Developing a proper oral hygiene routine early for children is essential to ensure a lifetime of strong and healthy teeth. The responsibility of parents as role models are key to setting the daily habit and teaching the importance of dental care.
Parents can begin before the first tooth comes in by regularly cleaning their newborns gums with a clean, damp washcloth after all feedings to clear away harmful bacteria. After the first tooth appears, parents can start brushing gently for two minutes twice a day with an infant-sized toothbrush and a dab (about the size of a rice grain) of child-friendly toothpaste to minimize any swallowed.
Once baby’s teeth touch, parents can begin flossing in between them. Schedule your child’s first dental appointment before their first birthday or after his or her first baby tooth is visible, whichever comes first.
Show them how it’s done
Starting at age two, you can begin teaching your child to brush with a children’s toothbrush using no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. To minimize swallowing, your child should be taught to spit while brushing.
Children love to mimic their parents, so if they see them brushing, they are more than likely pick up the habit easily. Children need help and supervision with this important task until about age seven. Using a timer for two minutes will assist them in learning the proper length of time for brushing and it will help ensure they are reaching all their teeth, especially the back ones. There are an abundance of fun timers or apps that can monitor brushing habits.
Explaining how to brush doesn’t have to be complicated. Show children how to hold their toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against their gums and move the brush back and forth gently in short strokes over the front, back, and tops of the teeth. Don’t forget the area behind the front teeth.
Flossing between teeth should also be taught at this time. This can be tricky so you will have to help them, but as their manual dexterity develops they will be able floss themselves.
Getting creative and encouraging the habit
Make it fun for your children to establish the twice daily routine of caring for their teeth. Sing songs about brushing, grab colorful cartoon toothbrushes, create a tooth brushing chart with gold stars, use special flavored toothpastes, and provide rewards to keep the child’s interest.
This is also the time to begin good eating habits for your children. Limit sugary snacks and drinks, which will not only ensure a healthy lifestyle for your child but will also prevent cavities or other problems. Encouraging children to drink more water will help prevent tooth decay too. You may want to discuss with your dentist sealants or fluoride treatments for added protection against decay.