As a parent, you’re always looking for ways to give your child the best care you can. That means that you want them to have smiles that are super healthy. Making sure that your child is taking proper care of their teeth can be a little bit tricky since there are so many things to consider. Of course, there are lots of helpful tips and tricks that can make maintaining good oral hygiene seem like a walk in the park.
Here are 12 oral hygiene tips to keep your child’s teeth and gums happy and healthy.
Brush Twice a Day
Perhaps it’s the most obvious oral hygiene tip, but it’s for good reason. There’s almost nothing more important for your child’s teeth than making sure that they brush them regularly and properly. Your child should brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, using back and forth and up and down motions. Don’t forget to encourage them to brush their tongue and gums to eliminate bacteria that can linger there.
Children can start brushing on their own starting at around age 6-8. If your child is younger than that, you’ll have to help brush their teeth for them. Make sure you use a soft-bristled toothbrush that won’t irritate your child’s sensitive teeth and gums.
Replace Your Toothbrush Regularly
Your child’s toothbrush can have a big impact on how effective their tooth brushing is. It’s recommended that you replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 months or when the bristles start to fray, whichever comes first. Keeping a toothbrush for too long gives bacteria an opportunity to grow on the bristles, and you don’t want your child putting a dirty toothbrush in their mouth. Frayed bristles are less effective at cleaning than bristles in good condition, so it’s important to pay attention to those, too.
Floss Once a Day
So many people tend to skip out on flossing, but one of the best oral hygiene tips out there is to floss once a day. It’s best to floss before bedtime so your child can remove any food particles that may have gotten caught in their teeth. If your child finds using traditional floss difficult, there are lots of fun tools like floss picks that can make it easier for them.
Get Regular Cleanings
Your child should see their dentist every 6 months for a routine cleaning and checkup. Regular cleanings will help remove any plaque buildup that can lead to problems like cavities. During these checkups, your child’s dentist will also take x-rays that will allow them to scan for any developing issues. If dental issues are caught in their early stages, treatment can help prevent any lasting or severe issues. They can also provide you with even more oral hygiene tips to keep your child’s teeth healthy.
Consider a Fluoride Treatment
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel. Your child’s dentist can administer fluoride treatments, which can help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Depending on your child’s needs, they can receive two to four treatments per year. Children can start receiving fluoride treatments as soon as their first tooth erupts.
Eat a Tooth-Healthy Diet
This oral hygiene tip is a bit less obvious than the rest, but your child’s diet actually has a big impact on the health of their teeth. Eating foods that are rich in calcium like broccoli, dairy products, and leafy green vegetables results in healthy teeth and bones. You can also consider asking your child’s doctor about taking calcium supplements.
Other vitamins such as vitamin D, vitamin B complex, copper, zinc, iodine, iron, and potassium all play key roles in the health of your child’s teeth. Feeding them a healthy, balanced diet will help them get the nutrients they need for good oral health. If you’re concerned that your child might not be getting enough vitamins from their diet, multivitamins are also an option.
Chew Sugarless Gum
Did you know that chewing gum is good for oral hygiene? Chewing gum stimulates saliva flow, which helps remove acids and bacteria from lingering on the teeth. Of course, make sure the gum you give to your child is sugarless gum. Gum sweetened with sugar will only feed bacteria that can cause plaque buildup and tooth decay. Opt for gum sweetened with xylitol, which has been shown to have more cavity-reducing efficacy compared with other sweeteners.
Start Dental Visits Early
Many children don’t have their first dental visit until they are over 2 years old. However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first dental appointment much earlier than that. Children should see a dentist within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth or by age 1, whichever comes first. Initial visits to the dentist are primarily informative, and your dentist will provide you with oral hygiene tips for your baby. Bringing your child to the dentist at a young age will allow any developing issues to be caught and treated early, which can prevent these problems from worsening. According to the CDC, children who start seeing the dentist by age 5 have dental costs that are 40% lower over a 5-year period.
Consider Dental Sealants
Dental sealants are a dental treatment that can prevent tooth decay in your child’s permanent teeth. Adult, permanent teeth have many pits and fissures that food can get stuck in, which can lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay. To help prevent this from occurring, your child’s dentist can apply dental sealants to cover these grooves. The application of dental sealants is quick and painless, but the benefits will last for years.
In order for dental sealants to be as effective as possible, they should be applied as soon as your child’s molars erupt. Your child will get their first set of molars around age 6 and their second set at around age 12. It’s recommended that your child get dental sealants applied at two different times, after each set of molars comes in.
Avoid Sticky, Starchy, Sugary Foods
Limit your child’s sugar intake wherever you can. When sugar gets on the teeth, it serves as a food source for bacteria. The bacteria converts the sugar into acids, which then leads to tooth decay and cavities. Sticky, sugar candies are notoriously bad for the teeth since they stubbornly stay on the teeth after eating. The longer sugar remains on the surface of the teeth, the more bacteria can grow.
Starchy snacks like potato chips and crackers that are made from refined carbohydrates get broken down into simple sugars when chewed. As they soften in the mouth, they can easily stick into the crevices of your child’s teeth, providing food for bacteria.
Skip Fruit Juice and Soda
Fruit juices seem like a healthier alternative to soda, but they can still be harmful to your child’s teeth. Most fruit juices are loaded with added sugar, often just as much as soda. This sugar will coat your child’s teeth and provide a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Additionally, fruit loses a lot of its nutritional factors when it’s turned into juice, so your child is missing out on the benefits of fresh fruit.
Soda is even worse than fruit juice because in addition to sugar, it is also highly acidic due to the citric and phosphoric acids used to provide carbonation. Highly acidic things like soda can wear down the enamel on the teeth, which can lead to cavities, tooth decay, sensitivity, and discoloration. A good oral hygiene tip is to encourage your child to drink water whenever possible, though milk is a good alternative as well.
Discourage Tobacco Use Early in Life
While no one wants to think that their child will grow up to become a smoker or tobacco user, it does happen. Talking to your child about the dangers of tobacco starting at a young age can help keep them away from the stuff as they grow older. Aside from all of the horrible health issues it can cause to the rest of your body, tobacco can also wreak havoc on the teeth. Using tobacco increases your chance for gum disease and mouth cancer, and it can stain your teeth an unsightly yellow or brown. Avoiding tobacco is not only a good oral hygiene tip, it’s also a good life tip.
There are so many oral hygiene tips that parents can use to help keep their child’s teeth in perfect condition. From encouraging proper brushing and flossing to feeding them a mouth-healthy diet, promoting healthy habits in childhood will establish a proper oral hygiene routine that will benefit them for their whole life. Of course, it’s very important to bring your child in for regular cleanings and checkups. It’s time to schedule your child’s next appointment with Children’s Dentistry.