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A parent’s guide for forming healthy child dental habits

Show off their smiles!

Getting kids to brush and want to care about their teeth can be a daunting task. Unsure of the proper steps to take? Here is our ultimate parent guide for forming healthy child dental care habits.

For infants and toddlers:

  • Clean your baby’s gums even before he or she has teeth. Rub a warm, wet, clean washcloth or dampened gauze across your baby’s gums after feeding. Why? Getting in the habit now will make it easier to brush those teeth in a few months.
  • Share love, not germs. Germs cause cavities. You can pass germs to your baby if you test a bottle or clean his or her pacifier (binky) with your mouth. If you need to clean the bottle or pacifier, use clean water.
  • Brush when you see teeth. The first one usually appears between 6 months and 10 months of age. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a tiny dab of toothpaste. Don’t worry if your baby swallows the toothpaste—in small amounts it’s OK. Most kids don’t rinse after brushing until they’re around 2.
  • Don’t put your baby to sleep with a bottle. When babies fall asleep with a bottle, the milk or juice pools in their mouth, bathing their teeth in sugar. This creates an acid that can break down enamel, causing cavities.
  • Avoid tasting your baby’s food with the same spoon he or she will eat from. You can pass along bacteria that cause cavities.
  • Take your baby to the dentist as soon as he or she gets a first tooth, but no later than 12 months of age. While you are there, ask your dentist if fluoride supplements are right for your baby.*

For kids ages 2 to 10:

  • Take your child to the dentist for a checkup every six months. Ask your dentist if fluoride varnish or a fluoride supplement is right for your child*.
  • Show your child how to brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. At around age 2, children can learn how to brush their own teeth. But they still need your help. They should brush for two minutes, twice a day. Teach them not to swallow toothpaste.
  • Remember, germs cause cavities. Do not share forks or spoons with your child. Avoid spreading germs to your child.
  • Limit sugary drinks and snacks to help prevent cavities. To prevent dental decay, have your child drink water between meals to rinse his or her teeth.

For kids ages 11 to 18:

  • Take your child to the dentist for a checkup every six months.
  • Make sure your kids are brushing their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. They should also floss daily. Brushing and flossing help to remove plaque.
  • Teach your teens to limit sugary and sticky foods and avoid sugary drinks that promote cavities.

Want to know more about finding a pediatric dentist, making an appointment, or checking your covered benefits? Call the number on your member ID card.

*Fluoride supplements are tablets, drops, or lozenges, recommended for children in locations that don’t have fluoridated water.

Fluoride treatments are topical varnishes, foams, or gels placed on your child’s teeth by a medical professional. These are recommended for all children.