There are already a million little details to consider when raising a child, so considering all the ways to keep your child’s teeth healthy can seem overwhelming. However, good oral hygiene for children is integral for the lifelong health of their teeth and gums. Keeping your child’s teeth in good health doesn’t have to be stressful. Just follow a few simple guidelines, and you’ll get your child’s oral hygiene routine started on the right foot. Here are the top oral hygiene tips to keep your child’s teeth healthy.
Make Regular Dental Appointments
Your child should have their first dental appointment within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth or by their first birthday, whichever comes first. Taking care of your child’s teeth as soon as they come in will help keep their teeth healthy in the long run. Starting preventative care for your child like dental cleanings in our Las Vegas office can prevent dental problems later in life. According to the CDC, dental costs are almost 40% lower over a 5-year period for children who have their first dental visit by age 5.
Your child’s early dental visits are an opportunity for their dentist to teach them proper oral hygiene tips. The habits developed in childhood will carry into adulthood, so making sure that your child learns how to care for their teeth will have a lasting effect on their lifetime oral health.
Avoid Baby Bottle Decay
Do you often put your child down for a nap with a baby bottle? This habit can actually lead to tooth decay. When your baby’s teeth are exposed to sugar from drinks for extended periods of time, decay-causing bacteria grows quickly. If your baby needs a bottle for their nap, fill it with water. Even things that you wouldn’t consider sugary such as formula and breast milk contain sugars that can lead to decay.
Cut Back on Fruit Juices
Fruit juice is commonly thought of as a healthier alternative to soda, but many fruit juices are loaded with sugar. That sugar will coat your child’s teeth, providing a breeding ground for bacteria that causes tooth decay and cavities. Try to reduce your child’s fruit juice intake, opting for plain water as much as possible. If your child has fruit juice, be sure to brush their teeth soon afterwards to remove any lingering sugar.
End Pacifier Usage by Age 2
Pacifier use in infants is beneficial — to a certain point. Once your child gets a little bit older, continued pacifier use can start having long-term negative effects on their teeth. As babies grow, their mouth and jaw will actually grow around anything held inside their mouth for extended periods of time. Using a pacifier past age 2 can influence the alignment of their teeth and the shape of their mouth. Front teeth with tip forward, and this can lead to bite problems.
If your child is resistant to giving up their pacifier, there are a lot of different tactics to help wean them. Experts agree that praising your child for not using their pacifier is much more effective than punishing them when they do. You can wean your child off their pacifier gradually, offering it only at naptime and bedtime, and then not at all. You can also try offering small rewards like stickers or small toys for each day that they go pacifier-free.
Practice Proper Brushing
Using the proper technique for toothbrushing is one of the foundations of good oral hygiene. However, children likely won’t be able to brush on their own until they reach ages 6-8. Parents should help younger children with toothbrushing. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to prevent any irritation, and replace it every 3 months.
Once your child is independent enough to brush their teeth on their own, it’s important to make sure they do so effectively and regularly. Encourage your child to brush their teeth twice a day. If your child is reluctant to brush their teeth, introduce a reward system is a helpful oral hygiene tip. For example, if they brush their teeth twice a day for a full week, reward them with a small toy or outing. Fun, colorful toothbrushes are another good motivational tool for children who avoid brushing. Let them choose a toothbrush that features their favorite TV character or superhero. They’ll be more excited to use a toothbrush that they like and will thus be more likely to stick to a regular brushing schedule.
Don’t Forget to Floss
It’s an oral hygiene tip that adults hear all the time, so it should come as no surprise that this applies to children as well: don’t forget to floss! Flossing removes bacteria that builds up between teeth. If left unchecked, this can lead to cavities and tooth decay. While regular dental cleanings at our Las Vegas office can remove bacteria build up, it’s no substitute for daily flossing. Make sure that your child flosses once a day, preferably in the evening.
If your child struggles with traditional floss, try floss picks. These disposable tools can be easier for your child’s small hands to maneuver. Since floss picks come in a variety of colors and shapes, this can also be a way to bring a little fun into your child’s oral health routine.
Parents have a big influence on the development of their child’s oral hygiene habits. With these oral hygiene tips in your arsenal, keeping your child’s teeth healthy will be a breeze. Work together with your child to help them establish an oral hygiene routine that will set them up for a lifetime of healthy smiles. Don’t forget to take your child to the dentist for regular check ups and cleanings. At Children’s Dentistry of Las Vegas, we want to help your child learn healthy habits. Contact us to make an appointment today.