Smile. Now think about your kid’s smile. One of your major responsibilities as a parent is to make sure that smile stays healthy. That means being consistent with everyone’s daily brushing and flossing routine. “That’s the biggest gift you can give to your child,” says Jill Lasky, DDS, of Lasky Pediatric Dental Group in Studio City. Lasky recommends that all children have a “dental home” and their first dental checkup by their first birthday, and offers other tips about dental care.
At what age should parents start brushing their children’s teeth, and when can kids learn this on their own?
You should start caring for a child’s teeth when the first tooth comes in or wiping the gums around 6 months of age, whichever comes first. If they don’t have a tooth yet, you want to get them used to having something in their mouth. If they do have a tooth, you want to wipe away the plaque, even if they’re not on solids yet.
You should assist the child to brush their teeth until they can tie their shoes. The same dexterity is needed.
Why is flossing important and what is the correct technique?
Flossing is important to maintain good gum or periodontal health. The proper way to floss is to put the floss between the two teeth, make a C shape and hug one side of a tooth, and then hug the other side of a tooth. A parent can do it with traditional floss between their fingers. There’s also a product called GumChucks, a two-handed flossing device that helps make that proper C shape. Another thing that is really helpful is water flossing, especially for the older kids with braces.
How can parents make sure they’re doing a thorough job brushing and flossing their kids’ teeth?
Where parents typically miss is at the gum line. Put the bristles a little bit on the gums to help get that top portion of the teeth. They also do the front four teeth and then they go to the back, but the pointy eye teeth usually get missed. So, lift the child’s lip up, like they’re a little puppy dog, and remember to do those pointy eye teeth.
Brushing and flossing from behind is easier. You could stand behind the child at the sink. If you’re using fluoride-free toothpaste, you can even do it with the child on your lap.
What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a general dentist?
A pediatric dentist has gone through a two- or three-year extended program beyond dental school, and they have learned how to work with children. You learn growth and development, behavior management, to work with medically compromised children and sedation dentistry. It’s almost like a different profession.