As a child grows up, it becomes increasingly critical that they learn how to care for their own teeth. As a baby, you take care of your children’s gums, and eventual teeth, yourself. During their toddler years, you still intervene but might start to tell your child why you’re brushing their teeth to get them to understand the importance of toothbrushing. (“This will make your teeth nice and healthy!”) As young children hit that stage where they want to do everything themselves, they might begin to take charge of the toothbrush under your strict supervision. A few years down the line, it’s up to your child to remember to brush their teeth twice a day and do the task right each time. As that time comes, it’s vital that they form healthy children’s dental habits and knowledge, including the following, which are recommended by the American Dental Association.
Twice-a-Day Cleaning of the Teeth & Gums
One of the most important yet most obvious healthy children’s dental habits need to take on is cleaning their teeth not once but twice a day. In the beginning, it will be up to the parents to help children meet this tooth-healthy requirement.
Within a few days after birth, parents are responsible for keeping their infant’s gums clean. This can be done by using a moist, clean towel or gauze. Use the gauze or cloth by gently rubbing over the gums after feedings. This will need to be a regular activity until your child gets their first tooth. Then they will need their tooth or teeth brushed daily with a child’s toothbrush and a grain-sized amount of toothpaste. Flossing should begin once your kiddo has two teeth right next to each other.
As they hit the age of three, increase your child’s toothpaste amount to the size of a pea. Again, toothbrushing needs to take place twice a day: preferably once in the morning and once at nighttime.
Once your child is able to brush their own pearly whites, it’s a good idea to monitor them until they hit the age of 7 or 8. The last thing you want is for them to stick to unhealthy toothbrushing habits like using too much toothpaste or brushing too hard and fast. Correct them anytime you see that they could use some improvement.
Solutions for Common Children’s Toothbrushing Problems
If you notice anything alarming with your kid’s toothbrushing habits, fortunately, there are some solutions to consider. Children’s healthy dental habits aren’t always automatic. Sometimes habits have to be corrected or encouraged until they are ingrained into a child.
Getting your child a toothbrush that plays music for a full two minutes or features a timer that goes off can help children adjust to the correct toothbrushing time. Plaque disclosing tablets are another useful solution for kids, particularly those who might not be very thorough with brushing. These tablets can help children pinpoint where they need to focus better on brushing and spot areas they often miss. As for children who dislike flossing or find this task difficult, consider getting them flossers, which are plastic handles with tightly attached pieces of floss. Flossers certainly make it easier and funner to floss!
Regular Dentist Visits within 6 Months of Their First Tooth
A child can have a good brushing routine at home, but the dentist still plays a critical role. After all, not everything can be resolved with a toothbrush and a roll of floss.
Within six months of your child’s first tooth erupting, it’s time to make their very first dentist appointment. However, as many parents know, every child is different. Some children don’t develop their first tooth until later. As long as you take them to their first visit by their first birthday, all is well. This is important even if your baby still doesn’t have that first tooth busting out the surface yet.
The first visit for a child is probably one of the most important. Here, your kid’s pediatric dentist will scope out your child’s teeth and gums for any concerns. They’ll be on the lookout for signs of baby bottle tooth decay. They’ll make sure your child’s oral growth and development are going according to plan. They may even perform some light cleaning if your child needs it. It’s always good to have an expert check things out! There’s more underneath the surface than what we might realize.
The first visit, of course, doesn’t stop there. It will be imperative for your child to continue seeing their dentist twice a year for life. Some folks might require more frequent visits depending on their individual circumstances. Either way, taking children to their regular dental visits can help form healthy children’s dental habits. Children will be accustomed to and comfortable going to the dentist and, thus, will be more comfortable continuing to go for years to come.
Making Sure Your Child Gets Plenty of Fluoride
Not every parent agrees with fluoride. Others are more neutral on the topic but still feel a slight bit concerned about the potential harms of fluoride. But rest assured, parents, that studies show that the benefits of fluoride greatly outweigh the slim chance your child will have a negative reaction. Not to mention, the most a bit too much fluoride will do for a child is lead to fluorosis, which is mostly cosmetic, or perhaps cause a bit of a tummyache. It’s actually relatively difficult to get too much fluoride!
Fluoride can be provided to children in the form of toothpaste, certain foods, and fluoridated water. Another way children can get the fluoride they need is through fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office. Your child’s dentist will know exactly how much fluoride to provide and will monitor your child during the treatment. If your child is deficient in fluoride, a dentist can prescribe fluoride-containing products to help increase their levels to a safe number. In the end, fluoride is critical for the health of the teeth. Never doubt the benefits of fluoride as studies show just how beneficial it really is when comparing those who get enough fluoride and those who don’t.
Using Pacifiers the Right Way—And Knowing When to Get Rid of Them
Most parents would agree that pacifiers are pretty much a lifesaver at times. Pacifiers can help soothe fussy babies and keep them quiet when they make a ruckus. Interestingly, pacifiers have been proven to have other benefits for newborns and infants. These include pain relief following minor procedures such as immunizations, shorter hospital stays for preterm babies, and a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Many vouch for pacifiers, and while your child’s dentist isn’t going to disagree with pacifiers altogether, there are certain things regarding pacifiers that they deem unhealthy. For instance, dipping your child’s pacifier in honey or fruit juice can increase a child’s risk of tooth decay. Letting your baby suck on a dirty pacifier is another big no-no (especially if it was just in another child’s mouth). Bacteria can be transferred easily to your child’s oral cavity and increase the risk of tooth rot. Another pacifier concern in the world of dentistry is letting your child use one for too long (or suck their thumb for too long). The more teeth your child has, the more damaging pacifier use and thumbsucking can be for the alignment of the teeth. Braces aren’t cheap, parents!
Healthy Children’s Dental Habits Start with Parents
All in all, healthy children’s dental habits aren’t too difficult to incorporate. It’s a matter of practice, repetition, correcting when you see your child shying away from good dental habits, and helping your kiddo break bad dental habits. Remember: children aren’t automatically going to understand what dental habits to form. That’s where their parents come in. Answer your child’s oral health-related questions. Buy the dental supplies they need. Encourage them to obtain healthy teeth through proper brushing and flossing. Correct them when their brushing and flossing habits aren’t up to par. And take them to the dentist.