Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Did You Know? Age One is the New Three for Dentist Visits

By: Amy Requa, MSN, CRNP

A new initiative under Pennsylvania Head Start Association is really taking off. The Healthy Smiles,Happy Children: A Dentist for Every Child initiative has enabled a team comprised of pediatric dentists, general dentists, dental hygienists, and nurses to train over 100 of their peers to see children under age one for an exam and preventive care.

This training goes hand-in-hand with new guidelines for parents that state parents are to brush the teeth of their youngest children with a “smear” of fluoride toothpaste as soon as teeth appear in the mouth, as described in the February 2014 Journal of the American Dental Association.

“What does a ‘smear’ of fluoride toothpaste look like?” 

If you take a look at the photo below, you will see a difference between the toothbrush on the left and the one on the right. The toothbrush on the left shows what a smear of toothpaste is while the brush on the right shows a pea-sized amount which is recommended for children age 3 to 6.

Fluoride helps to prevent cavities and is important for young children because toothbrushing is a skill that takes time for them to learn and improve with repeated practice. Important guidelines for families tell us that hands-on supervision from parents is needed for brushing teeth until they are about 8 years old (or until about the time they can write cursive). When the tooth first appears in children, usually before the first birthday, it is definitely too early for them to be brushing their teeth on their own so it is important that the parent or caregiver assist them with learning their new oral hygiene skills. Children learn from watching and copying others so it is essential to show them how to brush, and eventually floss, their teeth by you caring for your teeth properly and even brushing your teeth along with them.

Brushing before bedtime should become a daily routine because when we sleep, our saliva flow slows down leaving our mouth less protected from cavities. Don’t let brushing be a stressful time and ruin your already established bedtime routine. Let your child enjoy brushing his/her teeth and learning how to hold a toothbrush while you play music or sing a favorite song for two minutes. Tasting the toothpaste is an experience of its own as this is a whole new taste to many children. Don’t worry if your children don’t like the taste of toothpaste or isn’t good at brushing their teeth right away. It is something they will learn to like and do better as they gain more skills…and teeth!

Choosy reminds us that oral health must be part of our well child priorities.

What are some ways your child learned to brush his/her teeth? Did you let them choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste? Share your experiences with our readers!

About the Author: Amy Requa, MSN, CRNP, CPNP-PC, is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She has 20 years of experience in public health nursing, maternal and child health, family and community health promotion and has extensive health expertise in oral health, childhood obesity prevention and child nutrition. Click here to learn more about Amy.


  1. I'm going to try a song with my son. He is 2 and a half and hates when I help him brush his teeth. We did a timer for awhile but he doesn't like that anymore.

    1. Play him the song from the YouTube video above and see if he likes it!! I know my little one just rushes to get it done but a song might slow her down :)

  2. Helpful review and a song for tooth brushing!

  3. Our pediatrician recommended a dentist visit when our youngest turns 1, so we'll be visiting around that age.

    1. That is fantastic that your pediatrician is on board with this initiative :) let us know how the visit goes! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Very helpful read deary!!! Thank you for the share ❤❤❤

  5. Brooke went for the first time just after her 1st birthday, she was terrified but now she keeps her teeth clean so she don't have tog o back, haha

  6. My son is 18 months old and has a genetic condition that has affected his teeth. He only has two that have broken through, so far. We don't use toothpaste with him yet. You can only see the very top of the two he does have. We just take a clean brush or washcloth and rub his gums.

    Angela Gibbs @ Med Care Pediatric

  7. I am always on the look out for a gentle dentist, and when I find one I tend to stick with them for decades. When my dentist retired, I was forced to start again. This time I put the call out on social media and a group of locals put me in touch with the best dentist I ever have worked with in all my 60 years of seeing dentists.

    Bennie Chandler @ Pine Creek Dental

  8. My little one is terrified of the dentist and will not let me take him no matter how much I plead. Does anyone have experience with bringing a child of 7 to the dentist and making him comfortable with the experience? I have tried everything and I can not seem to convince him that everything will be fine. Thanks for the help.

    Joanna @ Westheimer Dentist


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