Helping your kids with good dental care habits
Healthy teeth are important to a child’s overall health, and how to care for them is something that can be learned at a young age. James Curtis, DMD, said, “Good dental care is a modeled behavior. Let your child see you caring for your teeth and gums on a frequent basis so they will learn to do the same.”
To help keep your children’s teeth healthy, Dr. Curtis offered these tips:
Babies and toddlers
- Mouth cleaning should be done before a baby’s first tooth erupts. You may use a soft cloth, a dental wipe or a soft bristled baby toothbrush.
- The American Dental Association recommends establishing a relationship with a dentist by the child’s first birthday, and it is important for the child’s first dental visit experience to be a pleasant and positive one.
- Although dentists and pediatricians have made strides in educating parents about tooth decay caused by allowing a baby to go to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice, parents should continue to be mindful about sippy cup decay.
- A child shouldn’t be sipping on juices for an extended period of time. Apple juice and other juices are very acidic and they contain natural sugar, which is harmful to tooth enamel. Limit juices to six ounces a day, preferably with a meal. A child’s mouth and teeth should be cleaned after having milk or juice.
A 4- or 5-year-old does not have the motor skills necessary to brush properly and a child that age certainly cannot floss effectively. Parents need to be diligent from 6 months to 3 years of age to keep the child’s mouth clean. Using fluoride for the prevention and control of decay has been proven to be both safe and effective. The correct amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used twice daily by all children regardless of risk.
- For children under the age of 3, parents should use no more than a smear or rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
- For children age 3 to 5, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is recommended.
- All children should use a fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance.
- Brushing twice a day (after breakfast and before bed) provides greater benefits than brushing once daily.
- Most children go through a state when taking care of their teeth is not among their priorities. If a child has been exposed to the bacteria that causes dental decay, this is a time when cavities can occur.
- Be sure to introduce flossing at a young age. Children may require extra help during their grade school and middle school years.
During the teenage years, children become more focused on the appearance of their teeth. They may switch to abrasive whitening toothpastes or over-the-counter whitening products that can cause irritation or persistent sensitivity. Be certain to monitor your teen’s dental care and use of whitening products.
These tips will help you care for your child’s teeth and teach them to do the same so they can be cavity free.
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