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Living Healthwise

Take Care of Your Teeth

Brushing - Flossing - Diet- Dental Checkups

Your teeth will last a lifetime if you care for them properly. Brushing and flossing regularly, eating a mouth-healthy diet, and visiting your dentist for regular checkups will help keep your teeth healthy.


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Start brushing your child's teeth as soon as they come in. Brush your child's teeth for the first 4 to 5 years, until your child seems able to do it alone. A good teaching method is to have your child brush in the morning and you brush at night until your child masters the skill.

If your local water supply does not contain enough fluoride, your child may need a fluoride supplement. Discuss this with your dentist.


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Flossing properly once a day is the best way to remove plaque from below the gums and between the teeth.

Start flossing your child's teeth as soon as they touch each other. As with brushing, you will have to help with flossing until the child is old enough to manage it alone.


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Dental Checkups

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Choose a dentist as carefully as you choose any other doctor. See Finding a Doctor Who Will Be a Partner for tips on finding a dentist who meets your needs and is concerned about preventive care.

Most people who do not have serious problems with their teeth need to visit the dentist twice a year. During a dental checkup the dentist will examine your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay and gum disease. X-rays of your teeth are usually taken once a year. If you don't have any active tooth decay or gum disease, changes in your brushing and flossing habits probably won't be necessary.

A dentist or dental hygienist will clean your teeth. He or she will scrape hard mineral build-up (tartar) off of your teeth with a small metal tool; floss your teeth thoroughly; and use a polishing compound to help clean and polish your teeth. Cleanings may be uncomfortable but usually aren't painful. Other procedures (application of sealants to prevent cavities or fluoride treatments) may be done during a routine office visit if needed.

The Canadian Dental Association recommends that your child see a dentist by the time he or she is about 1 year of age