when their adult teeth come in, they'll continue to be healthy. Dental cleaning appointments should be made at least twice a year.

Learn more about oral health for children in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Amazon/Colgate

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