The essence of any successful dental preventive program starts at home. The basics of brushing, flossing, rinsing, and the right diet, are still the backbone of what parents should be aware of with their children's dental care. Specifics are adjusted according to your child's age (age appropriate).
Infant Oral Care
Prior to the eruption of the first baby tooth, your child's mouth can be cleaned with a washcloth or gauze. Simply wet a little, then wipe around the inside of the mouth twice a day, or after feedings.
Once the teeth start coming in, it's a good idea to start using an infant sized toothbrush at least twice daily. The brand doesn't matter, mostly the size of the brush head. Again, just wet it with water and gently brush the teeth that are there. You can also brush the tongue and the gum areas that have no teeth if you wish.
The subject of toothpaste can be a little confusing. Infant toothpastes usually state that they do not contain fluoride, thus it is safe to use on infants and toddlers. This is true, however because these toothpastes contain little or no abrasives, they really do not aid in getting the teeth any cleaner than if you were to just use water. These toothpastes can be used without regard to the amount or frequency, but again, they don't do much.
Under most circumstances, it's advised to avoid fluoride containing toothpastes until the child is 2 to 3 years old. The main concern is one of chronic over-ingestion of fluoride prior to the development of the permanent teeth (they start developing at birth). Depending on your child's cavity-risk factors, sometimes the dentist will advise you to start using fluoride toothpaste before age 3, but this should be done only after an appropriate dental evaluation.
Dental Care for Toddlers & Children
Tooth brushing – Your child's teeth should be brushed at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with a fluoride containing toothpaste. Brushing should be supervised until the point where you are confident that your child will not swallow the toothpaste prior to rinsing. The brand of toothpaste really does not matter, only that it contains fluoride and that your child likes to use it.
Electric toothbrushes can also be recommended. They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently and can serve as a good motivator for kids who aren't so enthusiastic about brushing.
Flossing – Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gumline. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
The easiest way to floss your child's teeth would be to either lay them on the bed, or for you to stand behind them, with their head leaned back a little against you (similar to how they are positioned for us in the dental chair); and NOT by having them face you and trying to floss at them.
Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands.
Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.
Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
Rinsing – It is important to rinse your child's mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it’s a good idea to consult with the dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for your child.
Use other dental aids as recommended by your dentist or dental hygienist: Interdental brushes, rubber tip stimulators, tongue cleaners, irrigation devices, fluoride, medicated rinses, etc., can all play a role in good dental home care.