Brushing and Flossing Your Child's Teeth: Care Instructions

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Chart showing when each tooth comes in and falls out

Your Care Instructions

Use a soft cloth to clean your baby's gums. Start a few days after birth, and do this until the first teeth come in.

When your child's teeth start to come in, you can start cleaning them. Use a soft toothbrush and a very small amount of toothpaste. Flossing can begin when teeth start to touch each other.

Daily cleaning removes plaque, a sticky film of bacteria on the teeth. If plaque isn't removed, it can build up and harden into tartar. The bacteria in plaque and tartar use sugars in food to make acids. These acids can cause gum disease and tooth decay, like small holes (cavities).

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your dentist or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Brush your child's teeth twice a day using a small, soft brush. If your child is younger than 3 years, ask your dentist if it's okay to use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Use a pea-sized amount for children ages 3 to 6 years. To brush your child's teeth:
    • Kneel down behind your child and have him or her stand between your knees, facing away from you.
    • With one hand, gently press your child's head against your chest. You may also use that hand to push away the upper and lower lips to make it easier to get to the teeth.
    • With the other hand, brush his or her teeth.
    • Pay special attention to where the teeth meet the gums.
  • Talk with your dentist about when and how to floss your child's teeth or to teach your child to floss. Plastic flossing tools may be helpful.

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