In a previous blog, we shared some dental hygiene tips for seniors. Here, we want to look at the opposite end of the spectrum and talk about how parents can promote good dental hygiene in their children.
It’s no secret that it can be difficult to get small children to take good care of their teeth and gums. But part of being a concerned parent is watching out for your kids’ oral health!
Here are 8 top tips to help you protect your kids’ oral and dental hygiene and train them to take care of their own mouths throughout life.
1. Start Oral Care Early!
At each stage of development, children will have somewhat different needs in regard to oral care. But when should you start? Obviously, babies are born without teeth!
A good rule of thumb is to begin oral care with your child when he or she reaches around 2 or 3 years old – right when they have enough teeth that two or more teeth are in contact with each other at least some of the time. After all, that is the point where food particles can begin to get stuck between teeth and cause problems.
For very young children, it may be advisable to wash off the few teeth they have with a soft washcloth with toothpaste and some water on it. As the mouth starts to fill up with teeth, you can begin using a soft-bristled brush designed for kids.
2. Use Toothpaste With Fluoride & Encourage Self-brushing
At first, you may need to brush your child’s teeth for him or her, but begin very early to transition them to self-brushing. There are a number of ways to do this, including:
- Let him/her pick out the toothbrush at the store. There are many kids’ brushes with colors, shapes, and characters that kids love!
- Get kid-friendly toothpaste as well. Be sure it has fluoride in it if your child is two years old or older.
- Stay with your child in the bathroom while he or she brushes teeth. Instruct them step by step to brush up, down, sideways, etc. Maybe even add in a fun “brushing my teeth song.”
- Do a “tooth inspection” after each brushing session.
- Brush YOUR teeth at the same time to be a “good example!”
3. Model Good Eating Habits To Your Children
Not only brushing teeth but also one’s eating habits have a lot to do with maintaining good oral health throughout life. Not only for your own sake but also for the sake of your kids, you should be careful to follow a healthy diet.
Here are some ways to model good dietary choice to your kids to help them keep up their own dental hygiene:
- Avoid drinking large amounts of soda or other sugary drinks.
- Don’t consume a lot of candy or sweets in front of your kids.
- Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in daily meals.
- Plan well-rounded meals that include all major food groups.
- Avoid excessive snacking and binge eating.
- Drink plenty of water after each meal to wash away food particles.
- Brush and floss after breakfast and after dinner or the last food you eat each night.
Now, kids are going to eat more sweets than adults, generally, and that’s normal. You don’t have to ban all sweets for your kid’s entire childhood! The idea is simply to encourage an overall healthy diet that will help protect their dental hygiene.
4. Help Kids Floss Until They Can Do It Themselves
Most kids get a handle on brushing long before they do on flossing. Let’s face it – flossing can even be difficult for adults!
You may want to help them floss as late as age 7 or 8. Another solution is to use floss sticks rather than strings of floss. You can even find this kind of floss in fun kid versions!
Definitely emphasize that the purpose of flossing is to get the food and grime out from between their teeth. You have to scrape the floss string against each side of each tooth. And you should use a pick or toothpick to dislodge any particles that don’t come loose easily with floss alone.
5. Make Good Gum Health A Priority
With all the attention to dental hygiene, don’t forget to emphasize the importance of good gum health. The last thing you want is for your kids to come down with gingivitis or an even more severe form of gum disease.
Here are some ways to help kids keep their gum tissue healthy:
- Tell them to brush their gums gently with a soft-bristled brush. Plaque and bacteria can eat away at gum tissue as easily as at tooth enamel.
- Brush the gums at a 45-degree angle for best results.
- Help your kids scrape “gunk” away from their gum lines. If left there to fester, it can lead to bacteria-filled pockets eating down below the gumline.
- Show them pictures of what diseased gums look like so they understand how important it is to maintain good gum health!
6. Gradually Introduce Antiseptic Mouthwash
Young children tend not to like mouthwash because it is too strong for them, but you can take certain steps to introduce it to them gradually. Using an antiseptic mouth rinse after brushing and flossing is a crucial element in dental hygiene, so don’t skip it!
You can start with kid-specific mouth rinse or by diluting mouth rinse with a cup of water. Then, gradually move to undiluted, full-strength mouth rinse by age 12.
7. Focus on the Main Problem Areas
The typical areas where tartar builds up most are behind the front teeth – especially the lower front teeth.
Therefore, help your child brush there by turning the toothbrush vertical and brushing up and down. Some toothbrushes even have extra-long bristles on the end for this very purpose.
8. Don’t Neglect Regular Dental Checkups For Kids
Finally, schedule regular dental and periodontal checkups for the whole family. No matter how well you care for your teeth and for your kids’ teeth, sooner or later, a teeth cleaning and oral exam is needed.
Teach your children NOT to be afraid of the dentist! Seeing the dentist can even be fun. Give your kids a reward after each dental visit to help keep it that way.
To learn more about maintaining good dental hygiene at any age, contact the dental and periodontal experts at Ormond Beach Periodontics & Implant Dentistry in Central Florida today!