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.
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.