If you have been around kids, you’ve probably seen the struggles of getting them to brush their teeth. However, prioritizing your child’s oral health is essential for their overall wellbeing.
Believe it or not, there are things parents can do before birth to kickstart their child’s oral health. After birth, the journey to a healthy and happy mouth starts much sooner than many people may think. Keep reading to learn the top five ways to care for children’s teeth.
Good oral health starts before birth
Many mothers are unaware that their oral health habits during pregnancy can impact their unborn child’s oral health. Additionally, pregnant mothers are more likely to experience dental problems due to changes in hormones and symptoms of pregnancy.
- 60 to 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis due to changing hormones while pregnant. Gingivitis can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight.
- One in four pregnant women develop untreated cavities. Cavities can be passed on to the child during pregnancy or even after the baby is born.
- Children whose mothers have untreated cavities are three times more likely to develop cavities early in life.
Taking care of oral health before birth is important for both the mother and the baby. Click here for more information on pregnancy and oral health.
Start oral health care young
Now that we know oral health care begins before birth, let’s dive into infant and young child oral health care.
Oral health routine tips for an infant/young child:
- After birth, clean your baby’s mouth by wiping the gums with a gauze pad or a clean washcloth.
- Begin brushing the child’s teeth as soon as they come in. Brush twice daily (morning and evening) and use fluoride toothpaste once the child can spit it out.
- Prevent baby bottle tooth decay. Don’t give children anything other than water before bedtime or naptime. Remember to clean the baby bottle after each use.
- When your child starts to brush independently, supervise them to make sure they are brushing all their teeth and using an appropriate amount of toothpaste.
- Teach your child to brush twice a day with a children’s toothbrush, using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
If you aren’t comfortable with your child brushing on their own, continue to brush for them and ask your dentist for tips and tricks if your child isn’t picking it up.
Model good oral health behaviors
Children love to mimic their parents. You may think your child is not watching, but they see more than you think, so keep this in mind when teaching them the importance of their oral health routine.
Here are some tips for teaching your child the correct way to brush:
- Splash your toothbrush with water.
- Apply fluoride toothpaste (using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste).
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle.
- Insert the toothbrush into your mouth and gently brush back and forth on each tooth. Dental professionals agree it takes about two minutes to properly brush all teeth. During these two minutes of brushing, you should spend about 30 seconds in each of the four quadrants of your mouth.
- Repeat this process twice a day.
Remind your child that although two minutes might seem like an eternity, it is important for each tooth to be brushed and cleaned correctly.
Use the right oral health tools
Oral health care can only be effective with the proper oral health tools.
Here are some of the items you need to take care of your child’s mouth and teeth:
- Moist gauze pad or clean washcloth ( for use before the child’s teeth appear)
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Child-size toothbrush (ADA Approved)
- Dental floss
- Consistent dental checkups
The tools used to keep a kid’s mouth healthy are similar to an adult, but it’s important to find toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other oral health products that are the right fit for little hands and mouths.
See a dentist early
Teaching your child about the importance of oral health is necessary, but only so much can be done without visiting the dentist.
We recommend parents and their children visit the dentist at least two times a year (once every six months). These dental visits are significant because dentists can clean areas in your mouth that aren’t reachable with a toothbrush or floss. This is especially important for children as they are more likely to miss spots when brushing. Your child’s dentist can also spot signs of tooth decay and cavities.
Want to learn more about pediatric oral health? Check out this blog: