Although you may think that it is not necessary to emphasize dental habits until adult teeth begin to come in around age six, baby teeth act as placeholders for the permanent teeth
They play an important role in how children learn to chew, smile, and talk, and damage to them can cause substantial problems later. Baby teeth need to avoid cavities through a child’s early years. In addition, smart dental habits established at a young age will set the stage for life-long healthy habits. Children who have brushed their teeth or had them brushed since they were babies are more likely to understand the importance of this as they grow and develop permanent teeth.
It’s important to remember that the health of your child’s teeth and gums can have a direct impact on their overall health. While poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease, decay, and tooth loss, the bad news doesn’t stop there. Research suggests that the inflammation from periodontal, or gum disease, puts one at a greater risk for diabetes Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
Good oral care starts before teeth appear. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that, after a feeding, parents wipe a baby’s gums with a soft washcloth or a baby toothbrush using water only (no toothpaste). You could also use a dentist-recommended cleanser.
Use a small, soft toothbrush designed for children under two years. Just use water on the toothbrush until your child is 18 months old, unless a dentist tells you otherwise. At 18 months, you can start using a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste, unless a dentist recommends a higher fluoride strength.
Children between the ages of 2-4 years should use fluoridated toothpaste to help prevent decay as their teeth continue to develop. Once children reach two years of age, encourage them to brush their own teeth. Parents, however, should still follow up and brush them again to make sure they are clean. If a child resists having his or her teeth brushed, parents need to get creative and make the process fun, like “looking for treasure behind the teeth”. Using a themed brush with your child’s favourite cartoon characters can make brushing more enjoyable.
Young children between the ages of 5-7 years may think they can brush their teeth themselves, most children don’t have the manual dexterity for thorough teeth cleaning until they are about 7 years old. Until then, help your child brush and floss. Let them “do it themselves” first, and then follow up by helping them brush and floss again. Most young children thrive on regular schedules, so try making morning and evening tooth brushing and flossing a family event and do your own brushing and flossing at the same time. Children five and older are starting to get their permanent molars, so it’s important to use a fluoridated toothpaste and toothbrush.
Parents have much less influence over their meals and snacks during the day. Set an example for your children by eating a variety of healthy foods yourself, and by following a consistent oral health care routine of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing. You may think that children don’t notice, but they do. Pack plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods as healthy snacks, and keep the sugary drinks to a minimum – they are among the factors that can promote tooth decay. Children eight and older should use a fluoridated toothpaste and a toothbrush that is designed for a complex mixture of different-sized permanent and baby teeth.
Helping children establish good, life-long dental habits from the beginning by overseeing brushing and flossing, maintaining regular dentist office visits, and providing nutritionally balanced meals without excess sugar is the best way to ensure that children grow up with healthy teeth and gums, as well as good overall long-term health. Make your home an encouraging environment that not only supports your child’s proper dental hygiene, but reinforces the many reasons why daily dental care is so critical. Children who are healthy and happy do not hesitate to smile. And those with healthy, white teeth can flash that smile with confidence.
Dental care for toddler teeth & gums | Raising Children Network. (2019). Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/health-daily-care/dental-care/dental-care-toddlers.
Kids Oral Care. (2019). Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from https://oralb.com/en-us/oral-health/life-stages/kids/kids-oral-care-dental-hygiene-tips.
Kids Teeth, Brushing and Flossing: Dental Health from Humana Dental. (2019). Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from https://www.humana.com/prevention-and-care/healthy-living-and-prevention/dental-health/dental-health-for-children.