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American Dental Association News Release

January 2001

Good Oral Health Practices Should Begin in Infancy

The American Dental Association (ADA) offers advice for parents and caregivers to help children maintain healthy teeth and gums:

  • Take your child to see the dentist regularly, scheduling a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, and no later than the child’s first birthday.
  • Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
  • Start brushing the child’s teeth with water as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • Start flossing when two of the child’s teeth begin to touch.
  • Brush and floss your child’s teeth daily until the child can be taught to do this alone.
  • Make certain your child gets the right amount of fluoride needed for decay-resistant teeth. Ask your dentist how this can be done.
  • Ask your dentist about dental sealants, a thin protective barrier that shields the chewing surface of back teeth against tooth decay.

Preventive dental care has greatly improved the oral health of American children. It is now possible for many children to reach adulthood without ever experiencing tooth decay and that is why good oral health practices should begin in infancy and continue throughout adult life.

Brushing your Infant’s Teeth
For infants, parents should wipe the teeth and gums with a clean gauze or cloth. To make this easier, it is recommended that parents sit on a sofa with the child’s head in their lap or put the child on a dressing table or floor to allow them to easily see the child’s mouth.

Establish Brushing Habits Early
Attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life. Parents must figure out ways to encourage their children to brush and floss regularly and one very important way is by setting a good example.

Set a Good Example
If parents demonstrate that they brush and floss regularly, it is more likely the child will too. Parents also must teach children proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Use Proper Toothbrush
Parents should purchase an ADA-accepted child-sized toothbrush, with soft bristles. Begin brushing your child’s teeth with a little water as soon as the first tooth appears. If you are considering using toothpaste before age two, ask your dentist or physician first.

Flossing is a bit more difficult to master. Your dentist or hygienist can demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques. Supervise brushing and flossing until you’re certain the child is doing both properly.

This information is from the American Dental Association.For more information about the ADA position on this and other health issues, visit the ADA Web site at