Everyone knows it’s important for kids to brush their teeth, but cavities still rank as one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in the United States.
In fact, studies show that kids who have poor oral health often miss more school and earn lower grades than kids with better dental health.
While this is not a good sign, the good news is that kids don’t have to get cavities! At all ages, cavities are preventable with proper oral hygiene. Your role as a parent is to instill good habits in your children.
Teach them how to brush
This is the most basic tip of all: teach your kids to brush their teeth! This should actually start before your child’s first tooth appears – you can run a clean, damp washcloth over their gums to wipe away bacteria (or use a toothbrush with just water). When their teeth begin to appear, use an infant toothbrush with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste with the American Dental Association seal.
You should supervise your kids’ brushing until about age 8 to make sure they’re not swallowing toothpaste. This is also an important opportunity to teach them proper brushing technique. Have them brush at least twice a day, or preferably after every meal.
Take them to the dentist
You should take your child to the dentist by the time they turn one year old. The dentist will do a child-friendly exam, count their teeth, and explain brushing and flossing.
Routine visits are important because they help your dentist catch any problems early, and they help your child get used to visiting the dentist. As they continue to grow, cleanings will become a regular part of their life, well into adulthood. We’ll recommend a schedule of dental checkups based on your child’s age and dental health needs.
Get enough fluoride
Fluoride strengthens the enamel on your child’s teeth, making it harder for acid, sugar and other harmful substances to penetrate and damage your teeth. If your water supply is not fluoridated, ask your dentist for supplements — fluoride toothpaste alone will not provide enough fluoride to protect your teeth.
Limit sugary foods
This is a big one. Sugary food, juices, and candy can erode the enamel on your child’s teeth, leading to cavities. You don’t have to ban sugary foods altogether, but you should limit their intake. You should also teach your children to brush their teeth after eating sugary foods so the sugar doesn’t sit on their teeth for too long. Be especially careful not to give too much juice in sippy cups — this can be an unexpected source of cavities.
Be a good role model
You can teach your children all of the habits above, but if you neglect your own oral hygiene, they will be much less likely to do what you say. Practice what you preach — brush your own teeth at least twice a day, floss and use mouthwash, limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks, and visit the dentist twice a year. Modeling good oral health care will go as far in helping your kids take care of your own teeth as anything you say.
When you are ready for your child’s first dental visit, Dr. Coates at Dentistry Optimized will be happy to start your child on a lifetime of good oral health. Call our office today or schedule an appointment online to get started!