If your kids are anything like mine, they love to indulge in sweets and other junk foods, often at the expense of their teeth. Sometimes, even with fervent brushing and flossing, cavities and plaque still appear – causing pain for your child and expensive dental care for you. I’ve put together the following tips to help you keep that smile on your child’s face:
1. Visit the Dentist Every Six Months
If you aren’t already, make a plan to visit your dentist every six months. Regular checkups will allow your dentist the opportunity to detect the early signs of tooth decay, as well as many other potential problems. Not only should you schedule a bi-annual visit, you should schedule their first dental visit by age one (you may also consider taking your baby in when he or she gets their first teeth.) These early and regular visits allow your dentist to make sure that your child’s teeth are growing properly, applying corrective measures if needed.
2. Teach Your Children How to Brush Properly
Careless brushing of teeth may be just as bad as not brushing at all; applying too much force will lead to loss in enamel, which leads to sensitivity. On the other hand, quick and rushed brushing will leave other parts of your child’s mouth prone to bacteria growth and infection.
Teach your kids early on the importance of brushing their teeth at least twice a day – in the morning and before bedtime. Experts say that most children can’t really brush their teeth properly until the age of 8, so until then, guide them when they’re brushing their teeth. Spend about 2 minutes brushing your child’s teeth, paying close attention to the back molars – these are often where cavities develop.
It’s a good idea to invest in electric toothbrushes to avoid applying too much pressure in the teeth. Some electric toothbrushes also come with timers and songs to encourage your child to make brushing a habit. Make sure you replace your child’s toothbrush every 3-4 months, as bacteria tend to build up.
3. Teach Your Children How to Floss Properly
Brushing and flossing go hand-in-hand in fighting off germs from your child’s mouth. Regular flossing helps get rid of food residue that toothbrushes can’t reach and would otherwise become plaque if not removed.
Teach your kids the importance of flossing their teeth daily. If regular floss is too difficult for your child, try using floss sticks instead. When should your child begin flossing?
Typically they should begin flossing when their teeth start to fit closely together. This usually happens between the age of 2 and 6. Unlike brushing though, this takes a longer time to get used to; most children can properly floss by the age of 10. Until then, guide your children when they floss, make sure they do it properly and don’t harm themselves.
4. Eat a Balanced Diet
Help your children learn healthy eating habits early on in their lives. Not only will this help their physical health and energy, but it will help them steer clear of junk food addictions that can increase the chances of harm to their teeth and gums.
Junk foods, especially ones full of sugar, wreck havoc in your child’s teeth. Try replacing sugary junk foods with fruits instead and opt for juices that are not artificially flavored. Soda is a big no-no – it contains practically zero nutrients and contains a huge amount of sugar that could easily rot your child’s delicate teeth. Should your child have to drink sugary drinks, use a straw to decrease amount of juice that touches your child’s teeth. It’s always a good idea to drink water after consuming foods high in sugar so that less food get stuck in the teeth.
4. Take Care of Your Children’s Baby Teeth
Baby teeth are important even though they’ll eventually be replaced by permanent teeth. Damaged baby teeth may cause infections that your child’s developing immune system is not ready to fight yet. They could also cause permanent teeth to grow abnormally.
Be mindful of what your child puts in his mouth. Pacifiers and bottles should always be clean before touching your child’s mouth.
5. Make Oral Hygiene a Fun Experience
Children are more likely to repeat tasks they think are fun. Fun, in this context, means that they’re motivated to show off their smile. Turn brushing time and flossing time into a bonding experience between you and your kids. Laugh, sing songs, dance – do whatever puts a positive impression in your kid’s mind so that good oral hygiene becomes a habit. This is especially important in trips to the dentist since a lot of children are afraid of them. It helps if they see that you’re with them in the process, so try taking them with you in your dentist appointments and show them that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
6. Make Sure Your children is Getting Enough Fluoride
There’s been a lot of controversy about fluoride, but it’s actually safe for children. It’s natural and protects teeth from cavities. Check if the water your child is drinking is fluoridated and whether he needs additional fluoride. Consult with your dentist regarding how much fluoride your child needs.
7. Check Whether Your children Needs Dental Sealants or Not
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings often applied at the back of permanent teeth. They are painless to apply, effective in fighting tooth decay, and could be done in one session. Ask your dentist regarding dental sealants and whether your child qualifies for one.
Teeth are often the most ignored part of the face. Ironically, it’s also the most noticeable part of the face as well, with tooth damage being more prominent than other facial abnormalities like acne and moles. Teeth play an important role in your child’s speech development, nutrition, and of course, their smile.
Children naturally follow what they see, so set a good example by having good oral hygiene yourself. Children have very malleable minds, so if good oral hygiene is established early, then they’ll most likely carry it on for the rest of their lives.