Building Healthy Oral Habits for Children

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Building healthy habits when your children are young is vital for their developing teeth and gums. While you will have to help them when they are small, there are things you can do to make it fun for them as they learn to take over.

Babies: Beginning when they are babies, get them used to oral care from the onset. Clean gums with a soft, damp cloth moistened with plain water. When their teeth erupt, use a baby toothbrush and gently clean their teeth, adding a pea-sized dab of toothpaste when they are around 12 months. Begin using fluoride toothpaste when they are able to spit it out.

Copycat: Model healthy tooth-brushing habits by letting them watch you or by making tooth brushing time a family activity. Younger children love to mimic, even more so if you exaggerate your own excitement. Parents are their first teachers and role models, so getting in on the fun will rub off on them.

Songs: Young children are motivated by fun and pleasure instead of necessity. They respond well to cute, silly songs you can make up about fighting the “plaque monsters” or “cavity creatures”. Helping them have fun is the key!

Rewards: Another motivating game is using a rewards chart for them to note their daily brushing time. They should brush for at least two minutes, so invest in a kid-friendly timer for them to set. This lets them track their “success” and offers small rewards for them to look forward to.

Choice: Enlist their help by letting them pick their own toothbrush from the children’s section of your local supermarket. There are character-themed toothbrushes ranging from Sponge Bob to Minnie Mouse. Just make sure it is soft-bristled and ADA (American Dental Association) approved. This ensures that the product has been proven to be both effective and safe.

Toothpaste: Most adult toothpastes are too strong in flavors for little ones. More child-friendly flavors include strawberry, orange, or bubblegum, and all you need to do is make sure it also carries the ADA Seal of Acceptance on the label.

Floss: Flossing should begin once your child has at least two teeth which are touching. You will have to help them floss until their fine motor skills are developed, so make flossing easier by letting them use hand-held floss picks when they are ready. They are easy to use and effective at reaching the molars in the back of the mouth.

As a parent, helping your children learn how to properly care for their oral health is one of the most valuable things you can teach them. Instilling good habits early can create a lifetime of healthy smiles! If you have any questions, or to schedule an appointment, please call Allen Pediatric Dentistry today at 972-535-8169.