Dental Care for Kids
Teaching your child proper dental care at a young age is the first step toward a life of healthy teeth. Everything we are, we learn in our family. It is no different with oral care. Parents should start teaching their children how to take care of their teeth as soon as the first tooth comes out.
To help your children develop the proper oral routine and teach them how to take care of their teeth and gums, follow these simple steps…
All Healthy Habits Start at Home
Your baby’s teeth require constant care and as a parent, you are responsible for developing your child’ positive attitude towards oral hygiene. Healthy oral care habits start at home with your child’s first teeth and continue as the child grows and becomes more and more independent and aware of the importance of proper oral care.
Set a Good Example
An investment in your child’s dental health will definitely pay off. The first step is setting a positive example. Children learn everything by imitating their parents, and oral care is no exception. When the parent is taking good care of his or her own teeth, he sends a message that dental health is something important.
Include your child in your daily oral care, if possible. Or make brushing a part of your daily routine. Remember, anything that makes taking care of teeth amusing motivates the child, like e.g. brushing together, listening to music while brushing. By making brushing fun, you will encourage proper oral care and the child will develop a positive attitude towards oral care in general.
Fun Family Routine
Children generally accept all new things and routines if they are presented in a game-like manner and as something fun. Since brushing is so important for your child, create a fun family routine for oral hygiene.
You can all brush at the same time, if that is possible, listen to music, such as brushing song (there are many available online), tell a brushing story. By doing so, your child will maintain his or her teeth healthy and have fun at the same time.
Education Is the Key
Nowadays there are so many children’s books that are created to educate children about the importance of dental hygiene. These books explain the importance of brushing, what cavities are and how we should take care of our teeth in a manner that is understandable to children. It is an excellent method to raise the awareness of oral hygiene, especially if your child likes books and reading.
Simple Steps and Rules
To help your children protect their teeth and gums and greatly reduce the risk of getting cavities, teach them to follow these simple steps:
- Brush twice a day.
- Floss daily. Flossing is the only way to remove plaque between your teeth and under the gum line. Unless you floss, plaque can harden into tartar. And once tartar has formed, it is more complicated to remove it – it can only be done by a professional cleaning.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Children, but also their parents should limit starchy and sugary foods, which are known to produce plaque acids that cause tooth decay. Naturally, it is difficult to completely avoid sweets, especially with children, but when you do eat these foods, try to brush afterward, or if brushing is not possible, at least rinse your mouth with some water.
- Use dental products that contain fluoride. With older children, you can use fluoride toothpaste because fluoride naturally protects and rebuilds our tooth enamel.
- Drink fluoridated water. Tap water is usually fluoridated, unlike bottled water that does not contain fluoride. Also, your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe daily fluoride supplements to make your child’s teeth more cavity-resistant.
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups. Dental visits twice a year are absolutely essential for oral health. Also, regular visits from an early age reduce the fear of the dentist, develop a positive attitude towards dental visits and create a positive habit.
You can also create a fun brushing board in your bathroom containing some of these steps in order to remind the child of the importance of brushing.
Teach Your Child Brushing Techniques
Proper brushing techniques are the key to success and they should be learned from an early age.
- Use a pea-sized amount of an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. With smaller children, you should pay attention that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, since soft bristles are gentle to your teeth and gums and will not cause tooth sensitivity.
- Brush gently, with soft circular movements.
- Clean the outer surfaces of each tooth. Then the inside surfaces (it is where plaque may accumulate most) and the chewing surface of each tooth.
- Don’t forget to brush the tongue!
At first, supervise your children or brush together until they become independent enough to adequately perform their daily oral hygiene.
Funny Little Helpers
Naturally, there are some children who do not easily accept dental routines and are unwilling to brush their teeth. In such cases, the parents should consider the following little tricks to develop their child’s positive attitude towards brushing. Choose the one that suits your child’s preferences best. Use your child’s favorite stuffed animal (Or any other. It would be great to get one with visible teeth, such as a crocodile), brush its teeth together with your child and while brushing explain how important it is for everyone. Read children’s books dedicated to a dental routine in order to make it understandable to your child. This is an effective method, especially since children usually like stories and reading. Sing teeth brushing songs. Music generally creates a more positive mood towards anything. Let your child pick his or her own brushing song. If you are creative or have a creative child, you can make up your own brushing story. In the bathroom, use a fun hourglass or timer to set the amount of time needed for proper dental care. Download or make your own educational posters about tooth hygiene and put them within your child’s eye reach. Use coloring books or coloring sheets on teeth (also available online) to create a positive attitude towards brushing. Don’t forget to praise your child every time he or she performs the oral routine properly and with really reluctant children, you may consider a small symbolic reward for motivation.
When Should My Child Begin Flossing?
Flossing removes food particles and plaque between teeth that cannot be removed by brushing only. Since it is a more sophisticated routine that is difficult for children, you should floss for them starting at age 4. By the time they reach school age, most children are able to floss for themselves.
Consider Dental Sealants
A dental sealant is a highly-effective method against tooth decay. Sealants are basically thin plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of a child’s permanent back teeth, where most cavities form. Applying a sealant is completely pain-free and can be done in one dental visit. Consult your dentist if a sealant is something your child could benefit from.
Fluoride is one of the best ways to prevent cavities. Fluoride is a natural mineral which strengthens the tooth’s enamel and prevents cavities. In many municipal water supplies, the right amount of fluoride is added to tap water. Find out whether your local tap water contains fluoride and how much. If your water supply does not contain any (or enough) fluoride, consult your child’s dentist or pediatrician to see if he would suggest using an addition to fluoride toothpaste, such as a fluoride mouth rinse or fluoride drops.
Diet for Oral Health
A healthy, balanced diet is absolutely necessary for your child to develop strong, healthy, decay-resistant teeth. A good diet should contain a full range of vitamins and minerals, as well as plenty of calcium, phosphorous, and proper levels of fluoride.
Moreover, consider limiting unhealthy snacks like cookies, candies, dried fruit, potato chips, soft drinks, and pretzels. Such foods contain dangerous acids that attack your child’s tooth enamel and may lead to cavities.
The First Dental Visit
Both the AAPD and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend taking your child to the dentist by his or her first birthday. However, as long as you practice adequate dental care at home, most pediatricians agree that the first visit can wait until age 3.
The first dental visit should be carefully planned. At home, introduce your child to what happens at the dentist by role-playing. You can be the dentist and the child can be the patient or the child’s stuffed animal. Count your child’s teeth, spray them with some water, the same routines the dentist will perform.
At the dental office, let the child look around a bit to get acquainted with the environment. Show him or her the educational posters on the walls made for children.
Uh-oh, My Child Chipped a Tooth!
Any mouth injury should be examined by the dentist. If your child breaks, cracks or chips his or her tooth, you should take him to the dentist immediately. Keep any part of the broken tooth take it with you to the dentist.
The broken tooth should be stored in saliva or milk until you reach the dentist because it may be possible for the tooth to be placed back into your child’s mouth. This procedure is called reimplantation.