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Teacher's Corner: Oral Health in Early Childhood

Dental Health

Here are some tips for teachers of young children to share with parents about oral health and young children:

  1. The first oral examination for your child should occur within 6 months of the eruption of the first primary tooth, and no later than 12 months of age.  All babies should be seen according to a schedule recommended by the dentist based on the child’s individual needs and susceptibility to disease. Teachers can provide parents with a listing of local children’s dentists so they can have the information available.
  2. Young children love to imitate adults. If the adults in the household brush their teeth, the children will want to as well. Be a good example to your child by practicing good dental habits. Toothbrushes come in all sizes. Ask at the drug store or the health department about a “child size” tooth brush and show your child how to brush their teeth using an up and down motion.
  3. Put only water in your baby’s bottle at bedtime or naptime. Milk, formula, juices and other drinks contain sugar. Prolonged exposure to sugary drinks while baby sleeps—when  saliva flow is reduced—increases  the risk of tooth decay.
  4. Babies need their gums gently wiped with a soft cloth following a feeding. This will prevent milk residue from staying on their gums and possibly causing a problem when teeth come in.
  5. Even if tooth brushing is not possible, rinsing the mouth out with water is better than doing nothing!
  6. Protect your child’s teeth with fluoride. Use a fluoridated toothpaste, putting only a pea-sized amount on your child’s toothbrush. If your drinking water is not fluoridated, talk to a dentist or physician about the best way to protect your child’s teeth.
  7. Encourage your children to eat regular nutritious meals and to avoid frequent between-meal snacks.
  8. Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants, which protect teeth from decay.

Visit the American Dental Association’s Smile Smarts! website for more information on an oral health curriculum for preschool through grade eight students offering flexible, modular lesson plans, support materials, hands-on classroom demonstrations, student activity sheets and suggestions for further oral health activities.

For additional information on child and infant oral health, try these resources: