About 42% of young children have had cavities in their baby teeth. Many parents underestimate the importance of childhood dental hygiene because those teeth will fall out. Unfortunately, poor oral health can lead to gum problems (which are difficult to reverse).
Great dental care starts at home. We’re here to talk about how you should be helping your child maintain a healthy smile. Read on to learn more.
Baby Dental Care
Good oral health starts in infancy. Many parents think that they don’t have to take care of their children’s oral health until they’re toddlers (and thus have plenty of teeth), but this isn’t the case.
When your child is an infant, you’re going to have to do all of the work for them. They’re not yet able to watch you brush your teeth or start brushing on their own.
You don’t need to brush your infant’s gums with a toothbrush and toothpaste until the baby’s teeth start to erupt. Before that, however, you should be cleaning their gums with a soft cloth or a special infant toothbrush. You should be doing this as early as possible (preferably soon after the child’s birth).
Once teeth start to erupt, brush them with a soft toothbrush and baby toothpaste. Talk to your child’s pediatric dentist if you’re unsure how to do it correctly.
If your baby is teething, wiping their gums with a rag has another benefit: soothing gum pain. If you use cool water or even freeze the rag beforehand, it can provide relief to the baby’s sore gums.
Plaque can start building up on a baby’s teeth as soon as it bursts through. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start brushing your baby’s teeth.
Model Good Dental Care Behavior
Once your child is a toddler, they can start learning how to brush their own teeth with adult supervision. Make sure that you’re modeling great oral hygiene habits. Children love to mimic their parents, and you can take advantage of that.
Make sure your child brushes twice per day. Even if you wouldn’t normally brush at the same time as your child, do it until they’re ready to brush on their own without guidance.
For example, if your child’s bedtime is at 8 pm, and you know that you like to snack until you go to bed at 11 pm, you should still brush with your child at 8 pm to set a good example.
Even if your child isn’t brushing alone yet, let them hold the toothbrush while you brush your teeth in front of them. If they start to chew on the toothbrush, that’s okay.
This is also a good opportunity for you to improve your own oral health. Many adults forget the importance of brushing and flossing as they get older.
Proper Brushing Habits
Soon, your child will be old enough to start brushing without your help. Make sure that they’re doing it right!
First, get a children’s toothbrush and toothpaste. Children’s toothpaste tastes better and it tends to have plenty of fluoride to keep your child’s teeth healthy and strong. You can also use a fluoride rinse if your local water isn’t fluoridated.
Your child should brush their teeth twice per day. If they get orthodontic work (like braces or clear aligners), they may have to brush after every meal.
Each time they brush their teeth, they should do so for a full two minutes.
Before they brush, they should floss. Children have sensitive gums, so flossing gently once per day before bed should be enough.
Children shouldn’t rinse their mouths after brushing their teeth. This allows the fluoride to work its magic overnight.
How to Encourage Your Child to Brush Long Enough
Getting children to brush their teeth for a full two minutes might seem like an impossible task. Don’t worry. There are a few things that you can do to motivate your child.
First, consider offering incentives. Make a sticker chart that you can place stickers on every time your child brushes their teeth for the right amount of time without being asked. After a set number of stickers, your child gets a small reward.
You can also use songs to encourage your child to brush for the full two minutes. Some children’s toothbrushes even have built-in songs for this purpose.
If you don’t have a special toothbrush, play your child’s favorite song for two minutes.
You can also get apps for your phone that have games for this purpose. The game will tell your child how to brush their teeth and time them. There are games with popular characters from television shows (like Pikachu from Pokémon).
Proper Dietary Choices
Your child’s diet has a big impact on their oral health! Make sure that your child isn’t eating too much sugar. Sugar allows bacteria to thrive, and this will eventually allow plaque to build up.
If your child eats sugar, try to encourage them to brush soon after. It’s also better for your child’s teeth if they eat sugar for short periods of time (for example, eating a piece of candy is better for their teeth than sipping juice over the course of an hour or so).
Avoid acidic foods. They can soften the enamel on your child’s teeth. After your child eats or drinks something acidic, it’s best to wait for about 60 minutes before they brush.
When Should a Child Visit a Pediatric Dentist?
Your child should visit the dentist before their first birthday. Preferably, you’ll make their first pediatric dentistry appointment when their first tooth comes through.
It may seem silly to visit the dentist so early, but the dentist won’t just check on your child’s tooth. They’ll also guide you through proper dental health practices for your child.
Visiting the dentist early on will also make your child less likely to experience dental anxiety as they get older and set them up for a future of good oral hygiene and health.
Keep Your Child’s Teeth Healthy and Strong
Proper dental care starts at home. Use this guide as a starting point for keeping your child’s teeth healthy. They may still have their baby teeth, but great dental health habits will follow them for a lifetime!
At Kentuckiana Pediatric Dentistry, our team knows how important it is for children to feel comfortable at the dentist. We pride ourselves on our professional pediatric dental care.
Contact us to set up an appointment at one of our locations today.