Approximately 42% of children ages 2 to 11 years old have cavities. Developing tooth decay at such a young age can make a child fearful of dentistry for children, which can last well into adulthood.
Caring for children’s teeth with the right techniques and habits is the best way to avoid tooth decay and dental phobia. Read on for our advice about kids’ teeth and promoting dental health.
1. Start When They’re Babies
Dentistry for children doesn’t start when they get their first tooth. It begins well before that. Babies have unique needs parents must meet to set them up for success when their teeth arrive.
Pacifiers Affect Dentistry for Children
Many children grow up with pacifiers and/or develop the habit of thumb sucking. This is a natural part of child development and helps them feel at ease. However, it’s important to help them kick the habit at the right time.
Pacifiers and thumb sucking can be problematic in caring for children’s teeth. As their teeth emerge, it may affect the natural development of the mouth, including teeth alignment.
Keep Gums Clean
Bacteria accumulate in the mouth even when there are no teeth to attach to, which means you should be removing them. Using a damp washcloth over your baby’s gums helps with this and alleviates soreness from teething.
Avoid Bottles in Bed
You might be tempted to leave your baby’s bottle in bed with them at night, but it’s not the best regarding dental hygiene for kids. Bottles with milk or juice build plaque in the mouth, which leads to tooth decay.
This decays is called ‘bottle mouth’ or ‘baby bottle tooth decay.’ It puts your baby’s front teeth at the highest risk for cavities. If your baby requires nighttime feeding, clean their gums before putting them back to bed.
2. Make Dental Care Commonplace
As your child grows and starts to understand more of the world, dental care should be part of their regular routine. Talk about the importance of it regularly so that they are informed about proper habits.
3. Make Dental Care Positive
Approximately 1 in 10 adults is very afraid of the dentist. For many, this fear comes from a bad experience as a child. Make caring for children’s teeth a positive experience to combat this fear early on.
Incorporate Dentistry With Playtime
Incorporating dentistry for children during playtime allows them to understand it at their level. It also gives them a chance to work with the concept of dentistry in a controlled, low-stakes environment.
There are endless opportunities to incorporate dentistry with play. For example, read them a dentist-based book during story time, give them a toy dentist kit, or let them practice being a patient.
Be Honest Without Oversharing
Dentistry can sound scary to children, even certain aspects that adults don’t find scary. While it’s important to set expectations, avoid oversharing or using scary words. Stick with basic facts so you don’t overwhelm them.
4. Start Dental Visits at the Right Time
If you want to care for your child’s teeth, few things are more important than taking them for their first dentist visit at the right time. We recommend an initial visit approximately 6 months after the start of teething.
Find the Right Dentist
Our best advice about kids’ teeth is to find the right dentist right off the bat. You want an expert in dental hygiene for kids who is also compassionate and makes the dentist a not-so-scary place to be.
5. Develop Good Habits Early
When particular activities start early on in a person’s life, they’re easier to make into habits. Getting your child started on a solid dental routine is part of maintaining a healthy mouth throughout their life.
Teach them How to Brush and Floss
The average child needs their first toothbrush at about 1 to 2 years old. Use a soft-bristled brush with fluoride-free toothpaste intended for kids. Brushing your child’s teeth, gums, and tongue should be done twice daily.
They can start flossing as soon as the space between their teeth starts to narrow, which happens between ages 2 and 6. Be sure to watch your child until they are older to make sure their teeth are getting cleaned properly.
Protect Their Mouth
Caring for children’s teeth isn’t just about cleanliness, it’s also about proper equipment for protection. If your child plays sports or similar activities, make sure they use a mouth guard to prevent damage to their teeth.
6. Teach them About Foods for Dental Health
While you control the majority of what your child eats, it’s important to teach them about foods for dental health. Having this kind of knowledge empowers them to make smart decisions on their own.
Minimize Sugar Intake
Diets that consist of candy, soda, and other sources of heavy sugar put a child at a higher risk of developing tooth decay. The best way to keep their teeth in good condition is to cut sugary foods out altogether.
However, completely removing sugary foods from their diet isn’t practical for many families. While we recommend limiting these foods as much as possible, children must brush or (at least) rinse after consuming them.
The right amount of calcium is a great way to promote oral health. Foods like cheese are one of the best options since they’re low in sugar. Milk and yogurt are also great options and are popular among children.
Ensuring your child gets their daily recommended amount of water is one of the best things you can do for their health, including their teeth. It helps remove debris and keeps adequate levels of saliva.
7. Be Their Role Model
Your child looks up to you and learns from you. While you can teach them all of the right tips and techniques for dental health, the best way to make them habits is to be your child’s role model.
Take the Right Approach to Dentistry for Children
The journey to proper dentistry for children starts sooner than some parents realize. Making dental hygiene for kids a normal and fun part of their routine sets them up for success when it’s finally time for their first appointment.
Are you ready to schedule your child’s first visit? Contact us for an appointment.