We know the importance of good dental habits, both for children and adults. Teaching your child these habits at an early age establishes good oral care for his/her entire life. When you raise a child knowing what to do on a daily basis for their teeth to be healthy, that child will more than likely carry out proper dental hygiene into adulthood.

A child’s oral health has far-reaching effects. In fact, when children have poor dental health, their ability to eat, sleep, and function suffers, which can also affect their self-esteem and social development. At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry in Holly Springs and Cary, pediatric dentistry is one of our specialties. We provide the best pediatric dental care in a caring and fun environment that includes check-ups, teeth cleaning, and teeth fillings. In this article, we give you some tips for keeping your child’s teeth healthy.

Tips for Keeping Your Child's Teeth Healthy
Teaching your child good dental hygiene

Oral Care for a Toddler

Even before your baby’s first tooth protrudes, you should begin good dental care because teeth have formed beginning in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw. Most children have their full set of teeth by three years old.

Even babies can get tooth decay. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle can cause tooth decay due to the sugar that is in milk, juice, or formula. Sugar destroys the enamel of the tooth and can cause “bottle mouth” or “baby bottle tooth decay.” When this occurs, the front teeth can get discolored, pocked, and pitted and may need to be pulled if the case is severe. You can switch to a sippy cup when the child is six months old. A sippy cup has a straw or hard spout that helps prevent the liquid from pooling around the teeth.

Checklist for Taking Care of Your Toddler’s Teeth

Here is what you can do for your toddler to care for their little teeth:

  • Before your baby starts teething, use a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to clear harmful bacteria.
  • As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, schedule a dental appointment. It’s important to see the dentist within six months of the tooth growing and no later than the child’s first birthday. Most experts recommend taking children for a checkup every six months.
  • When your baby gets teeth, brush them. Use an infant toothbrush, water, and a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Using toothpaste that is no more than the size of a grain of rice minimizes the amount of toothpaste that is swallowed.
  • When two of your baby’s teeth touch, begin flossing in between them.
  • When your baby is around two years old, he/she should learn to spit while brushing. Try not to give your child water to swish and spit because it can make it easier to swallow the toothpaste.
  • For a child three years and older, only use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Always keep an eye on children younger than eight when they are brushing to make sure they aren’t swallowing the toothpaste.

Be Aware of Thumb or Pacifier Sucking

Talk to your dentist if your infant or young child’s tooth alignment is being affected by thumb or pacifier sucking. The duration, frequency, and intensity of sucking can affect teeth. It is usual for this habit to stop between the ages of two and four; however, prolonged sucking past this age can impact oral development.

Use the Correct Brushing Method

Teach your child how to properly brush their teeth by following these steps for brushing:

  • Place the toothbrush against the gums.
  • Gently brush back and forth in short strokes, making sure to brush the entire surface of each tooth.
  • Always brush the tongue to help remove bacteria.
  • Make brushing fun by getting a toothbrush with a favorite character on it or in a color they love!

Oral Care at Ages 3 to 5

You can begin to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste at age three. At this age, it’s important to show your child how to rinse and spit after brushing. You will need to continue brushing their teeth to ensure a thorough cleaning but the child can begin to help. Let them explore and play around brushing with water. Then you can finish up with toothpaste.

Oral Care for Children Over Five Years Old

At around age six, many children are responsible enough and have the manual coordination to brush their own teeth thoroughly. This timeframe depends on the child’s needs, maturity, and development. Supervise and remind your child of using a good technique including brushing the tongue and tough-to-reach spots. Their skills will improve as they age and progress into elementary school.

Here are some tips as your child gets older:

  • Lead by setting a good example with your own daily oral hygiene routine
  • Avoid sugary foods
  • Brush twice a day
  • Offer praise and encouragement
  • Hold the child accountable with reasonable expectations
  • Keep up a regular schedule for visiting the dentist two times a year
  • Make oral health a fun habit!


Let’s not forget how important flossing is in a good oral hygiene routine. Food and plaque get in between teeth and along the gum line in children just like adults. Dental floss gets where a toothbrush can’t to eliminate problems occurring from bacteria building up. You will have been flossing your child’s teeth already, but at age seven or eight children can begin to floss their own teeth.

With traditional dental floss, break off about 18 inches and have your child wrap most of it around the pointer finger on the left or right hand. Show the child how to move the floss from the finger supplying the clean floss to the finger on the other hand afterward. Have your child take the floss up one side of the tooth and down the other, making sure to get along the gum line. Repeat for each pair of teeth upper and lower. This may take a while for the child to be able to do it by themselves.

A dental floss pick is easier but not as effective as traditional dental floss. With a dental floss pick, simply run the floss up and down the teeth like with traditional floss. Rinse the floss on the pick after each pair of teeth and get a new pick when the floss looks worn.

Come See Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry for Pediatric Oral Care

If you are looking for a dentist in Cary or Holly Springs, contact us. We take a wide variety of insurance plans and are currently accepting new patients. You can reach us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203. Or, you can also fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.