Healthy teeth are imperative for one’s overall health, especially for children. Practicing good dental hygiene habits start as soon as your child sprouts their first tooth. The ADA recommends finding a dentist for your child by their first birthday and attending regular appointments as recommended by your dentist. These appointments are important because a child’s risk for cavities starts as soon as their first tooth appears.
At home, you can start off with a soft bristle, age-appropriate toothbrush when they are 1-2 years old. Brush with water or use a rice-sized squirt of toothpaste without fluoride – there are many options out there now for fluoride-free toothpastes for toddlers. Once your child’s motor-skills improve, let them try to brush their teeth (with your help, of course). This will empower them to complete the task on their own once ready. You can introduce toothpaste with fluoride around age 3–-only a pea-sized drop.
In addition to developing good brushing and flossing habits, reducing their intake of sugar will help prevent cavities and dental decay. While it is seemingly impossible to avoid all sugar, just be sure to brush your child’s teeth, or have them brush their own teeth, after they have had something sugary. This will prevent the plaque build-up that can cause cavities, because the longer the sugar sits on the teeth, the more likely it is to cause damage.
Here are a few ways to make brushing teeth fun (as parents know, making something fun makes everything easier!) and instilling good oral hygiene practices early:
- Take your child to the store so they can select their own toothbrush, maybe with their favorite character on it! Let them pick their toothpaste flavor (age appropriate).
- Use floss picks to make it easier for little hands – there are many cute animal and other designs to make it fun.
- Make a calendar so they can place a sticker each time they brush their teeth (at least 2 times per day!) Sometimes just placing the sticker on each day is rewarding enough, but you could offer a small reward at the end of each week or month.
- Play their favorite song, or set a timer, so they can enjoy their 2-minute minimum brush time.
- Read them books about dental hygiene. They will enjoy the story, while learning at the same time. Sesame Street Ready, Set, Brush! was written in collaboration with the American Dental Association –- and who doesn’t love Elmo?
- Watch fun videos on brushing teeth! Mouth Healthy Kids has some on topics like teeth brushing, visiting the dentist, and more.
Overall, there are many easy ways to teach your children healthy dental hygiene habits as they grow up. The most important is to lead by example, emphasize the importance of visiting the dentist regularly, and make the process enjoyable. It won’t seem like “work” if it feels like play. We specialize in family dentistry and would love the opportunity to serve your family, young and old alike. Request an appointment today or call us.