The American Dental Association has designated February National Children’s Dental Health Month. In this spirit of this year’s motto — “Brush your teeth with fluoride and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile” — we would like to discuss the importance of good oral hygiene for children and what you, as a parent, can do to keep your kids’ teeth healthy.
In addition to good practices at home, it’s important to maintain a schedule of regular dental visits for every member of the family. At Edgewood Dental Care, we care for patients of all ages. We are equally comfortable with toddlers, older kids, and adults, including seniors. Our office boasts several operatories, enabling us to treat the whole gang at once. We are open six days a week, with extended hours Monday through Thursday, so even the busiest families can make time to see us. Call our Edgewood, KY office at 859-474-7830 to request an appointment.
Dental Hygiene Begins in Babyhood
The ADA recommends parents schedule their child’s first dental visit for when the first tooth comes in, or before the first birthday. The process of decay can begin even in that initial tooth, so regular examinations are important. We will discuss how to keep baby’s teeth clean and answer any questions you have. Early visits also help acclimate the child to the dentist experience and instill the importance of regular checkups.
At home, you can start oral hygiene practices before any teeth come in. Wiping baby’s gums with a soft, damp cloth cleans away bacteria and gives him or her a sense of routine.
Protect your baby’s teeth from a early decay, or baby bottle mouth, by making sure he or she finishes bottles before bedtime — a bottle should not be allowed in the crib to help baby fall asleep. And never give baby juice or soda — milk, formula, or water only.
While it’s true baby teeth are temporary, they are important. Kids need them to eat and speak correctly. And they act as placeholders for permanent teeth.
The Basics of Brushing
Kids, just like adults, should brush their teeth twice per day for two minutes at a time. They should also floss daily. Easier said than done, we realize. Here are a few ways to instill good practices in your kids and set them on the path to a lifetime of excellent oral health.
- Build it into your routine. Brushing and flossing should be as automatic as getting out of bed. As going to school. As eating dinner. Don’t let your kids skip it because you are short on time in the morning or exhausted at night.
- Kids should be supervised until they can be trusted to do a thorough job themselves. For very young kids, you should do the job for them (though it’s fine to let them take a turn too).
- For kids younger than 3, you should use a soft toddler toothbrush and a dab of fluoride toothpaste about the size of a rice grain. For kids older than 3, use a dollop the size of a pea.
- It can be really difficult to brush a cranky and/or energetic toddler’s teeth. There are ways to encourage your child to cooperate, though. Allow him to pick out his own toothbrush for a sense of control, and try out different toothpastes until you find one he likes. Crank up the music and have a two-minute tooth brushing “party.” Make “brushing” a favorite stuffed animal’s teeth part of the routine. And incentivize your child with a sticker chart or other reward system.
- Pre-threaded flossers make flossing young kids’ teeth much easier.
Stock Tooth-Friendly Foods
As a busy parent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of purchasing highly processed, sugar- and carb-packed convenience foods. They are cheap, often individually packaged, and easy to throw into a lunchbox or pull out for an after-school snack. And, let’s face it: kids love them. But many of these products are bad news for dental health.
Avoid purchasing sticky sweet snacks like chewy granola bars, gummy fruit treats and roll-ups, and even raisins. These are like little sugar bombs that get stuck in the grooves of the teeth and cause harmful bacteria to go into production overdrive.The same goes for sodas, juices, and sports drinks. Encourage your kids to drink white milk and water exclusively. And for snacking, keep your fridge packed with fruit and cut-up veggies. The payoff will be better eating habits and healthier teeth for life.
Children’s Dental Health Month may be over at the end of February, but oral hygiene is a lifelong commitment. Fill out our online form to book checkups at Edgewood Dental Care. Or call our Edgewood, KY office at 859-474-7830.