The importance of teaching your kids proper dental health
First off, children learn their healthy (or unhealthy) dental habits from you, so don’t be embarrassed to practice a few of these dental tricks & tips yourself!
Start Young: Baby Teeth are Important too!
You can never start too early with teaching your children how to take care of their teeth! Even before their 1st tooth pops out at around 6 months you can start cleaning their gums and giving them something to chew on when they start teething.
And a BIG NO NO – Like HUGE – don’t EVER put your baby down with a bottle of anything but water – not even milk! Babies (and anyone for that matter) have a much higher risk for decay if their teeth are constantly in contact with sugary liquids. Bacteria feeds on the sugar allowing it to release acids that then go attack the teeth causing rampant decay and destroying a child’s teeth! The point we are trying to make is – just don’t do it!
At around age 3 they should have all of their 20 baby teeth! Even though they will lose them all by the time they are 12, they still play a huge role! Baby teeth help children chew, speak normally, and also hold space in the jaws for the adult teeth to come in later.
Sometimes parents are tempted to do nothing when their child has a cavity since they will be losing their teeth down the road, but untreated tooth decay can lead to other problems…
- It can lead to pain, making it hard to eat or sleep properly.
- The cavity could cause the tooth to abscess (a puss filled sack on the gums).
- Infection can sometimes harm the permanent teeth that are still developing.
- And in some cases, it may cause serious or even life-threatening infections.
Starting good oral health habits early can help protect their teeth (and your pocket book) for decades to come!
Learn How to Work the Toothbrush & Floss
Everyone knows they should brush and floss their teeth everyday, but very few know the correct way to do it.
It really does make a world of difference if your kids can master these 2 habits! Go ahead and help your child practice so they can seriously impress their hygienist at their next dental cleaning!
Remember, you will need to help your child brush and floss their teeth until they’re about 6 or 7 years old, and then switch to supervising and offering support until they are around the age of 10 or 11.
How to Brush
As soon as the teeth come in, it’s time to start brushing! It is recommended that you brush twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed.
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush (NEVER HARD), or a powered toothbrush (those are the bomb)!
- Use a pea-sized drop of toothpaste for children 2 – 6 years old. For children under 2, use only water or non-fluoridated toothpaste.
- Angle the toothbrush (45°) towards the gums, so it is contact with both the tooth and the gums.
- Use a small circular or jiggling up and down motion.
- Brush about 2-3 teeth at a time for a few seconds, before moving on.
- Make sure to brush all the surfaces of the teeth – Inner, Outer & Biting Surfaces.
- Brush for about 2 minutes (or about 1 min for baby teeth).
- Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen the breath and remove bacteria.
How to Floss
A large portion of the tooth can only be cleaned by… yep – the dreaded FLOSS!!! Flossing not only removes plaque between the teeth, but it helps cut dental bills in half (or something close to that)!
As soon as 2 teeth are touching it’s time to start flossing! Extra stars and stickers to any parent that actually does this.
- Use about 18 inches of floss (or get those easy to hold floss picks).
- Wind the floss around your middle fingers.
- Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth.
- Curve the floss into a C-Shape so it’s hugging the tooth and guide it in-between the tooth and gum until you feel resistance.
- Gently rub the floss up and down against the side of the tooth until it’s squeaky clean (and yes, it really will squeak).
- Once you’re finished with one side, hug the side of the other tooth and do the same.
- Repeat these steps on each tooth.
- Don’t forget the backs of the last teeth in each corner of the mouth.
Find Where the Sugar Bugs Like to Hide
Now that your child is a master brusher and flosser, we challenge you to take it to the next step and see where all those sugar bugs are hiding.
One way you can do this is get some disclosing solution or tablets and disclose your child’s teeth after they brush. You can also do it before they brush to see where the plaque is, but if you want to really evaluate how well they are brushing go ahead and do it after.
Wherever the teeth are stained, that is where the plaque is. The darker the stain, the more plaque that is accumulating in those areas.
Once your child has fine tuned their brushing technique, go ahead and see if they can pass a teeth disclosing test. If they have little to no stain do a happy dance, and then set them free to brush their teeth without supervision.
Say Bye-Bye to Thumbs and Paci’s
It’s so cute, especially when they are little, but as time goes on a child’s sucking habits can cause problems with tooth alignment and the proper growth of their mouth.
Pacifiers should not be used after age two, and finger or thumb sucking should end by age four! So if your child is still holding onto any of those habits it’s time to put your foot down (just not on their thumb, that would be mean!
Ideas for Stopping Thumb Sucking:
- Praise them whenever you catch them not sucking their thumb!
- Sometimes they suck their thumb when they feel insecure, so help them through any anxiety and help comfort them.
- When your child avoids sucking their thumb during a difficult time, go ahead and Reward them!
- Bandage the thumb or put a sock over the hand at night.
- If all else fails, discuss with your dentist about using a mouth appliance or a bitter-tasting liquid to coat the thumb or thumbnail.
Protect Those Pearly Whites with Sealants
Once those permanent molars start coming in (usually around the age of 6), do them a huge favour and get them sealed!!!
The chewing surfaces of the back teeth have deep pits and grooves that are hard to clean; even the toothbrush bristles are too big to fit inside and thoroughly clean them.
***That’s why you should never blame your child if they get cavities in these grooves. It doesn’t matter how well they are brushing or flossing, nothing can effectively clean these areas – that’s why sealants are so important.***
A sealant is a material that helps fill the grooves of the teeth so it can help keep plaque and acid away from causing cavities. Sealing a tooth is like painting your nails – it’s fast, painless, does the job, and even looks pretty.
Prevent Dental Injuries – Guard Up!
One way to keep the teeth in the mouth (where they belong), is to get a properly fitted mouthguard and make sure your child wears it during sports activities.
Mouthguard’s help to cushion the impact that may otherwise cause broken teeth, jaw injuries, or cuts to the lip, tongue, or face.
They are highly recommended when playing contact sports, such as boxing, football, basketball, hockey and lacrosse. However, even in non-contact sports like gymnastics or skateboarding, mouth guards may help prevent dental injuries!
Eat Dessert First!
Nothing is wrong with dessert, just eat it first.
As far as teeth go, WHAT we eat isn’t nearly as important as WHEN & HOW often we eat it.
For instance, when we eat a piece of cake during dinner, the other food and water we are consuming helps to rinse most of the food particles away. This helps the mouth from developing the acid that decays teeth.
On the other hand, if you sip soda and snack on cake and cookies all afternoon, your teeth are being constantly bombarded with sugar bugs that are very acidic. The plaque will keep these harmful acids against the teeth, and the longer they are there, the higher the risk you have for tooth decay.
That’s why it’s critical you help teach your child to limit between-meal snacking, especially on cookies, candy, and other sweet or sticky foods.
Save the cake and cookies for mealtime, when the mouth makes more saliva to help rinse it away!
Got Fluoride? – It Helps Make the Teeth Healthy & Strong
Everyone has a different stance on fluoride – some believe it’s God’s gift to teeth, while others swear it’s the cause of all their problems.
When a child’s teeth are still forming, fluoride works by making tooth enamel more resistant to the acid that causes tooth decay. Fluoride also helps repair areas where the acid attacks have already begun.
Children can get added protection from fluoride from multiple sources:
- Mouth Rinses (Act)
- Fluoride Treatments in the Dental Office
- Fluoridated Tap Water
- Or from Fluoride Tablets, Drops, Lozenges (these are usually recommended if you don’t have access to fluoridated water).
Make Going to the Dentist Exciting (Not Scary!)
Don’t wait to take your child to the dentist until they are in pain or a dental emergency happens – everyone hates the dentist enough, so don’t make it even worse.
Actually, going to the dentist can be a lot of fun and a great experience!
Regular dental visits are essential to keeping a healthy smile. During the dental visit, your dentist will check your child’s mouth for tooth decay and growth patterns that may pose a problem in the future.
By receiving regular cleanings, fluoride treatments, and applying sealants, it can save you money and reduce the time you spend hanging out with your dentist.
Teeth 911: Know How to Handle Dental Emergencies
Knowing how to handle a dental emergency can mean the difference between saving and losing your child’s tooth. As soon as parent’s see blood and missing teeth they switch to freak-out mode, so take a look at some of these tips so you can remain calm even during a dental emergency.
There are actually only a couple of true dental emergencies, the rest can usually wait until the sun is up before calling your dentist. The only time you’re allowed to make 2 am phone calls to your dentist is when you or your child has a…
Baby Tooth – If something happens to any of your child’s primary teeth, or “baby teeth,” you should take your child to the dentist as soon as you can. If a tooth is completely out, do not try to inset it back in the socket. Although it is normal for children to lose primary teeth, an accident that damages a primary tooth could also harm the permanent “adult” tooth underneath.
Adult Tooth – A baby tooth should not be implanted back in the mouth, but a permanent tooth should. Hold the tooth by the crown, and if it is dirty, rinse the root with water. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached bits of tissue. If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket with a clean wash cloth or gauze. If this isn’t possible, or if your child cannot safely hold the tooth in their mouth, put the tooth in a container with milk, saliva or water. Take your child to the dentist as quickly as you can (within about an hour if possible). Don’t forget to bring the tooth and any tooth pieces you can find!
The only other true dental emergencies you need to seek attention for immediately is if you suspect a broken jaw, or if there is bleeding in the mouth that won’t stop. Besides that, most other dental issues can most likely wait until your dentist is back in the office to go get it checked out!
Create Healthy Smiles for Life!
There are a lot of fun and creative things you can do to help teach your kids about dental health! Be sure to remember that your children look to you and follow your example, so set a good one!