Parenting can be hard, but helping your child establish healthy oral hygiene habits doesn’t have to be. As we celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month, we wanted to make sure that you, as parents, have access to all the information you need on how to take care of your child’s developing oral needs as they get older.
Babies and Toddlers
When babies are born, they typically have 20 baby teeth that have partly formed inside the gums. Teeth start to erupt between 6 and 12 months and most children have all their baby teeth by the time they are 3 years old. Even before teeth appear, parents should gently clean baby’s gums with a warm washcloth after meals to clean away sugar and get them familiar with the sensation.
Once your little ones’ teeth start coming in, you can start brushing those tiny pearly whites with a soft-bristled toothbrush with water or a small amount of non-fluoride toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. Keep toothpaste flavors mild and avoid fluoride until your child is old enough to understand toothpaste is not for swallowing. Flossing should start as soon as your child has two teeth side by side.
Between baby getting their first tooth and their first birthday, you should arrange for their first visit to the dentist. Don’t worry, this is just a check-up. The initial visit helps your child get used to coming into the office and getting to know the dentist, much like a well-baby visit to a pediatrician. At Dental Depot, we call these exams “happy visits,” and they are as much for you as they are for your little ones. Bring your questions and concerns to ask the dentist and get advice on how to meet your child’s needs. Depending on their comfort level, it might be best for you to hold them.
As your child starts gaining some independence, they might feel ready to start brushing by themselves and starting to floss. Help your child invest in their oral care by letting them help pick out their toothbrush and toothpaste. If traditional dental floss is difficult for tiny hands, look into different kinds of flossers that make cleaning between teeth fun and easy.
Even though they’re more capable of brushing their teeth at this age, it’s still best to keep an eye on them and be ready to offer help when necessary. Watch to make sure they’re brushing correctly for two minutes in both the morning and at bedtime. Toothpaste can contain fluoride and it’s okay to work up to a pea-sized amount. Don’t be afraid to be a little silly to make brushing a fun part of their routine. Reward them for consistent brushing—but avoid making those rewards sugary treats! Typically dentists will start performing full dental exams at the age of three, depending on your child’s comfort level.
School kids are busy. Between catching buses and homework and extracurricular activities, kids at this age can be forgetful when it comes to taking care of their teeth. Between the ages of five and seven children start to lose their baby teeth to make room for their adult teeth. Just because these baby teeth are on the way out, doesn’t mean your children should neglect them.
Make sure to offer healthy snacks and try to limit sugary foods and drinks, or make sure they at least rinse their mouths out with water to keep the sugar from attacking their teeth.
For your children who participate in sports, consider having a mouth guard made by your dentist to protect them from unnecessary accidental trauma. Having one made in a dental office tends to be much more reliable than the boil and bite kind you can pick up at the store, and Dental Depot can help!
Whether you’re a new or seasoned parent, kids can be tricky. Having a dental provider you can trust with the health and comfort of your child matters. That’s why we’re here to help. Consider the last time you took your child to the dentist, if it’s been more than six months, schedule an appointment today. They deserve to have the right resources to take care of their oral health and you deserve to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve laid the foundation for a lifetime of good habits.