Dental hygiene tips for parents

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Maria Pallares, a dental hygienist with the Naval Branch Health Clinic at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, offers the following tips for parents of young children.


  • Teach children how to brush their teeth.
  • Treat baby teeth like adult teeth; avoid thinking “they’re baby teeth, they will fall out eventually.” Children’s teeth that are diseased hurt as much as adults’ teeth do, and the bad habits that damaged them will damage adult teeth as well.
  • Drink water instead of soda or sugary sports drinks and energy drinks.
  • Consume dairy products to strengthen teeth and bones and to neutralize acidity in the mouth, which can lead to tooth decay (cavities).
  • Eat apples, other hard fruits and raw vegetables to stimulate saliva flow and keep teeth rinsed.
  • Take your child to the dentist before his or her first birthday.

Do not:

  • Put a baby to bed with a bottle; not only is it a choking hazard, but the liquid constantly bathes the teeth, which can lead to tooth decay.
  • Give a bottle to a child older than 1.
  • Encourage prolonged use of a sippy cup.
  • Feed your child sticky foods, like sticky candy or dried fruits, which can promote tooth decay.

Let your children brush their teeth too hard, as it removes enamel over time. “Think of your teeth as your car with a brand new coat of paint,” Pallares said. “Your car gets muddy. Do you scrub really hard to get it off? No, because it will remove the paint over time. While you can repaint your car, once you lose the enamel off your teeth, that’s it — it cannot grow back.”

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