The Importance of Oral Health for Children

Good oral health is very important for children, influencing not only their dental condition but also their overall well-being. Establishing good dental habits at an early age can have a lifelong of impact. These key points from Dr. Lauren Miletneberg, pediatrician at The Youth Clinic, sheds light on the critical aspects of pediatric oral health, providing parents and guardians with the necessary tools and knowledge to ensure their children maintain optimal dental hygiene.

Start Early

The journey to good oral health begins even before your child’s  first tooth appears.

In infancy, wiping your baby’s gums with a clean, soft cloth daily prevents harmful bacteria from building up, paving the way for healthy teeth. Once teeth appear, transitioning to brushing with a soft, small-bristled toothbrush ensures that these new teeth receive the care they need.

At a year of age, add a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a single grain of rice) once per day when brushing. Fluoride strengthens the tooth enamel and helps prevent decay. Kids continue to benefit from adult-supported brushing until they have enough hand coordination to tie their shoes which is usually around 5-7 years of age!

Schedule Regular Dental Check-ups

Your child should start visiting the dentist around their first birthday, or about 6 months after their first tooth erupts. 

Pediatric dentists are happy to see kids at this age, but some family dentists may not see kids until they’re 3 years or older

Choosing a pediatric dentist who is right for your family can be a daunting task. If you need help connecting with a pediatric dentist, talk to your pediatrician. We are lucky to have some amazing pediatric dentists in the Northern Colorado region.

Establish Healthy Eating Habits

Foster healthy eating habits and consider the following tips:

  • Limit sugary drinks and snacks.
  • Avoid giving your child a bedtime bottle filled with anything other than water.
  • Around a year of age, offer milk exclusively at meal times and provide unrestricted access to water during the rest of the day.
  • Encourage a balanced diet, including a variety of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

Brushing and Flossing Are Always Important!

Set a goal to brush teeth for two minutes, twice a day.

If your child is resistant to a brushing routine, try making it into a fun family game. This could involve the child brushing the parent’s teeth while the parent brushes theirs. Another idea is to use a timer; in our family, we find a simple digital timer useful for various activities. Or create a fun brushing song; our family enjoys singing one set to the tune of “Hooked on a Feeling,” creatively renamed “Brushing Our Teeth Now.” You can also try using a toothbrushing app; when my children were younger, the Disney Magic Timer by Oral-B was a hit.

For younger children eager for more independence with brushing than they might be ready for, let them hold and use one or two toothbrushes while you handle the actual brushing with toothpaste. Employing a cooperative phrase like “you start and I’ll finish” can encourage them.

Begin flossing their teeth as soon as any two teeth start touching.

Oral health is an integral part of a child’s overall health and well-being. By starting early, scheduling regular dental check-ups, establishing healthy eating habits, and making brushing and flossing a part of daily life, parents can help their children maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s dental health. We’re here to help you ensure your child has a healthy smile for a lifetime.

Lauren Miltenberg, MD
Fort Collins Youth Clinic