Dental care from 6 years to 16 years

By now your child has been seeing a dentist regularly for years. Continue with your usual schedule. If for some reason your child has not yet seen a dentist, make an appointment for an exam.

More and more of the responsibility for good dental habits belongs to your child now.

What your child can do

  • Your child should be brushing his or her own teeth morning and night with a soft toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Watch to be sure he or she is doing a good job brushing.
  • Flossing is an important part of good dental health, but it can be a challenging task for a child to master. Talk with your dentist about the right technique to teach your child how to floss. Plastic flossing tools may help you and your child.
  • If your child has cavities, your dentist may recommend the use of a mouthwash that contains fluoride. But teach your child not to swallow it, because fluoride can be toxic in large amounts.
  • Use disclosing tablets from time to time to see whether any plaque is left on your child's teeth after brushing. Disclosing tablets are chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after the child brushes. You can buy these at most drugstores.

What you and your dentist can do

  • After your child's permanent teeth begin to appear, talk with your dentist about having dental sealant placed on the molars. Sealants are made of hard plastic and protect the chewing surfaces of the back teeth from decay.
  • Discuss your child's fluoride needs with your dentist if your local water supply does not contain enough fluoride. To find out, call your local water company or health department. If you have your own well, have your water checked to determine whether your family needs fluoride from other sources. You may also need to provide fluoride to your children if you use bottled water for cooking or drinking.
  • Good nutrition is important for building and maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Give your child nutritious foods to maintain healthy gums, develop strong teeth, and avoid tooth decay. These include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as pastries, pasta, and white bread. For more information, see the food guide pyramid.
  • Keep your child away from cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke). Tobacco smoke may contribute to the development of tooth decay and gum disease.1 Teach your child about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.
  • Children play hard, sometimes hard enough to knock out or break a tooth. Learn how to prevent injuries to teeth and what to do in a dental emergency. For more information, see the topic Mouth and Dental Injuries.

Citations

  1. Aligne CA, et al. (2003). Association of pediatric dental caries with passive smoking. JAMA, 289(10): 1258–1264.

Last Updated: April 23, 2009

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