We pick up some of our best (and worst) habits when we’re young. Most people who learn to take good care of their teeth at an early age continue to do so as they get older. Use the following tips to help start your children on a lifetime of good oral health habits.
Start Oral Health Early
Even before your infant’s teeth have grown in, you can get him accustomed to proper oral care by gently cleaning his gums with a water-soaked gauze pad after feeding. This will also wash off the bacteria that can lead to sticky plaque and damage teeth as they come in.
Tip: If your infant will only fall asleep with a bottle, be sure it’s filled with only water. Any other liquid sitting on teeth through the night increases the risk of tooth decay.
Brush Your Children's Teeth
When your children are between 2 and 5 years old, they may be somewhat reluctant to open their mouths for you to brush their teeth, so you might need to resort to a singsong method of persuasion. Yes, this will get old, but you’ll need to do it twice a day every single day because this is when the habit truly sets in. And that typical reluctance is also why the industry creates fun toothbrushes and sparkly, fruit-flavored toothpastes.
Tip: Because children love to imitate adults, it might also help to stand side by side with your child and brush your teeth while they “brush” theirs. But make sure you also spend some time brushing your child’s teeth as well.
Floss Your Teeth
As soon as your child has two teeth touching, you’ll need to start flossing, too. Do it at the same time every day. Usually it works best to do the flossing as part of your dental care routine either in the morning or before bed. It doesn’t matter if you floss before or after you brush. It just matters that you do it. Consistency is key, and it’s an important habit that will last a lifetime.
Protect Your Children's Teeth
Protect your children’s teeth from acids in juices, sports drinks, and carbonated beverages. Serve these drinks in very limited amounts (less than 6 oz per day), and when you do, follow up with water to rinse the erosive acids and sugars off of their teeth.
Get Teeth Fluoridated
Fluoride reduces cavities in children and adults. Studies have shown dramatic decreases in tooth decay when fluoride is added to community water supplies. It makes the tooth structure stronger so teeth are more resistant to acid attacks, and it also acts to reverse the early decay process with remineralization. Talk to your dentist about the right amount of fluoride for your children. Ask if they should use fluoridated toothpaste and/or take a fluoride supplement.
Come see us every six months
At Town Center Dentistry in Rancho Bernardo, we love our little patients. When your kids come to see us every six months, we’ll clean and examine their teeth, sure, but we’ll also have conversations with them about the importance of having a healthy mouth and teeth. These conversations work wonders. Trust us, we’ve had more than a few parents thank us because suddenly, following a visit, their children have an increased interest in brushing and flossing.
If you need a little help motivating your children between visits, we don’t mind if you throw our names out there. Just say, “Dr. Reesor is going to ask me if you brushed your teeth twice a day.” It may not be quite as creative as using the Elf on the Shelf, but it we’ve seen it work.
So go ahead parents, use that every-six-month appointment for all it’s worth. Whatever it takes to start your children on a lifetime of good oral health habits. We’re right there with you.