Good habits begin early, before children even realize what you are saying and doing is good for them. They learn by example and by reading the adults around them. Good oral habits start with you, the parents. As soon as your baby is born, you must start caring for your child’s gums and emerging teeth.
It only takes a few minutes, and creates a “used to” routine that will make it much more seamless for that fussy toddler to handle a moment to take five to clean their mouth of lingering candy or food from a meal. The earlier you start, the easier it is for everyone.
Apathy, lack of action and consuming sugar is the cause for many health ills, tooth decay being one. Sugar also comes in many forms like cereal, ketchup, milk, breads, hot dog rolls and the obvious culprits of soda, cake, cookies and candy. Try to avoid introducing them to soda and learn to swap sparkling water mixed with real unadulterated pure fruit juices for that bubbly fix when needed.
When you drink sugary drinks throughout the day, the acid that’s created from the mouth’s bacteria/sugar combination just blows up in the gum-line and on the teeth. So all day long, acid is working on destroying teeth. Avoid using juice boxes as a convenient on-the-go drink of choice. A better choice would be clean pure water. Don’t fall for the marketing jargon of vitamin infused juice boxes that promise a whole day’s worth of vitamin C.
- Never let your child fall asleep with a bottle of juice or milk in their mouth. Most tap water has fluoride to aid in the fight against tooth decay. But contact your local water utility service to learn the fluoride level in your water.
- Have your infant finish the bottle before naptime or bedtime. Never dip pacifiers in sugar or honey and wean them off the “suckers” or binkies as soon as you can.
- After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.
- When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and water
- Encourage your child to drink from a Sippy cup by their first birthday
- Provide fresh food and don’t negotiate with a child, children do not let themselves starve. Encourage healthy eating habits and avoid processed food and fast food.
- Schedule your child’s first dentist visit as soon as that first tooth appears and no later than your child’s first birthday. The ADA says take your children to the dentist for the first time within about six months after their first tooth appears or by their first birthday. However, if you notice any issues beforehand, such as discoloration or deterioration, it is advised that you take them sooner rather than later. Remember there are many ways to make the dentist sound fun. The magical chair that goes up and down, the wand that suctions the water out of the mouth, the treasure chest at the end of the visit can all be fun things you can mention to get your little on excited about that first dentist appointment.
Side note: You may also consider taking your children to a pediatric dentist who has additional training in caring for children’s oral health. They will also be prepared to deal with any wiggling or squirming and will have a waiting room full of fun activities to distract your child.
The first visit will probably be informal. The dentist will check for decay and will take a look at your child’s gum, jaw and bite. The hygienist may clean your child’s teeth and apply a fluoride preparation or it may be saved for the next visit. The dentist will probably talk to you about good oral care habits and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about teething, tooth-friendly foods or anything else that pertains to your little one’s oral health.
Some useful tools for parents they might recommend may include DenTek Kids’ line of flossers, toothpaste and brushes which include a fun line of Looney Tunes characters and were designed with kids in mind, all with the ADA stamp of approval..
Brushing & Flossing
You should begin cleaning your children’s mouths during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a moist cloth to remove surface bacteria. When you see the teeth begin to come in, you will want to begin to brush their teeth by following these simple steps:
Use a pea-sized amount of ADA accepted fluoride toothpaste, taking care that your child does not swallow the paste.
Using a small toothbrush with soft bristles, brush inside surfaces of all teeth first, where plaque accumulates most, then continue brushing the rest of the teeth. Angle bristles toward the gum-line and brush gently back and forth.
Be sure that they rinse all of the toothpaste out of their mouth after you finish brushing.
Once your children have two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing their teeth. Try using a Den Tek made for kids Fun Flosser or Fun Flosser Handle (coupons) to teach your children how to floss and to make flossing fun.
To floss your child’s teeth:
- Hold the flosser firmly between your thumb and forefinger.
- Using a gentle back-and-forth motion, slide floss between teeth.
- Move up and down against each side of the tooth to clean above and below the gum line.
- Repeat steps for each tooth.
- Discard after use.