Effective oral hygiene techniques practiced from birth help to establish good oral health habits for the child's lifetime. Oral hygiene can easily be accomplished while baby is lying with their head on the parent's lap. At this time the parent can inspect baby's teeth while cleaning. Any change in color or texture of the tooth surface, e.g., variations of white spots near the gum line of the upper anterior teeth, could be a sign of a problem or tooth decay. Whether baby is fed by breast or bottle, mother should wipe the gum pads and new teeth, under the tongue and inside the cheeks, after every feeding with a moist gauze pad or a clean washcloth. Mothers who breast feed on demand should do this frequently. This will reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth that contributes to early tooth decay.
By age 2, parents should start brushing their child's teeth twice daily. On a small soft-bristle toothbrush, apply a pea-size drop of fluoride toothpaste and brush child's teeth carefully. As your child gets older, Dr. Boyne recommends a parent should apply the toothpaste, explain the procedure to the child and help perform or monitor the child's oral hygiene until (s)he appears to have mastered the technique usually at about age eight. Brushing for at least 2 minutes, flossing and using a fluoride rinse are recommended two to three times daily with bedtime being the most important time. If bacteria and sugar are not removed, they have all night to do harm. While you are awake, saliva helps keep the mouth clean. When you are asleep, there is less saliva produced to clean the mouth, your mouth becomes a dry environment and the teeth are very susceptible to tooth decay.
Proper Brushing Techniques:
- Always use a soft bristle toothbrush.
- Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle along the gums.
- Brush the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Be sure to brush your tongue as well, as it reduces plaque and helps freshen your breath.
Proper Flossing Techniques:
- Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with. Holding the floss tautly between your thumb and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth.
- Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gum line. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue. Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.