A healthy smile is important to your child’s health and sense of well being. Tooth decay is the most common childhood health problem in the United States. If you don’t treat decay, your child risks pain and infection that can cause problems with speaking, eating, and general health.

Compared to kids with poor oral health, children with good dental habits experience fewer dental problems, have a positive self-image, and do better in school.

Knowing the basics of good child dental care can put your kids on the path to a healthy, happy future.

Start early

It’s important to keep those baby teeth clean and strong. Parents should start cleaning a child’s teeth as soon as the first baby tooth comes in. Brush it gently with your finger or a wet rag.

Watch out for Early Childhood Caries (ECC), or baby bottle rot. It can happen to infants and toddlers when they are put to sleep with a bottle of milk in their mouth or walk around with a juice or milk filled sippy cup.

Fluoride helps strengthen developing teeth. If you live in an area where the drinking water is not fluoridated, talk to your doctor or pediatrician about using fluoride supplements.

Make it part of their daily routine

To avoid tooth decay, children should brush for 2 minutes, twice a day, in the morning and before bedtime. Don’t shortchange toothbrush time!

Younger children will need your help brushing their teeth. With older children, get in the habit of asking if they have brushed their teeth before they leave for school and when they are getting ready for bed.

Teach the basics

When children are ages 2-6, brush their teeth with a child-sized toothbrush ad a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Use these easy steps from the American Dental Association (ADA).

  1. Place your toothbrush at an angle to your gums.
  2. Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
  3. Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  4. To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, turn the brush and make several up and down strokes.

Let them “do it themselves” first, then follow up by brushing for them.

Children around 7 years old are ready to start brushing independently, but it is still a good idea to supervise to make sure they’re doing it right.

Have fun with it

Look for fluoride toothpaste that’s child-friendly with flavors and colors kids like. Toothbrushes and flossers with your kid’s favorite characters on them can help get them excited about brushing.

Sing a brushing song your child can follow along within their head to help them brush for the full 2 minutes. Leave special treats from the tooth fairy to reward good brushing habits.

Watch the sugar!

We’ve all heard sugar can lead to tooth decay, here’s how it happens: harmful bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar you eat to create acids that destroy tooth enamel, leaving your teeth unprotected. Holes in your teeth, or cavities, form from further bacterial infection.

Give your children a variety of healthy snacks and have them drink water instead of juice to protect them from these harmful bacterias.

Visit the dentist regularly

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says babies should have their first dental visit by their first birthday. The dentist can spot any developing problems and your child can also become comfortable in the dentist’s chair. This first visit will get your child on the road to a habit of lifelong regular dental visits.

The ADA recommends your child see the dentist twice a year. Regular dental visits are important because they can help spot dental health problems early on when treatment is likely more simple and more affordable. Visiting your dentist regularly can help your child feel comfortable with your dentist and the tools he uses, reducing anxiety about dental care.

In Summary

To keep your child’s smile healthy and bright, it’s important to establish good oral hygiene practices early and be consistent as they grow. Your dentist can let you know what is appropriate for your child at each stage and help you teach your children healthy dental habits. At East Valley Dental Professionals we have a trained and family friendly staff equipped to meet the needs of your children. Visit us regularly to keep your child on track to a lifetime of smiles. Have fun with it – and remember this is a very impressionable age. If your child sees you regularly brushing and flossing, they will see it’s a regular part of life and may think it’s cool if mom/dad does it!