Having regular checkups and dental cleanings is the best way for you and your dentist to work together toward optimal oral health at every age. By having a dental exam and cleaning every six months, your dentist will be able to spot issues in their earliest stages, when treatment is simplest and least expensive — and before more serious problems have a chance to develop. In addition to looking for tiny chips, cracks, or cavities, your dentist will look for signs of gum disease, one of the most common dental issues affecting patients of all ages. Without proper and prompt care, gum disease can cause bleeding, swelling, infection, and even tooth loss. And, of course, regular visits also provide an opportunity for your dentist to look for signs of oral cancer and other oral health problems that benefit from immediate care and treatment.

In addition to seeing the dentist regularly for routine checkups and professional cleanings, brushing and flossing regularly are two of the best things you can do to keep your teeth and gums healthy — and to keep your smile looking its best. Ideally, teeth should be brushed at least twice each day — once in the morning and once before bed. It’s also a good idea to brush after meals and sugary snacks if possible. Be sure to use a soft brush and to use proper brushing technique (your dental hygienist can show you how). The American Dental Association recommends flossing between teeth once each day. Again, technique is very important. If you have trouble using dental floss, try dental picks or a water flosser. Just be sure to ask the dentist or hygienist about the best way to use these products, so you get the full benefits.

The American Dental Association recommends children should see a dentist within six months of their first tooth emerging, and no later than their first visit. It may seem early, but seeing the dentist while your child is still very young can help identify potential issues early, so a treatment plan can be developed that may prevent more serious problems from occurring — problems that could interfere with nutrition or speech. Plus, seeing the dentist beginning at a young age helps your child develop good oral health habits right from the start, so they can enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

Getting kids to brush on a regular basis may take a little work, but here are a few tips:

  • Set a routine and stick with it. When kids know they’re expected to brush at specific times, it’s more likely to become a habit. For young kids, make sure they’re using the right technique and be ready to provide assistance when needed.
  • Let them choose their toothbrush and toothpaste. As long as they have the American Dental Association seal of approval, the products should be just fine. And don’t worry if they pick a manual or battery-powered option — both are effective in cleaning teeth. The key is to make the task more enjoyable for your kids.
  • Set a timer or pick a brush with a built-in timer function. Two minutes can seem like a long time, and a timer ensures your kids (and you!) are brushing as long as recommended.
  • Make sure they understand the importance of regular brushing and flossing. Kids are more likely to comply with a habit when they know it’s good for them and understand why it’s important.
  • Finally, set a good example. If your kids see you brushing and flossing regularly, they’re more likely to do it themselves.