J.E. Spencer, DDS and J. Clint Spencer, DDS

2900 Pine Mill Road
Paris, TX 75460
903-784-7893

Dental Care for Your Child

Here are some tips for taking care of your child's teeth and establishing good oral hygiene habits.

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Caring for Gums

Even before your baby's first tooth appears (or, in dental jargon, "erupts"), her gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast- or bottle-feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby's gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process of building a good habit of daily oral care.

Baby's First Tooth

When that first tooth makes an entrance, it's time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case the bristles are soft and few. At this stage, toothpaste isn't necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn't react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don't give up; switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months, then try the toothbrush again. During the teething process your child will want to chew on just about anything - a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.

Brushing with Toothpaste

When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child's brush. However, for the first 2-3 years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing, to prepare her for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age. When your child is able to consistently spit while brushing, you can start using toothpaste with fluoride.

When New Teeth Arrive

Your child's first tooth usually erupts between ages 6-12 months and the remainder of their 20 primary or "baby" teeth typically erupt by age 3. During this time, gums may feel tender and sore, causing your child to feel irritable. To help alleviate this discomfort, we recommend that you soothe the gums by rubbing a clean finger or a cool, wet cloth across them. You may also choose to make use of a teething ring.

Your child's primary teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood, and their permanent teeth begin erupting at age 6 and continue until age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or 32 including wisdom teeth.

Adopting Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits

As new teeth erupt, you should examine them every two weeks for lines and discoloration caused by decay. Remember that sugary foods and liquids can attack a new tooth, so take care that your child brushes their teeth after feeding or eating. We recommend brushing a minimum of two times a day, in the morning and at bedtime. If you can brush after each meal or snack, that would be ideal for optimal oral hygiene.

As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and she'll intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as she shows interest, give her a toothbrush of her own and encourage her to "brush" with you. (Find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy for her to grip.) Most children don't have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they're about six or seven, so you'll have to do that part of the job for her. Rule of thumb: when a child is old enough to tie their own shoes, they can probably brush their own teeth. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!

We suggest reviewing proper tooth brushing procedures with your child.

Printable instructions >

Brushing Instructions
  • brushing diagram

    Brushing: Step 1

    Place your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to your gum.

  • brushing diagram

    Brushing: Step 2

    Brush gently in a circular motion.

  • brushing diagram

    Brushing: Step 3

    Brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of each tooth.

  • brushing diagram

    Brushing: Step 4

    Use the tip of your brush for the inner surface of your front teeth.


Flossing Instructions
  • flossing diagram

    Flossing: Step 1

    Wind about 18 inches of floss around your fingers as shown. Most of it should be wrapped around one finger, and as the floss is used, the other finger takes it up.

  • flossing diagram

    Flossing: Step 2

    Use your thumbs and forefingers to guide about one inch of floss between your teeth.

  • flossing diagram

    Flossing: Step 3

    Holding the floss tightly, gently saw the floss between your teeth. Then curve the floss into a C-shape against one tooth and gently slide it beneath your gums.

  • flossing diagram

    Flossing: Step 4

    Slide the floss up and down, repeating for each tooth.


If you notice signs of decay, contact your dentist immediately.

First Visit to the Dentist

A child's first visit to the dentist should be enjoyable and positive. The more you and your child know about the first visit, the better you will feel. Children are not born with a fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. Our office makes a practice of using pleasant, non-frightening, simple words to describe your child's first dental visit and treatment. We want you to feel at ease from the moment your family arrives at our office.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), children should visit the dentist within six months of the first tooth's eruption - usually around their first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely she is to avoid problems. We'll look for any signs of early problems with your baby's oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for her teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular check-ups.

When you schedule an exam for a child younger than two years old, we will screen them for any problems, talk to you and your child about how to take care of their teeth, and make them feel comfortable with coming to visit the dentist. When the child is two years old or older, we can start to clean your child's teeth as well as examine them. One important thing for parents to think about is that you don't want your child's first visit to the dentist to occur when they are having dental problems or pain. You should schedule routine visits to the dentist to help your child establish good dental habits and be comfortable with the dentist.

On your child's first visit, we will do as much as we can, but our goal is to make sure that they have a positive experience.

To prepare for your child's visit, we have created an activity kit to familiarize your child with their teeth and help them look forward to their dental visit.

Click here to download our printable Dental Fun Kit

Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is preventable. Tooth decay is caused by sugars left in your mouth that turn into an acid which can break down your teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason - many children and adolescents tend to be lax in their oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away. A low-sugar diet also helps keep tooth decay at bay.

When your child is a baby, don't give them any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular tooth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle - sugary liquids in prolonged contact with her teeth are a guarantee for early childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.

Sippy cups are also one of the main culprits causing early childhood decay. Babies and toddlers should not be given a sippy cup of milk or juice to carry around and sip on all day long. These liquids should be limited to meals and snack time. Between meals and snacks, only water should be in a sippy cup.

Your child should visit the dentist every 6 months for regular dental cleanings and checkups. We recommend fluoride treatments twice a year along with cleanings to keep teeth their strongest. Tooth sealants are also recommended because they "seal" the deep grooves in your child's teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years, but will be monitored at your regular checkups.

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Dr. J. E. and Dr. Clint Spencer provide general dentistry for children, teens, and adults in Paris, TX (Texas). Please contact our practice to schedule your next dental checkup.

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