In recognition of National Children’s Dental Health Month, our February series will focus on kids! To start us off, we recommend teaching healthy habits to children as early as possible for a lifetime of great dental health.
As adults, we know the value of having and maintaining a healthy smile. Instilling good dental habits in your children is very important as well, but at what age do you start? What are the dental habits to teach kids that will stick with them well into the future? The key is consistency in a regular routine.
1. Dentist Visits
As soon as their first tooth comes through, schedule your child’s first dental appointment. The appointment should occur no later than the child’s first birthday. During this visit, your dentist will mainly check on the development and growth of the baby’s teeth. Your dentist will also discuss teething with you and make sure that the child is not at risk for tooth decay or cavities. This is also a good chance to expose your child to the dentist office and begin a lifelong habit of dental check-ups and care.
Begin brushing your child’s teeth daily as soon as they begin to come through the gums. Once your child reaches approximately two years of age, you can begin teaching them how to brush. We recommend letting the child pick out the toothpaste and toothbrush in the store or that you buy the toothbrush in a color that you know your child enjoys. Once your child understands to spit out excess toothpaste, you should begin using a toothpaste containing fluoride and it should only be used in a pea-sized amount twice daily.
Using the proper technique to brush the child’s teeth is just as important as how frequently the child brushes. For the inner and outer surfaces of the teeth, the brush should be held at 45-degree angle. Starting at the gum line, the child should use short, gentle strokes that are only as wide as the tooth to work around each molar. The front teeth should be brushed vertically up and down. Lastly, it is important to teach them to brush the tongue and roof of the mouth as well to avoid bacteria build up. Most children are not able to brush effectively on their own until around age four or five, so remember to check and go back over any areas they may have missed.
Flossing is a dental habit to teach kids that should begin when the child has two teeth that touch. Show them how to wrap the ends of the floss around their thumbs and forefingers and guide the floss gently along between the teeth around the gum line. When purchasing floss, look for a product that is soft and flexible so that it does not hurt the child’s gums. It may be easier for your child to use floss attached to a handle such as Plackers dental flossers for kids. By encouraging your child to floss once a day, they should be able to floss independently by age ten.
4. Breaking Unhealthy Habits
It is not abnormal for a toddler to develop a habit of sucking their thumb or using other pacifiers, but it is recommended that children do not continue the habit past the age of three. At this point, sucking on thumbs or pacifiers can affect the proper growth and alignment of teeth or cause bacteria to build up as tooth decay. To wean your child off of these habits, focus on finding other ways to comfort them in stressful situations or teach them to seek other objects, like toys to play with or stuffed animals to hold.
5. Healthy Eating
In addition to the dental hygiene habits to teach your kids, healthy eating is a lifelong habit that is just as important and should be taught as early as possible. Remember that to set a good example, you have to be a good example and practice healthy heating in your household. By teaching your child to avoid acidic sodas and sugary snacks, you will help them maintain the strength and health of their teeth and body overall. Encourage them to select fruits and vegetables, and well as whole grains and milk.
We know that as a parent, you always want the best for your child. By starting early with these five dental habits to teach kids, you are setting them up for a lifetime of good dental health and a beautiful smile. If you are ready to start dentist visits with your child, set up an appointment with Arkansas Family Dental . Send the staff a message if you have questions about how to teach these healthy dental habits or call the office at (501) 683-8886.