A smile is a wonderful thing and if you’re like me the sun shines just a little brighter when your child smiles!
Oral health starts during infancy, and good habits are best initiated early in life with regular visits to the dentist, as this means healthy teeth and gums. Even if problems arise, you can catch them and have them treated before they get worse.
Why care about your oral health?
When my son was 13 years old, he had to have four teeth removed and wear braces, as he was diagnosed with malocclusion (imperfect positioning of the teeth when the jaws are closed.). The doc keeps warning us that he may need surgery for jaw alignment. So, I cannot overemphasize the importance of regular visits to the dentist.
Tooth decay is among the most common problems in children. Left untreated, it causes pain and infections, besides leading to other serious problems with speech, eating, playing and learning. Happily, though, this can be easily prevented with a little care and effort. I am yet to meet someone who eagerly looks forward to a visit to the dentist!
How to help your child maintain good oral health and avoid cavities
The best way is to do it together—you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Make it fun
- Let your child choose her own brush.
- Do a dry run with the toothbrush on your own teeth in tandem with your child’s so that she can copycat what you do.
- Introduce a brushing song such as Elmo’s or Barney’s song. Or just compose your own and sing it to the tune of your favorite song. Here’s one, sung to the tune of “Row, row, row your boat”
Brush, brush, brush your teeth
Brush them everyday.
We put toothpaste on our brush
To help stop tooth decay.
Floss, floss, floss your teeth.
Floss them every day!
Using the string to clean between
Keeps the plaque away!
Clean, clean, clean your teeth.
Clean them every day!
Your teeth will sparkle for years to come
In the most beautiful way!
Brush, brush, brush your teeth.
Brush them every day!
Happy, healthy teeth you’ll have
If it’s done this way.
How to help children brush their teeth properly
Here’s a little step by step guide.
- Choose a soft bristled toothbrush.
- Hold the toothbrush at an angle on the outer gum line, bristles facing the gum.
- Gently brush back and forth for each tooth.
- Next, brush the inside of each tooth the same way.
- Now brush the chewing surface or top of the teeth in a backward and forward motion.
- With the tip of the brush, clean behind each tooth, in a front and back and top and bottom and up and down movement.
- Gently brush the tongue and gum line.
- When two teeth touch, start regular flossing.
- Once your child has her toothbrush in her hand, guide her hand, to show her the correct movement.
- Let him look in the mirror to see the brush cleaning his teeth.
- Use a timer to keep track of two minutes.
- Do not encourage running around with the toothbrush in her mouth, as this can accidentally hurt her.
Some extra info that you might find useful
How soon can you start dental care?
When my son was about six months old, the doctors advised us to gently massage his gums and ensure he had a sip of water after each feed. And this was the time when his first tooth appeared. We were a little paranoid about cleaning his teeth, being new parents. Toothpaste can be used around the time your child is about two years old, or based on what your doctor advises.
What if my child’s on the bottle?
Make sure she never goes to bed with it. Ever. The longer the liquid is on her teeth, it can cause “bottle mouth” and the next thing you know there are cavities and tooth decay. Introduce a drinking cup on her first birthday – she’ll love it.
How much toothpaste?
For children below six years of age, use a “pea” sized quantity of toothpaste. Too much paste causes teeth stains. Oh, children do love to eat toothpaste from the time they’re introduced to it. So supervise the squeeze, as well as the brushing part. Most important, teach them to spit out the toothpaste, not swallow. Let them rinse well after they finish brushing.
Initially, help your child brush his teeth twice a day to protect from plaque until he’s able to do it himself. Continue to supervise to ensure he does a good job. It is worth the effort.
Flossing is recommended from age four – expect to help your child until she’s eight or nine. Flossing helps get rid of plaque between teeth. If it turns into tougher tartar, you’ll need to get those teeth professionally cleaned. That’s not fun, I can assure you.
Twice a day for at least two minutes is ideal. Once when you wake up and again before bedtime. Floss before bedtime.
What if a tooth breaks?
Accidents do happen with active kids and if your child does happen to chip or break a tooth, get in touch with your dentist right away for treatment and pain medication if he needs it. Store the broken tooth in water or milk and take it with you when you visit the dentist.
Healthy teeth need healthy diets. Calcium rich foods like milk, yogurt and cheese are good for oral health. Encourage fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to minimize sugary or starchy foods, which cause plaque and – ugh – tooth decay.
Snacks like chocolates, potato chips, cookies, candies, and soft drinks team up with plaque, creating acids that attack the tooth enamel, and causing cavities. I’d grandly say avoid these foods—but that is easier said than done. Make sure your child rinses her mouth after snacking.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to systemic diseases, diabetes and other chronic health issues. With proper dental care, you can prevent these. Get started today!