Good oral health habits are best taught to your children early in life. Tooth decay is the most common disease among children and research astonishingly shows that 43 percent of children in the United States have cavities. How do you start young children on the path to a lifetime of good oral health? Following are some tips for instilling good dental hygiene habits in your kids:
Start When They Are Infants
Even babies can develop tooth decay if good oral health habits aren’t practiced. Putting a baby to bed with a bottle might be convenient, but it can harm the baby’s teeth. When sugars from the milk remain on a baby’s teeth for hours, it can eat away at the tooth enamel, creating a condition known as “bottle mouth”. To avoid oral health problems in your baby, do the following:
- After feedings, wipe the gums with gauze or warm washcloth.
- Don’t give your baby a pacifier dipped in sugar or sweet liquids.
- The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you schedule your baby’s first dental visit at no later than twelve months old, or sooner if their little choppers have erupted.
- You can start teaching toddlers how to brush their teeth at age two or three.
- Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush for toddlers, with only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, (be sure that they don’t swallow the toothpaste). They will probably want to brush by themselves, just make sure you brush their teeth again after they have finished.
- By six years of age, children should be able to brush on their own, but keep an eye on their brushing skills as they are bound to miss the hard-to-reach areas in the back of their mouth.
- Pick a consistent time for brushing and flossing before bed every night.
- Schedule twice-yearly dental appointments. Some toddlers are more susceptible to cavities and other oral health disorders, and dental care during this crucial time is important.
- Buy a new soft bristle toothbrush every three months and let your child pick it out.
- Keep track of daily brushing habits. Your child should brush once in the morning and once at night, at a minimum.
- Similar to toddlers, brushing habits at bedtime creates a routine for them. After breakfast is another optimal time to get them off to a good start for the day.
- Provide healthy snacks, fruit, vegetables, and cheese.
- Limit sugar consumption; children ages 5-12 will develop harmful snacking habits without proper guidance.
- Ditch juices and soft drinks! Although children love sweet drinks, they are a primary cause of tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health hazards. Stick to water and milk since they are actually good for your teeth.
Make Brushing a Rewarding Activity
- Children are not intrinsically motivated to have good dental hygiene. The thoughts of the long-term payoff of having intact teeth during old age is not something most 6-year-old children think about; that has to be instilled.
- A star chart or similar reward system will help motivate them to brush, and the long-term payoff will prove itself in time.
- Toddlers respond well to positive reinforcement. Provide small rewards, like reading an extra story with them for brushing their teeth every night.
- Find out what your children love, and use it as an incentive for them to take care of their oral health. Just make sure you’re not rewarding them with candy or sugar-laden incentives.
- Have fun, even when it comes to brushing their teeth. Brushing for two minutes may seem like an eternity to a young child, but there are many ways to make your child’s dental routine a fun activity. Click here for more ideas
- GUM Red-Cote Plaque Disclosing Tablets visibly disclose the areas of your tooth enamel where additional brushing and flossing is needed to combat plaque. Using these chewable plaque tablets can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease and the further build-up of plaque. They’re made with a non-toxic vegetable dye and can be purchased at your local pharmacy or online.
Set a Good Example – Oral Health Habits Start at Home
- Research shows that when young children observe other family members brushing their teeth, they want to brush, too. So, let your child see you brushing and flossing your teeth, and modeling good nutritional choices for the best oral health.
- Use positive language when talking about brushing your own teeth and going to the dentist The example you set is a powerful force in your child’s attitude toward oral care!
- Children look up to their parents for behavioral promptings. If you’re not taking care of your teeth, your children are likely to follow. If good dental health habits are the “norm” for you, they’ll likely do the same.
Establish an Environment Where Dental Care is Important to the Whole Family
According to the ADA, your child should start getting regular checkups around age one. Click here for more information. Early positive experiences will reinforce the idea that the dental office is a friendly, non-threatening place. Children who get in the habit of going to the dentist twice a year and taking care of their oral health from an early age have a much better chance of having healthy teeth into adulthood.
Dr. Ashley Niles of Niles Family Dentistry, has a great reputation as a skilled dentist in northern Colorado. Serving Niwot, Longmont and Boulder, she has the ability and expertise to provide treatment and services for the whole family. She is committed to provide her patients the best and most advanced dentistry the profession has to offer, while being compassionate towards you and your child’s overall wellness. Please learn other reasons to select Dr. Niles as your dentist! And call for an appointment at (720) 744-0001.
Dr. Niles would consider it a privilege to help keep your family’s dental health on track, throughout all stages of childhood and into adulthood!