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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
Kids' trip to dentist doesn't have to mean pulling teeth

By Cpl. Amanda Harris | | February 14, 2003

MCRD PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- Healthy teeth allow you to chew your food and smile proudly. The key to keeping your teeth healthy is proper brushing and taking care of your oral health.
But what about children? How soon should you start brushing their teeth? How do you teach them to brush? And when should they take their first trip to the dentist?
Registered dental hygienist Stacey Govito, a contractor at the Depot dental clinic, offers these tips and advice on children's dental health.
"As soon as your children get teeth, it's time to start brushing," said Govito. "Make it a game, show them how mommy and daddy do it. The sooner you teach them it's fun, the better. They won't even know they're learning and creating a good habit."
Govito said not all children will take to brushing as easily as others.
"Just be patient," she said. "Every parent has their own tricks. Sometimes a fun toothbrush like Blues Clues or Barbie works, sometimes an electric toothbrush works and sometimes you might have to put toothpaste on a washrag or piece of gauze. The key is to not get frustrated and keep trying. Every kid is going to be different. Some will think it's fun and take to it right away, and some won't want anything to do with it."
After the age of two, parents should start giving their children toothpaste with fluoride to help combat cavities.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child's first trip to the dentist should be at 1 1/2 or 2 years old to show them it's not scary.
"The first trip doesn't have to be a full cleaning. It can be just an examination and a ride up and down in the dentist's chair," Govito said. "It's all going to depend on how your child responds to it. The point of the visit is to take away any fear your child has of the dentist and to show them what to expect."
Another key aspect in your child's dental health is good nutrition.
The AAPD suggests that you, "Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat, fish and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay. You can also ask your pediatric dentist to help you select foods that protect your children's teeth."
Govito agrees and said, "Good nutrition will make all the difference."
For more information about children's dental health, contact your local dental clinic or visit the AAPD online at

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