Healthy habits make for a healthy smile. Here’s what you should keep in mind with your child’s dental health.
Every kids dentist knows that the healthiest smiles always come from practicing good dental hygiene from a young age. But it can be hard to teach your kids the right techniques and get them to stick to it. What should you do to ensure their dental health is as it should be?
Brushing Twice A Day
Before an infant's baby teeth come in, you should take care to wipe their gums with a washcloth or clean gauze pad after feeding. The sugars in mother’s milk can produce decay-causing bacteria that can cause a painful toothache and harm their smile. However, once the first tooth erupts, usually at six months old, you should take care to brush your kid’s teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and water. By age two, your child can start brushing their teeth with toothpaste. However, make sure to keep a close eye on them and be prepared to help them when they need it.
Your child should brush their teeth for a full two minutes, taking care to reach every available surface. While some parents choose to count for their kids, it can be incredibly helpful to leave a clock or timer in the bathroom just for this purpose. Having them count down with you can make them feel more engaged with their dental routine.
Did you know that there’s a wrong way to floss your teeth? Just like brushing, a person’s flossing technique can make a huge impact on their dental health. Flossing straight up and down doesn’t get everything trapped on the tooth below the gum line, which is one of the most important ways to prevent gingivitis. Instead, a “C” motion is needed to get on either side of the gum to the submerged tooth. Be sure your child flosses at least once a day from the moment their first two teeth touch, and keep watch just as you should with their brushing.
Don’t be afraid to use a lot of floss at a time—about 18 inches is perfect. When flossing, you don’t want to use the same section twice. This would be the same thing as reusing floss. Gross! Instead, teach your child to wrap the extra unused floss around their finger and gradually unwind it for each new tooth.
With early tooth decay, plaque and bacteria steal enamel's minerals, leading to white tooth spots as these cavity bugs eat away at the tooth's surface. Fluoride in water, toothpastes, and mouthwashes restore those lost minerals and keep children's teeth strong against dental decay. Start using kid-friendly fluoridated toothpaste by age two, but only use a pea-sized amount and make sure they don't swallow it.
Visit The Dentist Regularly
Many parents ask us, “Is it ok to go to the dentist once a year?” There seems to be a belief that the younger you are, the less likely you’ll develop cavities. And if there is no tooth decay, then there’s no reason for a child to visit their pediatric dentist. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
1 in every 5 children between ages 5 and 11 have at least one cavity in need of treatment. Brushing and flossing isn’t everything when it comes to preventive care, especially while a child is still learning how to take proper care of their mouth. Plaque and bacteria can build up on their teeth and slowly begin wearing away at the enamel. Baby teeth are softer than adult ones, making them particularly vulnerable to tooth decay and cavities.
Within six months of their first tooth emerging, kids should see their dentist for a routine dental cleaning and exam twice a year—once every six months. This allows us to keep their new teeth squeaky clean and ensure their smiles are developing as they should and on schedule.
Keep Things Fun
We’ve found that kids keep to their dental hygiene routine better when you make it fun for them. Many children’s dental products are designed to make brushing and flossing more enjoyable. Let them pick out their baby toothbrush and toothpaste, which can be designed with their favorite characters and be much tastier than standard mint. You can also try having a song and dance to do during their brushing.
While some parents may reward their kids for a job well done, you mustn't bribe them with sugary sweets or snack foods. It's important that children become excited to take care of their smiles, but we don't want to undo all of their progress by giving them cavity-causing treats. We recommend using rewards like stickers or apple slices instead.
Keep A Healthy Diet
The foods that a child eats can affect their dental health. Foods and drinks high in sugar and starch are especially good at creating plaque and bacteria on their teeth. The longer these cavity bugs stay on their enamel, the more harm it does to their smiles. However, fun snacks and desserts can be okay as an occasional treat. Just take care to keep these foods from becoming a part of their everyday meals. Just be sure to have them rinse their mouths with water afterward to rinse away much of the acids and sugars from their teeth.
Some of the best foods to eat include:
Fibrous fruits and vegetables
Green and black teas
Calcium-rich dairy products
Fluoridated water, and foods made using fluoridated water
Whole-grain foods like bran, pastas, and brown rice
How often your kid eats can also make a massive impact on their dental health. When a child frequently snacks, it allows food, plaque, and bacteria more time on your teeth, with less time to be washed away by water or saliva. Even with healthier foods, this prolonged contact can make it easier for tooth decay to gain a foothold on a child’s teeth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is pediatric dentistry necessary?
If possible, you should always have your child see a pediatric or family dentist. Pediatric dentistry is uniquely qualified to take care of a developing smile’s every need with patience and friendliness to ensure children feel safe in their dentist’s care. From dental checkups and cavity treatment to orthodontics and wisdom teeth removal, there’s a lot that kids dentists take into account with your child’s dental health.
One key aspect of pediatric dentistry is orthodontics. A child’s adult teeth first start coming in around 6 years old, and by age 7, they should see their dentist for an orthodontic consultation. This exam checks for any problems on the horizon when it comes to their teeth and bite alignments. Early treatment may be necessary, between 6 and 10 years-old, to ensure that there’s enough room for adult teeth to erupt without any crowding or damage to nearby teeth. Our pediatric dentists will look for:
Gaps between teeth
Overbite and underbite
Misalignment can drastically affect a child's dental health. It can make it harder for them to brush and floss properly and cause unusual dental wear and tear. Bite issues also make speaking more challenging and lead to chronic jaw pain and headaches.
How do I make my child more comfortable at the dentist?
Young children can often be nervous seeing their kids dentist, especially if it's for the first time. A simple way to make them more comfortable coming in is to hold a pretend dentist visit, with you as the dentist and them as your patient. Have them sit back and say "ahhh" as you count their teeth. Use a compact mirror to inspect their teeth. Give them a general idea of what their appointment will be like, but don't go into too much detail. Sometimes the more you say can cause more harm, especially if you aren't careful with your words. Words like "pain," "hurt," or "shot" can make them too scared to come.
If your child has a dental emergency, our child-friendly dentists can ensure they stay relaxed with dental sedation. We often use laughing gas to keep kids happy and comfortable in the dental chair as we treat their cavities. With an experienced hand in charge, laughing gas is perfectly safe, whether our patients are 2 or 82.
How does poor oral health affect health?
Just as our mouths are part of a greater whole, your oral health is part of your overall health. Left untreated, oral bacteria from cavities and gum disease can move to nearby teeth and gum tissue to ruin the rest of their smile. It can even enter your bloodstream and spread to the rest of your body. Patients with histories of severe dental decay and gum disease have a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and complications during pregnancy.