Many of today’s adults share common memories from childhood. Sunday drives, visits to grandma and grandpa, trips to the local playground or the city zoo, and hearing the iconic phrase – do as I say, not as I do – over and over again. Why? Because children are natural mimics and will do exactly what Mom and Dad do, no matter what it is. Of course, some of the things children mimic are things they shouldn’t do. But there is one daily habit parents can be proud of modeling for their children: Good oral hygiene.
Is Good Oral Hygiene Different for Children?
While many healthful habits are different for children than for adults, taking care of teeth is almost exactly the same: floss and brush daily, avoid certain foods and drinks, see your dentist regularly. Simple, right? Right. And easy to follow. For adults and motivated teenagers.
But for younger children, especially babies and toddlers, it’s a hard act to mimic. Nearly one in every five children between the ages of 5 and 11 has untreated tooth decay. Even baby teeth (now called primary teeth) can get cavities! And if cavities in primary teeth aren’t treated, permanent teeth could be negatively affected. Untreated tooth decay, even in early childhood, can lead to other dental and medical problems in adult life. Of course, all of those primary teeth will disappear eventually, but by the time that starts – when your child is around six years old — the damage from tooth decay will have already happened.
My Child Is Still a Baby. How Soon Should I Start?
Caring for your child’s teeth should start as soon as they come home from the hospital. It’s up to you to teach good oral hygiene habits, and here’s how to start:
Until your baby is about a year old, simply wipe their teeth with a soft, damp washcloth after the morning feeding and right before bedtime. This washes away bacteria and sugars that can cause tooth decay.
Never, ever let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. (As harmless as it may seem, this simple activity often generates tooth decay.) When teeth start coming in, usually around a child’s first birthday, begin using a soft child-size toothbrush and plain water.
When your child reaches toddler age, you can add a small dab of a non-fluoride toothpaste (non-fluoride toothpaste is safe to swallow).
As soon as your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste, switch to one that has fluoride in order to give your child the extra protection fluoride provides.
You should introduce flossing — and demonstrate it — when your child starts brushing their teeth on the own. (Hint: the floss that comes on a plastic holder is easier for children.)
How Can I Make Good Oral Hygiene Habits Appealing?
Children get bored easily, we know, and caring for their teeth may not be as exciting as other things they could do. But children will understand caring for their teeth if you tell them (as one 5-year-old declared): “Plaque makes your teeth dirty, and you have to wash them.” It’s up to you, as a parent, to help make it interesting enough — even fun! — that they will establish a solid habit. Good oral hygiene habits will serve them well throughout their life. And they will look to Mom and Dad to learn what to do.
One of the most successful ways to instill oral health habits in your children is to make establishing those habits as much fun as the other things they enjoy. You know your children best, so you probably already have an idea of what will work. But just in case you’d like some fresh ideas:
Let your child choose their own toothbrush – their favorite color or a cartoon character they love. Just make sure the one they choose is a good size for their hand and has soft bristles.
If they want to, let them choose their own toothpaste, as well. They may not want the mint you like, but some companies have toothpaste with flavors like strawberry or watermelon.
Set up a system to reward your child for good oral care with something they’ll appreciate, such as staying up a little longer, watching a favorite movie, or being read a special story.
Avoid sugary treats or drinks as rewards, though. (This kind of defeats the purpose.)
Find a song your child likes and record exactly two minutes of it. Then play that two minutes when it’s time to brush. The American Dental Association advocates two minutes of brushing twice a day for both children and adults.
Best of all, let your child see you brushing your teeth correctly…and enjoying it. When children are young, anything Mom and Dad does is something they want to do, too, including brushing their teeth.
What if I Need a Bit of Help?
Come on in, and bring your child! At Lifetime Dental Health, we’ll be happy to discuss how best to handle your child’s at-home dental hygiene. We’ll explain ways to maintain your children’s teeth that are similar to how you take care of your own and explain anything you need to know based on the specific condition of your child’s teeth. In addition to setting the stage for healthy adult teeth, introducing children to dental care as early as possible can go a long way toward eliminating the fear some children experience when their first time in a dental chair includes lots of uncomfortable scraping and the scary sound of a dental drill.
To talk to one of our dental professionals or to make your first appointment, contact us. We’ll be happy to serve you and your little ones.
Most summer plans revolve around traveling, water fun, and family bonding. Oftentimes we don’t take advantage of the summer days to take care of important business. We allow ourselves to get wrapped up in the summer nostalgia, neglecting responsibilities that could quickly be addressed during the summer break, such as dental checkups.
Today we are going to discuss the benefits of utilizing the summertime for dental checkups. We will also discuss some summer tips to keep your kids’ teeth as healthy as possible while enjoying the summer break.
Why should I schedule dental checkups for my children during the summer?
Although your family may be planning nonstop vacation fun, the summertime provides a more flexible window to schedule a dental appointment. You would not have to worry about planning around your child(ren)’s school schedule or their after school activities, possibly hindering the scheduling of the dental checkup.
More recovery time
Recovery time runs parallel with convenience. The summertime window provides more recovery time should your child need to have dental work, such as a root canal or wisdom tooth extraction. This way, they do not have to worry about missing any school days while they recover from the procedure.
Beat the Sugar Bugs
Children, as well as adults, tend to consume sugary foods and drinks during the summertime. The increase in sugary food can damage your kids’ oral health. Getting him/her into the dentist’s office early in the summer can help with preventative measures, so everyone can stay on track and be prepared for the upcoming school year.
My children will be visiting their grandparents out of state– how do I determine the best time for my children’s dental checkups?
It is common for children to visit grandparents or even attend summer camps and enjoy weeks of adventure and fun during the summertime. Ideally, we would suggest setting up an appointment before your child leaves for their summer adventure. It is beneficial to have the appointment before they leave for the summer, just in case the dentist discovers any cavities or any dental issues at all. This will allow time for any dental issues to be addressed before your child is away from home.
If you are unable to have your child seen by a dentist before they leave for the summer, don’t omit the appointment altogether. At least have a dental appointment set up when they return home, before starting school.
Are there are particular tips to help me successfully schedule and attend my child’s back-to-school dental appointment?
The number one way you will adequately execute this task is by planning ahead. If you wait and try to schedule a dental appointment around your child’s summer activities or any family plans you may have, you will likely find it impossible for your dentist to see your child at a time that works best with your schedule.
Although summertime is the best known time for relaxation, it is still best that you remain as organized as possible. Being organized will ensure you don’t double book your appointments, leading to cancellations.
Research suggests that when appointments are canceled last minute or because of ‘no shows,’ they often aren’t rescheduled for months.
Are there any additional tips to help keep my kids’ teeth healthy during the summer?
Family Oral Hygiene
It would be best to practice oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing, as a family. Doing this as a family will help keep your kids more involved. Since they see you, the parent, taking care of your teeth, they are more likely to participate without question.
You can also try some fun brushing games and activities, such as taking silly pictures or a brushing calendar; doing so will help keep your children interested in daily brushing and flossing.
They may even start reminding you to brush, because they are looking forward to the family fun.
Buy New Supplies
It is common for most people to use their toothbrushes for months on end. It is recommended to replace your toothbrush every three months, so the summertime would be a perfect time to update your dental supplies if you haven’t already.
It is also an excellent way to get the kids involved. You could let them choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste or maybe help pick family dental supplies.
Your kids can enjoy the summer fun without overindulging in sugary sweets. Be sure to reinforce healthy snacks during the summer activities to avoid cavities down the road.
If you are ready to book your appointment or if you have any questions, give us a call at 614-333-9442. Here at Lifetime Dental, we value your time and will work to get you and your family seen by one of our dental professionals ASAP.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. During National Children’s Dental Health Month, dental professionals, dental educators, and parents promote the many benefits of good oral hygiene to kids. It’s vital that children learn early in life to make dental hygiene part of their daily routine. Keeping teeth healthy is much easier and more convenient than replacing them, so the earlier kids learn to stick to great oral health habits, the better.
How do I promote and encourage good oral health for my children?
The first way to encourage your kids to learn good oral hygiene is to model it. Show your kids the behaviors you want them to emulate and set a good example of the habits you want your kids to learn. Make brushing fun and involve your kids. Even toddlers need to be taught about the importance of dental health. Help them pick out their very own toothbrush and choose a toothpaste that’s ADA approved and great-tasting for kids. Different fun flavors are plentiful. Just make sure it’s a fluoride toothpaste.
Teach your kids the following habits:
Brush twice a day. Make sure to use an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste. When kids are just a little older than toddlers, teach them about how plaque is a sticky film that sticks to teeth, full of bacteria that damage everyone’s teeth, kids and adults alike.
Floss at least once a day. Flossing removes plaque from above and below the gumline. It’s crucial to good oral health to get rid of as much plaque as possible before it gets the chance to harden into tartar. Plaque and tartar accumulate on children’s teeth just like on adults’ teeth. Once tartar has formed, only a dentist can remove it during a professional teeth cleaning. Floss your child’s teeth for them around age 4. By age 7 or 8, they can start flossing on their own. You may need to visit a pediatric dentist to learn how to effectively floss your child’s teeth.
Make sure your kids have fluoridated water. Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens and reinforces tooth enamel. It’s is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to fight tooth decay. Fluoride is included in the water system in many municipalities. If your local water supply doesn’t contain fluoride, your dentist may be able to prescribe oral fluoride supplements, including gels and mouthwashes.
Help your child get comfortable visiting the dentist
Choose a pediatric dentist for your little one’s dental needs. A pediatric dentist has specialized training in the unique needs of children. They provide a comprehensive range of services, including:
Infant oral health exams
Teeth cleaning and fluoride treatments, if necessary. Going to the dentist for painless preventive dental care is a great way to reinforce that there’s no need to be scared of going to the dentist
Assessment of conditions like malocclusion and crooked teeth, as well as treatment for those conditions.
Dental sealants. Dental sealants are tough but thin plastic coatings that are placed on the chewing surfaces of a child’s teeth, particularly their back teeth, where cavities are common. Getting sealants applied doesn’t hurt.
Pediatric dentists can also perform frenectomies, which are minor surgical procedures that correct problems like a young child being “tongue-tied”
Make sure to limit or eliminate sugary, starchy snacks. Even healthy foods like fresh fruit, dried fruit, and granola contain sugars that attract enamel-damaging bacteria. Teach your children to practice brushing after eating sugary foods.
Your pediatric dentist can also come to the rescue if your child damages or knocks out a tooth. The sooneryou get to your child’s dentist, the better. Give your child over-the-counter pain relievers and get to the dentist immediately. Even if it’s a baby tooth that’s been knocked out, place it in water or milk and go to the dentist. Baby teeth serve an essential function and can be re-implanted.
National Children’s Dental Health Month helps bring attention to the oral health needs of kids across the nation. It’s all too easy to presume that simply because a child isn’t complaining of tooth pain, they’re fine. Childhood is the best time to engrain good health habits that will last a lifetime. In February, celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month and teach your kids about the value of good oral hygiene. For any further questions about how to help your child kickstart their oral hygiene, give us a call at Lifetime Dental Health!