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    How to Keep Your Smile Healthy


    Baby teeth are important. In addition to helping young children chew, they shape the child’s mouth and save space for permanent teeth. By keeping baby teeth healthy you can avoid decay and prevent teeth from falling out to early.

    To prevent tooth decay in babies and young children:

    • Clean your baby’s gums before the teeth come in with a clean, soft cloth after feedings and before bedtime. This will keep your baby’s mouth clean and help your baby adjust to brushing when it is time for you to start brushing your baby’s teeth.
    • As soon as your baby’s teeth start to come in, brush them gently with a child’s toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste twice a day, every day, especially before bed.
    • Take your child to the dentist by their 1st birthday, whether teeth have appeared or not. This will head-off any dental problems and start to get you child use to dental visits. It is also a great opportunity for you to meet you’re your child’s dentist and begin to outline your child’s oral health plan.

    For more information on caring for your young child’s mouth, visit HealthyTeethHealthyKids.org.


    • Children and adults should brush their teeth 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
    • Parents should help their child brush until they are 7-8 years old. The amount of fluoride toothpaste that should be used in brushing children’s teeth varies at different times in a child’s development. See the Maryland Office of Oral Health’s Keeping Your Smile Healthy brochure for more information on this topic.
    • When brushing be sure to brush all surfaces and sides of the teeth and the tongue.
    • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
    • Replace your toothbrush every 3 months and especially after illness (particularly strep throat).
    • Floss daily to clean between the teeth.
    • Parents should floss their child’s teeth until they are 7-8 years old.
    • As a general rule, both children and adults should visit the dentist twice a year for a routine cleaning and dental examination. However your dentist may want to see you or your child more or less often. It is best to follow their guidance.
    • Let your dentist or dental hygienist know if you or your child has a medical condition or is taking medication.
    • If you or your child have bleeding gums that continue longer than 2 weeks, see your dentist.
    • Limit sugar and eliminate sugary beverages such as soda or pop, juice that contains sugar and punch.
    • Drink water or milk instead of sugary beverages.
    • Do not chew gum that contains sugar.
    • Read nutrition labels so you can make food choices that are low in sugar.
    • Treats like candy, cake, cookies and ice cream should be given – only as treats!
    • Eat well balanced meals consisting of fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, salads, dairy and lean meats and fish unless you are have a special diet or are under dietary restrictions.
    • Fluoride is added to the public water supply to make teeth strong and help prevent cavities.
    • The fluoride in water prevents tooth decay just like the fluoride in toothpaste.
    • Drinking water that contains fluoride (tap water) protects teeth from decay.
    • Maryland residents are lucky because 93% of households served by the public water supply in Maryland receive fluoridated water.
    • Most bottled water does not contain fluoride.
    • If you are not sure your tap water is clean, you can filter it. Most household water filters will not remove fluoride.

    If you know that your water is not fluoridated and want to make sure you child is getting appropriate amounts of fluoride to prevent tooth decay, a dentist or physician can prescribe a fluoride vitamin for your child in the form of drops or tablets. If your child’s teeth need more fluoride to stay healthy, a dentist can prescribe it in the form of varnish, or stronger toothpaste and mouth rinse.