Though baby teeth only last for about a decade, how they are cared for can have significant and long-lasting effects. Keeping your child’s teeth clean can avoid painful cavities, ward off gum infections, enhance language development, and prepare the way for adult teeth to come in properly spaced and aligned.
Considering these factors, most pediatric dentists recommend that children not be entrusted to brush unsupervised until they are at least six years old. Until then, parents must ensure that the teeth are properly cleaned.
The following are ten practical suggestions for preparing your child for eventually assuming sole responsibility while keeping the experience fun and safe.
1. Let your child do the preliminary brushing.
Though he or she may not be ready to do a thorough job, your child can at least start the process. As early as the age of two or three, your son or daughter—equipped with a colorful child-sized soft-bristled toothbrush—can start brushing while under supervision. Then, to ensure a proper brushing, you can take the brush and finish the task.
2. Regulate the use of toothpaste.
Until your child learns to spit, fluoride toothpaste should be used sparingly or avoided entirely. At most, use a pea-sized amount. Toothpaste without fluoride is available for infants and toddlers.
3. Limit sugary snacks and drinks.
Frequency is more impactful than quantity: the more often your teeth are exposed to sugary foods, the greater the potential for cavities to form. If your child likes to carry around a sippy cup, fill it will water rather than juice or milk.
4. Avoid sticky foods.
Caramel, fruit roll-ups, and gumdrops can cling to teeth and lead to tooth decay. Even raisins, despite their high nutritional value, can become caught between teeth and cause cavities. Rinsing with water can help at the moment, while a good brushing should follow later.
5. Encourage your child to practice on dolls.
By brushing the teeth of dolls, your child will begin to identify brushing as a normal, everyday activity. It can also provide a visual aid for you to teach proper brushing techniques.
6. Allow your child to brush your teeth.
He or she will enjoy the experience and will be less likely to resist when the roles are reversed. Just be sure each of you use your own toothbrush!
7. Brush at least twice a day—after breakfast and just before bedtime.
Make it a habit and you will be less likely to face opposition.
8. Use a timer or play a song while brushing.
Ideally, the brushing will take between two and three minutes. Find a fun way to measure the required time. Be creative!
9. Use a chart and celebrate progress.
Track how regularly your child is brushing, and give appropriate rewards and praise to reinforce the practice.
10. Do it together as a family.
Everyone in the home will benefit from good oral hygiene and the shared experience will encourage your child to brush regularly.
Introducing brushing and flos sing early on can lead to a lifetime of health for your child. Don’t wait to establish oral hygiene as a priority or shrug it off as unimportant; rather, make it a value it for the entire household, starting today.
Guest post contributed by Robert Anders, on behalf of NYC Orthodontics. Robert is an experienced dental technician and in his spare time he enjoys passing on helpful dental tips.