Skip to main content Skip to choc.org search
Health Menu

Index | Subscribe | Blog

Health Footer Menu

Dental Hygiene

Mom brushing the teeth of her young child

CARING FOR BABY TEETH

Caring for the baby teeth is just as important as caring for the permanent teeth that come in later. “Our concern is with oral health, and it’s more than just teeth and cavities. It’s an important part of overall health,” says Dr. Richard Mungo. Poor oral health can cause problems with feeding in babies and also harm a child’s overall health, development and school performance. “Those teeth are important for speech development. Your tongue has to interact with the teeth to develop proper speech. Baby teeth also allow the jaws to grow properly and make space for the permanent teeth,” he says.

VISITING THE DENTIST

A child should see a dentist by his or her first birthday, or when the first tooth comes in, with a dental check-up at least twice each year after that to make sure the mouth and teeth are developing properly and on schedule, says Dr. Mungo. “That first visit allows us to take a look at the child and establish a dental home. We will educate the parents about diet and the use of bottles, make sure everything is healthy, and make sure they know that if there is any dental trauma, like from falling down, they can call us.”

TIPS FOR GOOD ORAL HYGIENE

  • Wipe your baby’s gums after every meal with a soft, wet cloth.
  • Help your child brush and floss until age 8. “By 8, the child has enough dexterity and a long enough attention span to do a good job,” says Dr. Mungo.
  • Flossing should begin after the second baby molars appear, usually between ages 3 and 4.
  • Limit or avoid sodas, sugary treats and sticky snacks that stay on the teeth. “Even diet sodas have acid in them to make them bubble,” Dr. Mungo says.
  • Don’t put the baby to bed with a bottle filled with any liquid other than plain water.

Meet Dr. Mungo - Expert in Pediatric Dentistry

Dr. Mungo completed dental school at Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine and his residency at Boston University (Goldman) School of Graduate Dentistry. He served a fellowship at USC/Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in craniofacial anomalies. Dr. Mungo also has a master’s degree in medical education from the USC School of Medicine. He has published papers on cleft palate therapy, conducted original research and published protocols for the use of lasers in dentistry. He also has published work on hospital dentistry and the oral complications of AIDS in the pediatric population. Dr. Mungo is a past president of the California Society of Pediatric Dentistry, Western Society of Pediatric Dentistry and the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Dentistry for Children.

Dr. Mungo’s philosophy of care: “I strive to offer the highest quality of oral health care for the children of our community in a warm and caring atmosphere, culturally sensitive and fully attentive to our patients’ needs.”

Richard P. Mungo, DDS

Richard P. Mungo, DDS
Chair, Dentistry, CHOC Children’s

Flossing Tips for Your Little Ones

Brushing teeth properly and consistently helps to remove most dental plaque, however, brushing alone cannot remove plaque that is located in places that a toothbrush cannot reach, particularly in-between teeth. In addition to removing plaque, flossing also helps to remove debris that adheres to teeth and gums in-between teeth; polish tooth surfaces; and control bad breath. It should take place at least once a day for two to three minutes each time to be most effective.

Flossing should be started when your child is around 3 to 4 years of age, under the direction of your child’s dentist. Prior to this age, flossing is not necessary. Children usually need assistance with flossing until they are 8 to 10 years of age.

Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss on the counter

Tips for Preventing Scary Tooth Decay this Halloween

Halloween

Halloween sweets don’t have to wreck havoc on the teeth of your little trick-or-treaters. Children can enjoy some Halloween candy and still avoid sugar-related tooth decay. The key to preventing tooth decay lies in limiting the amount of candy children eat, and reducing the time sugar remains in the mouth.

Brushing teeth as soon as possible after eating candy may keep harmful bacteria from developing.

Knowledge is the best medicine. Learn more about your child's health in these features from the experts at CHOC.

Health Information on the Web
An electronic health record is a computerized collection of a patient’s health records designed to be shared among a patient’s health care providers. Learn more about the EMR in this health feature.


School Aged Problems
What are lice? Are my kids too busy? Why does my teen have a bad attitude? Get the answers to these questions and more in this health feature.


Bullying
One of the best ways to protect your children from bullying is to talk to them with open-ended questions and help them come up with an appropriate response. Learn more in this Health Feature.


Subscribe to KidsHealth

Long Live Childhood

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram Snapchat LinkedIn YouTube