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Dentist Ricardo Perez: We want all children to have healthy teeth, beautiful smiles, and benefit from excellent dental health.
Narrator: 3-year-old Julia and her mom are visiting dentist Ricardo Perez of Metropolitan Pediatric Dentistry in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
They're here for a routine dental checkup and to brush up on Julia's oral hygiene practices.
Even though Julia will eventually lose her baby teeth, or primary teeth, taking care of them is important.
Dentist: Primary teeth aid speech and preserve the space for permanent teeth, also primary teeth help in the development of the oral cavity and the face and the mouth.
Narrator: By the time your child is 2, she probably has quite a few teeth.
Between her 2nd and 3rd birthdays, her final baby teeth will most likely emerge: the second molars, at the very back of her mouth.
Children end up with a set of 20 baby teeth, which are later replaced with 32 adult teeth.
Dentist: So Miss Julia has 20 healthy, beautiful teeth.
Narrator: Once children hit age 2, they can graduate from using a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste on their brush to a slightly bigger, pea-size amount.
Fluoride is very important because it strengthens your child's tooth enamel and helps prevent cavities. But be sure to use just a little – children who swallow too much fluoride can develop a condition called fluorosis, which can cause permanent white spots on their adult teeth.
Up to about age 7 or so, children still need their parents' help to brush and floss effectively.
Dentist: Julia is at an age in which she can do some of the brushing by herself, but then at the same time, Julia, I want Mommy to help you with brushing, or Daddy, okay?
Narrator: Begin by brushing the rear teeth – the ones that your child bites with and that are filled with crevices that trap food particles.
Dentist: And you just go in and out, and then do the sides of the teeth like this. For her front teeth, you can go sideways and then you can go in the back and do this, and we can also, on the upper right side, you can go in and out a few times and then the side of them and then on the inside.
Narrator: Repeat the same technique on the lower teeth.
Brush her tongue, too, to help dislodge the bacteria that cause bad breath.
Dentist: In terms of maintenance, we want her to get her teeth brushed ideally twice a day.
Narrator: At home, Dr. Perez recommends a two-part brushing routine. First, have your child brush her own teeth, so she can learn how to do it. Then brush your child's teeth a second time yourself, to make sure they get a thorough cleaning.
Dentist: At 3, 3 ½, 4 years of age, it may be a playful thing for a child to brush his or her teeth, and we want them to start developing that independence and putting those toothbrushes in their mouths, but we still want the parent to help them.
Narrator: If your child's dentist recommends flossing, you'll need to help with that too. Some dentists advise flossing between any teeth that are touching each other, particularly if a child is at risk for tooth decay.
Dentist: At this age the space in the back teeth begins to close up and therefore brushing alone doesn't keep those surfaces clean.
Narrator: Floss your child's teeth once a day, preferably at night, after your child has finished eating and drinking. It's a good idea to do it right after brushing so that the floss can draw fluoride from the toothpaste between the teeth.
Dr. Perez recommends having your child place her head in your lap, against a pillow, or in another stable position.
Gently floss her teeth the same way you'd floss your own. Pay particular attention to the molars in the back, which tend to collect small food particles in the spaces between them.
Dentist: There are some flossing aids now, that is a little stick that has a little piece of floss at the end and those are very easy for a parent to use, or for an older child to learn to use on their own.
Narrator: If you use a disposable flossing stick, you can use a single one for your child's entire mouth. Throw it away when you're done and use a new one next time.
What your child eats and drinks can also affect his oral health.
Around ages 2 to 4, many children become more interested in sweets and juices and do a lot of snacking. This can mean there's more sugar sitting on your child's teeth throughout the day, which can eventually lead to cavities.
Try to keep sugary snacking to a minimum.
Of course, as your child grows, you'll have less and less control over what she eats.
This makes it all the more important to look out for her pearly whites. Carefully clean them twice a day to keep them healthy, bright, and strong.
Dad: Good job!