Children's oral hygiene 101

February 24, 2012 10:00:30 AM PST
Dental experts say it is important for children to see a pediatric dentist by age 1 to establish a long-term dental hygiene and professional dental cleaning plan.

Dr. Kevin Boyd, a pediatric dentist and nutritionist says "improper brushing" is not the main culprit behind the recent pre-school tooth decay epidemic in America. Boyd says beyond good brushing and flossing techniques, keeping good oral health also involves what we eat. Boyd says we should use the "rule of two" to figure out if something you are eating or drinking is too sugary.

    "Rule of Two" Per each serving, snacks should have no more than:
  • 200 calories
  • 200 mg of sodium
  • 8 g carbohydrates (8g=2 tsp) per 1g of fiber.

Snacks should never contain trans fats or high fructose corn syrup.

Other dental health tips for children:

Baby Teeth Cleaning: Baby teeth should be cleaned as soon as they erupt. Clean your baby's teeth with a soft washcloth or gauze after every bottle or meal. When more than one tooth erupts, you can soak a small-bristled child-sized (age-appropriate) toothbrush in warm water before using it on your baby's teeth, as instructed by your dentist. ? Baby teeth should be brushed using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Use water without fluoride until approximately six months of age. Encourage your children to brush their own teeth once they have the coordination to do so. Replace toothbrushes every two to three months. ? Children's teeth should be brushed after they are given medicine. Acids contained in medicines may eat away at tooth enamel, which serves as a natural protective coating for the teeth.

Fluoride Treatments: Check with your dentist and water authority about the need for fluoride treatments. Fluoride is a major component in the prevention of childhood dental caries. This is because fluoride alters the molecular structure of the tooth, making it more resistant to acid attack and decay. However, children require the right balance of fluoride treatment. Too much fluoride could be problematic and lead to fluorosis.

Mouth Washing: Mouth washing is usually recommended by age seven, provided your child can perform the activity.

Dental Flossing: Parent-assisted dental flossing should commence when two teeth erupt next to each other. Independent flossing should occur when children have the ability to do it on their own (often by six years of age)


Kevin Boyd is a pediatric dentist with over 20 years experience delivering outstanding dental healthcare to infants, children, adolescents, and young adults with physical and/or mental disabilities, and other special needs. After graduating from Loyola University's Chicago College of Dentistry in 1986, he attended the University of Iowa for his advanced residency training in Pediatric Dentistry. Dr. Boyd also holds an advanced degree (M.Sc.) in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Michigan State University where he participated in research projects related to unhealthy eating and how it contributes to tooth decay, obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. His strong academic background in nutritional biochemistry has been instrumental in motivating the importance he places on nutrition as being a key component of each child's dental health plan. He has been on staff at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry, Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center and Michael Reese Hospital as an attending clinical instructor. Following this, he was in charge of the pediatric division of dentistry at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics and La Rabida Children's Hospital where he also served as a member of the U of C Cleft Palate Team--a highly specialized group consisting of plastic surgeons, oral surgeons, pediatricians, otolaryngologists, speech pathologists, orthodontists and pediatric dentists, who manage the physical, emotional and social challenges of children with severe abnormalities of the teeth, jaws, face and head.

Contact Dr. Boyd at

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