Children that develop good dental hygiene habits when they are young are much more apt to continue those habits for a lifetime. It is easier than you may think to teach children of all ages how to properly care for their teeth. Investing time and patience now will certainly pay off in the long run!
Dental care is important for infants even before their first tooth appears. After feedings, it’s a good idea to start cleaning your baby’s gums with a soft cloth soon after birth to avoid gum inflammation. Once a tooth erupts, which is typically around 6 months, it’s time to begin brushing. Use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on a soft-bristled brush and brush teeth (or tooth) twice a day. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends scheduling a child’s first dentist appointment as soon as a tooth breaks through or by the age of 1, whichever comes first.
Teething is not necessarily limited to babyhood. Teeth are still coming in for many toddlers and some molars may not appear until 2 years old. So refrigerated teething rings and over-the-counter pain medications could be appropriate. It is during this time, children are becoming more independent so try and make teeth brushing time a fun activity versus a burden or struggle. Toddlers should be brushing 2x a day, with the help of an adult, using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. The AAPD recommends visiting a pediatric dentist twice a year for maintenance and prevention.
Continue to take good care of your child’s baby teeth by brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly. Research shows adults are more likely to develop cavities if they developed cavities in their baby teeth. Although baby teeth will eventually fall out, they are important for biting, chewing, and speaking clearly. They also save space for the adult teeth forming and help to guide larger teeth into position. As children grow, emphasize the importance of brushing for at least 2 minutes twice a day and not to forget those molars way in the back! Flossing can begin as soon as two or more teeth are touching one another. You’ll need to help and supervise once they start flossing on their own to ensure the spaces between every tooth are reached. The excitement of losing teeth and getting a visit from the tooth fairy is a fun way to encourage healthy habits and proper care.
Pre-teens have most of their permanent adult teeth, so good dental hygiene is more important than ever. They should continue to brush twice a day, floss at least once a day and use an over-the-counter fluoride rinse. They may find it more fun to upgrade to an electric toothbrush at this age too. If your pre-teen requires orthodontic treatment such as braces, excellent dental hygiene habits and possible nutritional adjustments will be necessary. Mouthguards are strongly encouraged for any contact sport to protect teeth and gums. Talk with your dentist about sealants used to protect cavity-prone areas. And, as your child gets older, conversations regarding dental hygiene and overall health effects of oral piercings and smoking should take place.
Good dental hygiene should come quickly to your child as long as you encourage those habits at a young age and remain consistent throughout the years. Visit Lindner Dental Associates twice a year or as necessary to get advice on dental hygiene for children of all ages. Sometimes being told the importance of dental care by a dentist has more of an impact on a child than just hearing it from a parent!