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Maternal and Child Health Bureau logoA Health Professionals Guide to Pediatric Oral Health Management
HomeModuleModule 1: An Introduction to Infants' and Young Children's Oral HealthModule 2: Managing Infants' and Young Children's Oral HealthModule 3: Oral Conditions and AbnormalitiesModule 4: Prevention of Oral DiseaseModule 5: Non-Nutritive Sucking HabitsModule 6: Oral InjuryModule 7: Infants and Young Children with Special Health Care NeedsContentsGlossaryEvaluationHelp
Module 4: Prevention of Oral Disease
Module Contents
Overview
4.1 Oral Hygiene
(current page)
4.2 Fluoride
Systemic Fluoride
Topical Fluoride
4.3 Nutrition
The Role of Food in
Oral Health
Anticipatory Guidance
Key Points
Post-Test
References
Additional Resources



4.1 Oral Hygiene

still frame from video
 
 
watch video Video of a parent brushing an infant's teeth (requires RealOne Player)

video transcript


Dental plaque is a sticky film that adheres to the teeth. It is composed of bacteria, food debris, and salivary components. Left undisturbed, it can cause tooth decay. (See Module 3, section 3.5, Dental Caries.)

Parents should clean the infant’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush and water after feedings even before the teeth erupt. Parents should begin cleaning the infant's teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. A brush that is easy for the parent to hold and small enough to fit in the infant’s mouth is recommended.[1][2] To ensure that brushing is safe and effective, the infant should be seated in the parent’s lap, with both parent and infant facing the same direction. The parent should try to clean all tooth surfaces, “lifting the lip” to brush at the gum line and then behind the teeth.

  • For infants and children under age 3, beginning as soon as the first tooth erupts, parents should brush the infant's or child's teeth twice daily using a soft toothbrush that is an appropriate size for the infant's or child's age. Parents should dispense a "smear" of fluoridated toothpaste on the bristles of the toothbrush.

  • For children ages 3 through 6, parents should brush the child's teeth or supervise brushing twice daily using a soft toothbrush that is an appropriate size for the child's age. Parents should dispense a "pea-size amount" of fluoridated toothpaste on the bristles of the toothbrush.

Young children will want to hold the toothbrush and participate in toothbrushing. An appropriate-size toothbrush with a wide handle may be given to the child to use. However, because effective plaque removal requires good fine motor control, young children cannot clean their teeth without parental help. After children acquire fine motor skills (e.g., the ability to tie their shoelaces), typically by age 7 or 8, they can clean their teeth effectively but should be supervised by a parent or another caregiver.[3]

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