6 Dental Hygiene Tips for Kids

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Getting your child to practice good oral hygiene is essential to their health and well-being. In the U.S., 472,560 doctors are practicing primary care physicians. Since oral hygiene helps promote overall health, your family doctor will surely tell you that your child should develop good dental hygiene habits. Experts state that cavities are an epidemic among young children. About 25% of preschool students and 55% of kindergarten students in the United States have had at least one cavity. Tooth decay can lead to serious problems with eating, speaking, sleeping, and focusing in the classroom. Here are six ways to help your child get off to a good start.

1. Lead by Example

Demonstrate to your kids that dental health is important to their well-being by practicing good oral hygiene yourself. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, you’re sending kids the message that these practices don’t really matter. If you complain about brushing and flossing as unpleasant chores, you’re telling them that these practices will always be burdensome to follow. Instead, show your kids that dental health matters to you, and it’ll be more likely to matter to them. If you approach the task cheerfully, you’ll inspire them to do the same.

2. Begin Good Practices Early

It’s crucial to protect your child’s baby teeth, which determine the placement and spacing of permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, the permanent teeth may be crowded. If decay is allowed to remain in baby teeth, it could result in discomfort and swelling, and it could also have an impact on the permanent teeth growing beneath. What’s most concerning of all is that infection in baby teeth could travel beyond your child’s mouth and affect other areas of the body.

Before your child begins teething, clean bacteria from their gums with a damp washcloth. Brush your child’s first teeth with a toothbrush intended for infants, using water and a very small amount of toothpaste with fluoride (no bigger than a grain of rice). When two of their teeth meet, start flossing between those teeth. At about age two, they should be taught to spit during brushing. Children who are three or older can brush with a little more fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a pea. Children under age eight should always be supervised when they brush, to make sure they don’t ingest toothpaste.

3. Bring Your Child to the Dentist by Age One

Your child should have their first visit to the dentist, like Inspire Dental Wellness, by their first birthday. The dentist will discuss good flossing and brushing practices with you and examine your child’s teeth while they stay seated on your lap. Kids who see the dentist early become accustomed to the visits and will experience less anxiety as they get older. A pediatric dentist will know how to put your child at ease and make the visits fun. They will know how to treat problems specific to children’s dental health and may administer topical fluoride if your child is at risk for cavities. A pediatric dentist will also know if your child should see a specialist such as an orthodontist. All orthodontists are dentists, but just 5% of dentists have the additional training that an orthodontist receives.

4. Make Dental Hygiene Fun

Allow your child to help select a toothbrush in their favorite color or featuring a cartoon character they love. Similarly, allow them to have a say in selecting a flavor of toothpaste. Read them books about oral hygiene, too. To make sure they brush for two minutes, make it a game by using a timer or playing a song they like. Give rewards for good dental hygiene, avoiding sugary snacks and providing healthy snacks such as fruit or a simple reward like a sticker. After a trip to the dentist, take them somewhere fun, like a kids’ museum or a playground. This will give them something to look forward to and provide an incentive for oral hygiene milestones.

5. Keep Preteens Interested in Good Dental Hygiene

Since preteens are more aware of how they look, you may want to discuss how good hygiene will preserve their great smile. Make sure your child is using toothpaste with fluoride to brush twice daily for two minutes. Remind them that this will not only strengthen their teeth but that it will also give them fresh breath. Kids with braces should use an electric toothbrush and take extra care when flossing to prevent white spots from forming on their teeth when the braces are removed.

6. Make Sure Your Child Keeps Braces Clean

The American Association of Orthodontists reports that about 4 million people in the United States are wearing braces. If your child is one of them, it’s especially important that you emphasize oral hygiene. Orthodontists recommend that kids with braces brush four times daily, after meals and at bedtime. This will help keep food from sticking to braces and causing a buildup of acid and cavities. Your child should floss with the help of tools such as picks, floss threaders, and Waterpiks. Replace their toothbrush or electric brush head about every two months, since the bristles will be worn down faster by increased brushing. They should swish water thoroughly after eating to help loosen bits of food that might be stuck in the braces. And finally, your child should refrain from eating sticky foods like caramels and hard foods like chips and tacos, since these can be hard to remove from braces and could cause damage.

Your child may resist following a dental hygiene regimen at first. But if you provide encouragement, positive reinforcements in the form of rewards, and early dental care that includes regular visits to the dentist, you’ll help your child to view oral hygiene as a normal and even fun part of everyday self-care. If you begin by caring for their gums and baby teeth, you’ll help prevent the tooth decay that is all too common in young children. Moreover, you’ll make it easier for your child to maintain their dental health as they grow older.

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