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Dental Care: 3 Years to 6 Years - Topic Overview

All of a child's 20 primary (baby) teeth camera.gif usually break through the gums (erupt) between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Then the permanent teeth camera.gif begin to emerge, usually starting at about age 6. Your child probably had his or her first trip to the dentist between 6 and 12 months of age, and now you probably have regular appointments set up. If for some reason your child has not yet seen a dentist, make an appointment for an exam.

Your 3- to 6-year-old child will be busily developing language skills and exploring the ever-widening world. Hard as it is to get a preschooler to sit still, this is the age during which you can teach good dental health habits.

  • Your child can learn how to brush his or her own teeth at about 3 years of age and should be brushing his or her own teeth, morning and night, by age 4. You should still supervise and check for proper cleaning.
  • Give your child a small, soft toothbrush, and apply fluoridated toothpaste in an amount about the size of a small green pea. Encourage your child to watch you and older siblings brush camera.gif teeth. A good teaching method is to have your child brush in the morning and you brush at night until your child masters the skill. Teach your child not to swallow the toothpaste.
  • Start flossing your child's teeth as soon as they touch each other. You may find plastic flossing tools camera.gif helpful. Talk with your dentist about the right timing and technique to floss your child's teeth and to teach your child to floss.
  • If your 4-year-old sucks his or her fingers or thumb, help him or her to stop. If the child can't stop, see your dentist. A children's dentist (pediatric dentist) is specially trained to treat this problem. For more information, see the topic Thumb-Sucking.
  • 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.
  • 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 find out if your family needs fluoride from other sources. Normal amounts of fluoride added to public water supplies and bottled water are safe for children and adults. If your child needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend supplements. Use these supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child's teeth.
  • Keep your child away from cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke). Tobacco smoke may contribute to the development of tooth decay and gum disease.1 As your child grows, teach him or her about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.

After your child's permanent teeth begin to appear, usually around age 6, 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.

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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 07, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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Dental Care: 3 Years to 6 Years Topics

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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