How to Care for Preschoolers' Teeth
Pointers for Preschoolers
A child who gets to age 4 without cavities has an excellent shot at having healthy teeth with no or just a few cavities throughout childhood, says Dr. Shenkin. And because cavities are largely preventable, instilling good dental-health habits now will serve her well later, when you'll have less control over her diet. It's a good idea to teach your child to spit without rinsing with water first, so that some fluoride stays on the teeth.
But the fluoride in toothpaste isn't enough to ward off cavities. Children also benefit from fluoridated drinking water, because it helps fend off cavities by fortifying enamel and reversing early decay. If your family uses well water or only bottled water -- which is typically non-fluoridated -- or if you live in a community where the tap water is non-fluoridated, speak to your dentist about supplements or fluoride varnish, which is a solution that's painted on a child's teeth.
Flossing before brushing will loosen the plaque and food particles that'll be removed by brushing. Floss anywhere the teeth are touching, though doing itall over is a good way to get your child used to the practice. Try big-handled flossers in a kid-friendly theme; they can be a good motivator for your child.
Consider going the high-tech route. In addition to making brushing less of a struggle, a battery-powered brush may clean better than a manual one, and it doesn't require as much manual dexterity. Many preschoolers love spin brushes that light up and play music, Dr. Harvell notes. One caveat: The FDA issued an alert because the brush head of the Arm & Hammer Spinbrush could pop off during use, potentially causing injury or choking. The AAPD recommends checking the brush head to be sure it's tightly attached and testing the brush before use. And make sure you take over for the back teeth and inside surfaces, areas your preschooler can't handle all by herself.